I have been treated to listening to 2 people preach today, as well as preaching myself. I preached at 9am then enjoyed our Reader Sue preach at 10.30 plus this afternoon my husband preached at the 3pm service. We all have different styles and approaches to preaching.
I have to confess that when it came to preparing a sermon I looked back at those I had previously used and I had one from 2018 and one from 2015. I decided to re-use the one from 2015. I cut out the initial introduction of a conversation with a funeral director’s assistant and also trimmed some other bits to make it a bit shorter. However I have decided to post the longer version here.
Bible Sunday 2015
Aim – to encourage a deeper engagement with the bible
This week I had an interesting conversation on the way home from a funeral in hearse:
- The man asked me: Do you read your bible every night? I replied “erm….. I do pray every night… do you?” He replied: “No I was raised a Catholic and they don’t read their bibles~” I didn’t like to tell him that many Anglicans don’t read their bibles either
- I said: “I am reading the whole bible through a year using a book recently bought”
- To which he replied with a question about the modern translations and differences to KJV – verses missed out due to older manuscripts being found – how do you cope with that? Do you put your trust in something that’s wrong? But before I could fully answer that he came out with:
- Can you speak Greek?
- How do you react to Paul’s instructions about women preachers with being a woman ordained?
- Book of Revelation – will it happen – literally demons with horns etc rising up?
- Etc etc etc
When I got home I was in dire need of a cup of tea – it had been a very full conversation covering a wide range of topics….. but on top of a funeral…. I was shattered…. the tea essential to revive me.
This is the book I was using: Cover to Cover through the Bible: Amazon.co.uk: Hughes, Selwyn: 9781853451379: Books
Why was I reading the bible in a year, chronologically? It cost 60p in a charity shop and was in mint condition – a bargain I couldn’t resist…. so I thought I ought to perhaps actually use it. It will give me an overview, esp the Old Testament (OT). Like many Christian I’m more familiar with the New Testament (NT) and just bits of the OT. I’ve got my favourite stories and prophecies, and, while I DO know the overarching BIG picture story from Genesis to Revelation and could tell you it in about 5 minutes (not tonight), I would like to rise to the challenge of reading it all…. may take a year, maybe less, maybe more.
Difficulties & Dangers – eyes glaze over the boring bits + read sections just to tick them off = not actually engaging with it.
Do we actually WANT to read the bible or do we do it out of a sense of duty, something we’re supposed to do?
Advantages and Possibilities – better grasp of how it all fits together as a whole story. Would you read a novel by taking random chapters in any old order? So why do we do it with God’s story? God will bless my commitment – which will be in addition to bible readings at morning prayer and sermon preparation – this will be my own personal bible reading. And it will be last thing at night. [update – I gave up fairly soon as I found the book had lots of short readings each day and it was too bitty. I was just doing it to tick them off, not the right motives.]
Why and How we read the bible are important considerations
Desire – just like my cuppa 1st thing is essential to revive me from sleep – Isaiah invites me and you to come and drink. It’s an invitation, not command.
Isaiah 55 –
Ho, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
Are you thirsty? Do you want your life to be better – more of God in your life? Reading God’s word will quench that thirst.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink though. Likewise I can suggest you read your bible and pray – but I can’t make you do so, but I hope this evening I will succeed in whetting your appetite for more because both bible and prayer are essential to growth and life as a Christian.
And that is why we read the bible – to grow. God’s word does something, as Isaiah goes on to say:
10 For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return there until they have watered the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Why did God send his word? What is his purpose? And what do we mean by God’s word?
- the scriptures – history, poetry, wisdom, laws, prophecy
- commandments – the 10 + others
- words from God through the prophets
- NT – gospels – Jesus’ words plus his life and the story and letters of the early church + Revelation, Jesus’ words again.
- The Word – Logos is Jesus
Purpose? – Life! In all its fullness – to revive us from spiritual sleep. And to bring us into relationship with God – restoring Eden.
So, how do we read it?
With respect – but don’t idolise the paper it’s written on.
With expectation that God will speak to our hearts, that …. it shall accomplish that which (he) purpose, and succeed in the thing for which (he) sent it.
As an instruction book? Some people say that B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth….. I don’t think so. It is so much more than that. It is more than a manual or a textbook. Text books – essential when on a course – each module or course at university had ONE essential book you had to have + others recommended…. more advanced as the years progressed. Different one going into more depth on the subject.
Christans’ essential book = BIBLE – from childhood & Sunday School through to adulthood – all of us lay or ordained, new believer to Archbishop of Canterbury….. we don’t progress onto a more advanced bible…. there is only one.
HOW we read it will vary and hopefully progress as we mature. Be wary of picking bits out to support your opinions – you can justify almost anything from the bible with that attitude. We need to look at what the bible says first, what does it say to you now… what did it say to the original readers?
