Last Sunday we gave Bibles to 3rd graders, an annual event to which I look forward. Standing with the children on that occasion are their parents, siblings, and Bible mentors. These mentors will work with the children for the coming 9 weeks, helping them understand how to read the Bible and some basic information about it. I saw some of those mentors already working with the children last Sunday during the Sunday School hour. They wasted no time! Of course, we hope that parents will read their children’s Bible with them at home as well. In fact, the parents pledged to do so in the presentation liturgy last Sunday.
Does this make a difference? Yes! As we are blessed each summer with our summer interns’ faith stories, we often hear them mention that Bible mentors (and others, like confirmation mentors) were part of their learning and growing process. They remember the relationships, as well as the information itself.
Which leads me to an important point. Bible reading is important for each of us, but Bible interpretation is something that should not be limited to individual reading. We need each other to understand, to hammer out, to talk through what certain passages and stories mean. We need Sunday School classes and Bible studies—as long as we live!—to help us with this. We need sermons that bring together the Bible and the newspaper, as some have said, to help us understand what it means for our daily living.
And so the Bible remains at the center of all we do and say and believe. John Wesley, our Methodist father, spoke of being a “man of one book,” meaning the Bible. By that, he meant that the Bible was primary for him. He read many, many books, on all kinds of subjects, including theology, Bible, science and medicine. He could not have meant that he read only the Bible, but that it was, first and foremost, central to his life and faith.
It should remain so for us. That’s why adults still read the Bible, study it, go to Sunday School or Bible study. That’s why we have on Wednesday nights both a basic Bible class for the fall and an in-depth Disciple 2 Bible study that will last for 32 weeks. Reading, studying, and discussing the Bible is what makes Disciple and other Bible studies so transformational.
All this is not to say that we take everything in the Bible as “literalists.” It is possible, for example, to believe that God created everything that is (Genesis), and to believe that God used evolution to do so. It is not necessary to pit the Bible vs. science, as some have done. Another example of how we read the Bible differently over time is the issue of slavery. Throughout the Bible, the message is clear and consistent—owners should treat their slaves well. But today, what one of us would not be appalled at the idea of owning slaves, regardless of how well they are treated? While God never changes, the way we read and interpret the Bible does change over time.
One clear message in the Bible is that God desires peace in this world…God’s intent in creation was peace and harmony. This Sunday, in conjunction with World Peace Day on Monday, we’ll observe Peace With Justice Sunday. Come ready to ponder what God desires for the world, what our part is, and how we might draw courage to live accordingly. The Bible sometimes comforts, sometimes challenges…I’m finding that it’s challenging me this week and I’ll seek to share some of that with you.
See you Sunday as we face the Bible’s challenges,