Dear St. Lukers,
Sometimes I pick up a book on my shelf because the title intrigues me again. Then SOMETIMES as I thumb through the pages I realize I actually never fully read the book. You know the drill…at some point, months or years back, the title intrigued me and I purchased it, brought it into my office and it probably sat on my desk for months. Then probably after a year or so, I finally moved it onto the shelf forgetting to actually crack the pages and dive into the text.
I know I’m not the only one with this habit. I think many of us buy books we never fully finish reading. The title pulled us in or we really like the people who recommend it on the back or inside. But then life happens, and it begins to collect dust.
I think one of these books sometimes is the Bible. We get a new one with the best of intentions and we tell ourselves, this is it – I’m going to dive in and read it every day. But life happens and our schedule is derailed. Or we don’t know where to start. Or the Bible has been used in ways that makes reading it feel like more of a task of reprimands and putting aside our minds then engaging in it.
This is the primary reason for this entire sermon series.
Certainly, this is a time when our denomination is facing changes and decision making at the worldwide level that it hasn’t faced since the civil war. But here’s what I know deep within, when we are engaged in being the church, living out the story of faith captured in Scripture and the commandments of Christ in real ways of vision and mission – God doesn’t let us fail. Jim Harnish, Bill Barnes and I will talk about this on Sunday as we look at the Bible, the Church and Sexuality based on the unity Paul calls for in Galatians 3. In the end, God promises the church of Jesus Christ will prevail and I have no doubt this includes all the ministry God is doing right here at St. Luke’s. However, that’s just one reason for this series.
The main reason we are talking about biblical interpretation is to help our congregation engage with the power of Scripture to grow us, challenge us, and shape us as disciples. To take away the intimidation factor or the obstacles we sometimes use for not reading the Scriptures, or for taking a break from them, and getting us excited about engaging with the Bible every day. Imagine if each St. Luker committed to engage the Scriptures, personally and in a group, and allow the story of God and God’s people to breathe new life and new possibilities into our daily living and work as a congregation. To wrestle, question, and grow together in study of scripture would only deepen our impact and ability to really converse about our relationship with God and the Kingdom of God all around us.
Which leads me back to the book I picked up. Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith, by Sarah Bessey caught my eye. As I thumbed through it I fell upon this quote:
“There is no end to the ways God will work in and through the Scriptures to reach us. We read the Bible as it reads us; (Brennan Manning) it is a two-edged sword rightly dividing truth, separating and seeing through us. How we read and study Scripture – and then how that reading changes minds and hearts and lives – is a great testimony of the Spirit’s acting in us and through us.
The Scripture truly does read us when we engage it with the Holy Spirit. It’s our story and we can find ourselves, again and again when we let it come to life. I hope you have found the series helpful, even if it has been challenging. I pray it is inviting some of you to dig deeper, or engage in a Bible study if you haven’t before. If you are a long time intimate reader of Scripture, pray about those who are just starting to come to an understanding of Scripture’s importance and consider lending some time to teach or mentor others. Your insight would be invaluable to others, probably more than you realize. But no matter where you are with Scripture, don’t just let it gather dust or live untouched on your shelf. May you hear the whisper of the Spirit inviting you to open it and in its pages, hear God writing your story into relationship with the life of Jesus. May this series embark us all on a journey of awakening our relationship with the bible.
I am grateful for Shea Eaves, Scott Gass, and Jeff Zajac for their amazing sharing on Sunday. The number of families and young people who came and shared how important the message time was to them was powerful for me. Thankful also to Bill Barnes for setting us up so well, and for his work not only for Sunday morning, but Sunday evening (6:30 p.m. in the Attic) when he will tackle Scriptures on homosexuality. I am blessed to have such amazing people to challenge and grow me as a disciple as well as a leader.
Grace and Peace,