Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Reading or being read?

It seems to me that pastors love alliterations and acronyms--especially ones they can use in sermons. They say many sermons these days are shaped to make best use of power-point technologies. I'm sure this is true. I'm also sure it's true many sermons have been shaped to fit alliterations and acronyms. Which is all fun and good (if you have the time to come up with such creative illustrations), except they aren't always all that helpful.

I remember being taught about the Bible during Sunday School. It was explained to me as Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth (a very imaginative alliteration). The problem? Well, it isn't really that. And maybe this is why the Bible is so incredibly dull to many of us. We simply mine it for information and instructions that might help us to live better lives before we go to heaven. And if that's the case then b-o-r-i-n-g. That's what I did with textbooks at university so I could add more footnotes into my essays in a shallow attempt to look like I knew what I was talking about.

Plus, to read something is to have mastery over it. We have captured it, distilled it, studied it and understood it.

So what am I proposing? Well, I guess there's only one thing for it. I propose we stop reading the Bible.

But before a Bible-burning session commences, I should probably qualify my statement. We need to read the Bible in a way that allows it to read us. Scripture should be reading us. The Bible should be mastering our church communities. 20th Century Swiss theologian Karl Barth put it this way, 

'It is not the right human thoughts about God which form the content of the Bible, but the right divine thoughts about humans. The Bible tells us not how we should talk with God but what he says to us; not how we find the way to him, but how he has sought and found the way to us; not the right relation in which we must place ourselves to him, but the covenant which he has made with all who are Abraham's spiritual children and which he has sealed once and for all in Jesus Christ. It is this which is found within the Bible. The Word of God is within the Bible.'

As Christians, our first duty when coming to Scripture is to put God's Word before us and adopt a disposition where we listen first for what the Bible is saying to us and what it's saying about us. In this sense it's a living document. But it's a living document because God is constantly breathing his breath of life into those words to convict, challenge, encourage, empower and shape us as individuals and communities.

We don't master the Bible; the Word of God masters us. We don't read the Bible; the Word of God reads us. Someone should put that into an alliteration!