Bible Sunday

Is there life on other planets in the universe? Are there other beings like us out there somewhere? These questions won’t go away. What thoughts go through your mind as you look up into the night sky, trying to spot the constellations and the wispy sweep of the Milky Way? What make sense of life for you? What shapes your thinking about the extent of life and its meaning?
Human thinkers and philosophers have been grappling with these issues since the dawn of time itself, but they all need to have some kind of framework for their thinking, some base line to work from. In modern times, basic laws of nature have helped to provide that frame work such as gravity, relativity and the speed of sound and light. But can we really seek to derive our purpose, value and meaning from these discoveries alone?
Today is the Sunday in the year when we consider the bible. Our collect prayer speaks of our Lord ‘who caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning’ words which reflect those of Paul in our New Testament reading. (Romans 15.4) But how important is the bible for us in the complex scientific world of today? Can these ancient writings still speak? Why should talks and sermons in church be based on the bible?
The amazing suggestion of both the apostle Paul and the words of the collect is that God enabled the writing of the bible and he intends it to be used to educate us. The view we get of God in the bible is of one who speaks; that he uses words and that he is intelligent. The opening chapter of Genesis talks about God speaking. As a result of his sound, his word, the various elements of the world as we know it come into being. God continues to use his voice; in the call of Abram, the production of the commandments at Sinai, in the call of Samuel in the temple and the still small voice to Elijah on Mount Carmel. So John opens his account of Jesus’ life with words: ‘In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.’ (John 1.1) God is word. God is intelligent sound ushering in the universe, forming relationship with the inhabitants of earth.
Cosmologists, scientists who study the origins of the universe, are producing more and more theories of how the world began as their telescopes and instruments produce more data. Many of these conflict although the idea of a big bang about 13 billion years ago is still commonly accepted. Some of these theories emerging today talk of the possibilities of sound waves playing their part in creation. Is that the word, the voice of God bringing things into being? We cannot pin too much on these theories, but they open up for us a possible link between the scientist’s framework of thought and the way of understanding presented in the bible. May be that can encourage us in the leap of faith that we are called to make in accepting that God ‘caused all Holy Scriptures for our learning’.
What were asked to believe is that it is the same, speech or word of God that brought the heavens and the earth together, that became flesh in Jesus Christ who talks to us through the bible. The words of the bible are the very words that God wants us to ‘read, mark, learn and inwardly digest’. They might appear like an electrical wire, dull and uninviting, but through that wire flows the current lighting our homes and fuelling our gadgets. If we can get our minds and our hearts around that, if we can believe that the creating power of the universe which existed in the flesh of Christ is the same word that flows through our bible, then we see its significance, not only for church worship, but our lives too.
Cliff Richard sang back in the day: ‘And I love to see a bible that’s been well used ‘cos when a bible’s well used the devil’s not amused’. (From the song ‘I Love’ on the Album ‘Small Corners’ 1978)
What does your bible look like? Are all the bibles in your house ones you were given as presents or presentations and you keep them in pristine condition? Do you have a working Bible? Do you even have it as an app on your phone or tablet?
We very often make excuses about not reading the bible in our spare time. Let me suggest three:
Some say it’s too long. Well yes, all bound together it’s bigger than your average book, but of course it’s not just one book, it’s a whole library…one even council cuts can’t close down. The word bible comes from the Latin ‘bibliotheca’ meaning library and we should treat it as such. Most of us, if we want to do some walking wouldn’t go from Lands End to John O Groats so why would we start to read the bible at Genesis chapter 1 and then feel we have failed if we don’t make it to Revelation Chapter 22. The bible is collection of writings by around 40 different authors written over a period of at least a thousand years. It contains history, poetry, biography, autobiography, wisdom and proverbs and even romance why not dip in and out. All together it is long but that’s because God has provided enough for a life time.
You might say it’s too hard. It’s for scholars and vicars to sort out what it means. I will probably misinterpret it and end worse off than when I started. Aren’t there contradictions? Leave it to the experts I say. Well there is much merit in academic study of the bible and yes, there are different approaches but none of us should shy away from it. At this point I want to make two practical suggestions.
1. If you are finding bible reading hard, get a translation you can read comfortably. None of us read Hebrew or Greek so we are all using an English translation. The King James Bible of 1611, of which our own parish church owns a first edition recently featured on Songs of Praise, has given the English language many fine sayings and phrases but it is not always easy reading. In church we use the latest New Revised Standard Version, but if you wanted something even more accessible, consider the Good News or The Message.
2. Get some notes to help you. They are usually supplied on a quarterly basis. The two key suppliers are Scripture Union www.scriptureunion.org.uk and Bible Reading Fellowship BRF www.brf.org.uk . All of these are available to buy in Mana Christian Bookshop, Charles Street. You can order them through the post or online. They can also be down loaded to phones etc for use anywhere. They will give you the background to the reading for the day, some reflective thoughts and prayers.
Finally, there are those who say the bible is boring. Well if you only read racy thrillers, it might appear that way. But if you begin to think of it as the way the God of the universe communicates today, it is far from boring. If you take up some of these suggestions it will be more accessible. You will find that a daily passage of scripture will feed the soul as the food on the table does the body. Ultimately, it is the Holy Spirit who helps the dead wire, the words on the page live. Be open to God the Holy Spirit and he will speak to your heart as he speaks into the universe.

Rev'd Jonathan Smith

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