Rev. Dr. Joel Mitchell, Pastor
11024 S. Bell Avenue
Chicago, IL 60643
Reflection January 10, 2016
Loving the Bible
Rev. Dr. Thomas Aldworth
The Bible is THE book we love more than any other book. This is a given for those of us who are Christian. The Bible helps us come to God. And the whole point of our life is to be able to come to God - to enter into a deep, intimate, and lasting relationship with God. There is no more important task in anyone’s life.
The Bible is, in a definitive sense, our guidebook. The Bible serves as a way for us to be in contact with our ancestors in the faith: both the Hebrew faith and the Christian faith. The Bible speaks to us about their seeking of God, their longing for God, and what they discover along the way.
As Christians, we find the summit of this search in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Gospels are, without doubt, our most important, most central, Scriptures. If we are not steeped in the Gospels, we cannot correctly call ourselves Christian.
There are many people who say they love the Bible but who do not know very much about the Bible. I’ve said multiple times that my primary approach to the Bible is to proclaim, preach, and teach what isactually in the Bible; not what I think is in the Bible; not what I wish were in the Bible.
I’m unwilling to skip over the difficulties various Bible passages bring up - such as the differences between the nativity accounts in Matthew and Luke‘s Gospels. My preference is to go as deep as possible into whatever Bible passage I’ve been led to explore on any given Sunday. I’m not content - as many preachers unfortunately are - to string together a long list of Bible quotations and consider such to be a worthwhile sermon.
To knit together multiple Bible quotations takes very little time for anyone with a Biblical concordance (or access to one online). A biblical concordance lists every word in the Bible and cites every passage where such a word occurs. I find a concordance invaluable for sermon preparation but a concordance should not be the only instrument for sermon preparation.
If we say we LOVE the Bible - this implies we spend time with the Bible. As I mentioned this past Sunday, if someone says to me that he or she loves the Bible, I often ask if that person has actually READ the Bible - the whole Bible. If the answer is “no” then I must conclude that such a person is not telling the truth about loving the Bible.
To LOVE the Bible necessitates a deep, daily immersion in the Bible. To LOVE the Bible necessitates not only reading the Bible but also seeking to understand what “lies underneath” the passages we read. To be truly Biblically-literate is not easy. It is a life-long journey.
As we know, we’ve been holding twice-monthly Bible studies on the letters of Paul. These studies have been quite well-attended. We have, to date, covered Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians and his Letter to the Galatians. On Wednesday, January 20, from 11 am until noon in our parlor, we will begin exploring Paul’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians. Over a considerable amount of time, we’ll work our way through all of Paul’s Letters.
Every Christian needs to be well-versed in the New Testament. And, yes, the Old Testament is vitally important as well - but we, Christians, MUST know the New Testament. This is why I suggest to those who ask about reading the whole Bible that they begin with the New Testament. Then, after having read the entire New Testament, to go back and read the entire Old Testament. As Christians, we believe the Old Testament is to be seen through the prism of the New Testament.
It is very helpful to underline, highlight, and write one’s comments in the margins as one makes his or her way through the Bible. Such an “annotated” Bible could well serve as a great gift and grace to one’s family.
As Baptists, we believe that God, through the power of God’s Holy Spirit, will help us understand what the Bible brings to us, what the Bible wishes to say to us. We must be people of the Bible.
As Professor Marcus Borg writes in The Heart of Christianity: “To be Christian means a relationship with God, lived within the Christian tradition, including especially the Bible as the foundation of the tradition … The Christian life is about a relationship with the One whom the Bible both points to and mediates - namely, a relationship with God as disclosed through the Bible … To be Christian is to live with this tradition and let it do its transforming work among us.”
There are a number of people in our beloved church who have read the whole Bible from beginning to end (and some more than once!). This is truly commendable! It might be a good New Year’s resolution (even if such a resolution is a bit late!) to read the WHOLE Bible during this coming year. One cannot LOVE the Bible without spending serious amounts of time with the Bible. I LOVE the Bible. I hope everyone in our beloved church also LOVES the Bible!