What we read with it (supplementary texts) will vary – Idiots Guide; How to read for all its worth – Unlocking the bible – commentaries… daily bible reading notes….. but the key text for us all is the bible itself.
The bible isn’t just a book about God – the bible isn’t just about God’s people – the bible isn’t just a list of good things to do and bad things to avoid – it is all those things and so much more!
The various books of the bible were written at various times and they are all sorts of different types of literature. They are the story of an ongoing and developing relationship between God and the world. We need the OT to help us understand the NT. Jesus didn’t come to replace the Law or OT as we now call it. When the NT refers to the scriptures, they’re talking about what we call the OT.
The bible is a message for everyone – yes – but so much more. It is God’s inspired word. By ‘inspired’ I mean the spirit of God breathed into it.– but God didn’t dictate it. That’s called automatic writing and is of the occult.
What all the books in the bible have in common is that God was behind their composition. AND they have been collected together by God’s people, who through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit decided that they were Scripture. God breathed life into the writing of the bible and God breathes life into our reading of the bible.
The bible is a 2-way communication that is personal to everyone who reads it. And that is why approaching the bible in prayer is so important. Every time we read the bible, we should first ask God to speak to us and expect him to do so.
The bible is the way that our relationship with God and Jesus is developed. Scriptures alone are insufficient. If you only read and perhaps learn the bible off by heart but don’t actually go to the one they point to (Jesus) they will not save you.
Because Jesus IS God’s word – logos
John’s gospel was the text we used when learning NT Greek at college. One of my favourite passages:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ……14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us
Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, (en archay en ho logos) About the only bit of Greek I can remember! And as I said to the hearse driver, it won’t get me far on holiday – it’s ancient Greek, not modern.
Logos = Jesus is God’s word, his communication, yes, but more than that.
TECHNICAL BIT WARNING!
The word logos comes from an ancient Ephesian (Heracitus) who was possibly one of the first scientists…. he was looking for the reason behind life. Bios (life) + logos (reason) = biology,
meteor (weather) logos (reason) = meteorology
psychology, sociology etc – remember the old advert for BT – he’s got an ‘ology’?
Jesus is our ‘ology’ – the logos – the reason – the ultimate reason behind everything.
When John wrote his gospel, he had the inspiration, the guidance from Holy Spirit, to take that concept from Greek thought and combine it with Hebrew thought of the personification of wisdom in the OT – and take it a step further when he wrote about Jesus. Jesus was with God at the beginning through whom all things were made and is a person and the reason for all things….. logos, Jesus is a person not just a personification.
TECHNICAL BIT ENDED!
Jesus – speaks to us when we read the bible. Along with Peter we say to Jesus ‘Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Jesus’ words bring us life – here and now as well as life after death. His words may affirm us and help us to know God’s love and presence with us – or they may convict us of things we need to repent of or bring to him for healing. For example many years ago my vicar’s wife was praying for me and felt that God had a couple of words from the bible for me. They were tentatively offered, as they didn’t make sense to her. Exodus 20:12 and just 2 words from Revelation 2:16
12 “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” And “Repent therefore!”
Little did either of us know at the time, how they would unlock the door on stuff that needed to be sorted out…..
12 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account. ( Hebrews 4) That’s Jesus, we have a great high priest who sympathises
Jesus knows us, he loves us and he wants us to deepen our relationship with him, clearing away the sin that gets in the way and knowing more of his love within our hearts. He wants us to walk with him, bringing more of his love to others.
And he doesn’t leave us alone. He said to his disciples on the night before his death, and he says to you and me:: 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask for whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.John 15 (The vine) How can we expect to know what Jesus wants us to pray or what he wants us to do if we don’t stay close to him in prayer and in bible reading. When we do this, we will be far more able to withstand the attacks of the enemy – by that I mean the things that would try to keep us away from God.
We have a great weapon: The bible, which Ephesians 6 describes as the sword of the Spirit
This is where immersing yourself in the bible comes in useful. Words and phrases will come to mind when you need them.
We are part of the ongoing story of God’s people. We are in the book of Revelation (???) somewhere between the letters to the churches and the rest perhaps??? Judging by the awful events on Friday, we are definitely in the end times of destruction [looking back 3 years later, I have no idea of what they were]. I know we haven’t got to chapters 21 & 22 yet.
So, we need to ensure we go on our way joyfully, without fear, knowing that God is with us, as it says in the hymn:
Lord, Thy Word abideth,
And our footsteps guideth;
Who its truth believeth
Light and joy receiveth.
I’ll let scripture have the final word:
“12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, ….., clothe yourselves with love, ……15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, ….and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christdwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; ……. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Amen (from Colossians 3)