So the sabbathing stuff is coming, I’m enjoying this time of year as things quieten down (well apart from the wedding I’m best man at on Saturday) and the CU planning for next year I’ll be at this week. It usually means my mind starts to waken up. I’ve been reading Eugene Peterson’s ‘Eat this Book – The Art of Spiritual Reading’ with the title based on John’s experience in the book of Revelation.
I’m pretty passionate about the bible – God’s revelation of himself that invites us into life with him and into his story. I hate it when people misuse the bible – giving many people ammunition for all the negative claims often made against the bible. Its pretty unique and incredible if you give it a chance, it you give it time. For people trying to follow Jesus often there can be nothing more damaging than ‘bible’lite’, than not taking it seriously, not engaging, and just dipping in for bible horoscopes to make you feel good about yourself for the day. Now hear what I’m saying – God speaks and uses lots of things but we can’t build a healthy engagement with God this way. That may do for a few weeks, or months but not for a lifetime of journey. We need to really engage – I often think it ironic that ‘bible studies’ (a term that fills most people with dread, because of boring, dry, comprehension-like question and answer sessions) don’t really involve studying or the bible, but reading a passage once (which we pretty much instantly forget) then sharing opinions without actually getting into the text – more licking and forgetting than eating and chewing. That means coming humbly – not arrogantly thinking we have it all sorted or explained and entering into the story, sitting humbly under its authority.
We’ve been having lots of conversations in work about how we approach the bible, as it is one of our core values. There had been a phrase ‘good use of the bible’ banded about which we were aware did sound a bit like we thought we had it nailed and sorted. More profoundly one of our board stated a theological objection reminding us we don’t use the bible – if anything it ‘uses’ us. As we engage with God’s word, his Spirit changes and transforms us. its not just go and do this but we almost enter into the story, begin a conversation. And so ‘dynamic engagement with the bible’ was born.
I thought the following from Eugene was telling – as we enter into God’s story yes there is joy and promise and fulfilment but also deeply unsettling experiences…
“The bible is a most comforting book; it is also a most discomfiting book. Eat this book; it will be as sweet as honey in your mouth; it will also be bitter to your stomach. You can’t reduce this book to what you can handle; you can’t domesticate this book to what you are comfortable with. You can’t make it your toy poodle, trained to respond to your commands.
This book makes us participants in the world of God’s being and action; but we don’t participate on our terms. We don’t get to make up the plot or decide what character we’ll be. This book has generative power; things happen to us as we let the text call forth, stimulate, rebuke, prune us. We don’t end up the same.
Eat this book but keep a well stocked cupboard of Settlers and Alka-seltzer.”
I’m excited about continuing my journey of understanding, experiencing and being involved in what God is doing in history, to do that its vitally important we engage properly and meaningfully with his word. I leave you with a question posed by a friend…
“How can I read the Bible to enter into its story so that its story becomes my story and the story of this community I have come to love?”