It’s not your Bible.

“Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.
“How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?”

When I was watching the movie Luther a few months back, I was jarred by one scene in particular:

-Have you ever read the New Testament, Martin?
-No, Father.
-Not many have, but in Wittenberg you will.
-Wittenberg?
-A doctorate in theology.
-You’re sending me away to study?
-I’m sending you to the source…the Scriptures.
Christ Himself.

What caught my attention is the fact that a priest would not have READ the New Testament. Since people started keeping up with such things, about 6 billion Bibles have been sold. That’s more than half of the current world population, so even trying to imagine a time when a priest would not have actually read the New Testament is nearly impossible.

We have many different versions, translations, and perversions of the Bible to choose from. If you haven’t read the New Testament by now, it’s because you haven’t chosen to, not because you haven’t had the opportunity.

But the church in Martin Luther’s day wasn’t interested in having everyone read the New Testament, or the Original Testament either. They could listen to it, be taught from it, and even carry the church’s copy in to worship, but it wasn’t something to be handed around and put into more popular formats.

Maybe the church was too protective, and Luther (as well as others such as the Waldensians) did the church a great service by helping put the Bible in our hands. The church, however has not been careful enough to instruct us in reading the Bible.

Now you can pick up a study edition, a for teens edition, even a YOU edition and jump right in. The iBible video on Youtube is a parody, but it’s not as effective considering how close it is to the reality of what’s available.

The idea that the Bible belongs to you because you purchased it in a store is dangerous. I heard a teen testify to literally turning through the Bible and opening it to a random page when needing advice on a decision. She admitted that she was confused by the passage she flipped to. Of course she was. No one had taught her to read scripture. No one had informed her that she didn’t own the word of God, that if used improperly, the Bible could end up being just another book, or worse, a means for our own self-gratification.
So how do we learn to read scripture? I teach an adult Sunday school class, and we’ve spent time talking about it, and I do think small group studies are necessary, but worship is the best place to learn. Scripture is the language of worship. We listen together. We pray that the words will do their work, that the pastor will speak truth, that the Spirit will move us. We sing scripture, we pray scripture, we are enculturated by it. Thanks be to God that we can receive such a gift.

Theologeeks

I’m not sure whether I came up with the term theologeeks, or my wife called me one first, but we’re not the only ones to use the phrase, as I found out when I tried to register the domain theologeeks.com.

I’m using it for a group of people who will be meeting (at least) once a month to discuss the church and the Triune God. I did find that it shows up in only one place on Google, and that’s at the dead site mentioned above. I wonder if they’d sell it?

There are actually lots of theologeeks out there, people who can’t wait for the newest N.T. Wright book, or have a signed copy of Hauerwas and Willimon’s Resident Aliens sitting prominently on their bookshelf.

The Ekklesia Project that I’m part of is full of theologeeks. Every year at the gathering, there are tables full of books from several publishers. I’d say it’s one of everyone’s top ten favorite things about the gathering.

The favorite thing, hands down, is conversation. Just sitting around between sessions, after worship, in the halls, in the dorms, on the way to the grocery store and talking about what we do at our churches, signs of the Kingdom, signs of the spirit is really why most of us come back each year; to see old friends and to make new ones.

So, the Jackson Theologeeks group is to build on that; to give those of us who spend a lot of time thinking about church more time to talk to one another. It’s good church work. We shouldn’t be left alone to our thoughts all the time, and most of us don’t have anyone in our local congregation with whom we can discuss such things. We read and post things on the internet, but human contact is much more important. Let’s try it and see.

Jesus Camp

During the summer, our church has been offering movies on Wednesday night (yes we have a license to do so). This week, the movie was Jesus Camp.

I couldn’t attend with the others in the church, but it still reminded me that I had wanted to watch this when it first became available on video. So I watched it last night.

Now I wish I had been there when other members of my congregation had attended. I would have liked to have heard some of the discussion.

There is no doubt that in some ways we should be horrified. My wife walked through during a scene in which a young Pentecostal girl was explaining how churches that are still and quiet are dead churches, and it infuriated her. And rightly so. This child had been told that there was only one way in which to worship.

But there is much to commend in how the people in this movie think. They really care about what their children are doing, how they are raised, what will influence them. The children speak Biblical, if not always graceful, language.

We are afraid to form anyone’s mind. We want everyone to figure things out for themselves. This is not the Way of Christ. We pray that He will form us, and will guide us in forming others. It doesn’t always have to be done with a hammer, as it is by many in this film, but we are being formed by something, and if it’s not Christ, we should beware.

rote memorization

I take great joy in knowing that my children know the Lord’s Prayer as well as the Apostle’s Creed. I sat with my daughter, who is 12, at church this Sunday and it was nice to hear her voice repeating the prayer that has guided the church for two thousand years.

A long time ago, I learned the Lord’s Prayer in Old English as part of some course work. It drove home to me the fact that this prayer is older than one of the dominant world languages, and it will survive longer than this language.

Prayers that we learn, memorize and have infused into us are valuable. There was a time when the Bible, Wordsworth and Shakespeare were the most quoted sources in Western culture. Now it’s far more likely to be a pop star, a beer commercial or an action movie.

I’m lazy. I don’t take time to pray, I don’t devote myself fully like I should. Maybe it’s because of my laziness that I see the value in such things. This morning I went to the Divine Hours site and as is usually the case, the morning prayer was this:

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me in safety to this new day: Preserve me with your mighty power, that I may not fall into sin, nor be overcome by adversity; and in all I do direct me to the fulfilling of your purpose; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

I love this prayer. It’s a regular in the Divine Hours, and I have prayed it with friends who are near and far. I’ve prayed it in church and in Sunday School. I don’t have it memorized. I don’t intend to work at memorizing it. I hope it will be infused in me through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Peace.

reviewing blogs

Sometimes I get started on lists of blogs and before you know it I can’t even remember where I started. This weekend I came across two lists that were useful. They’re from way back in March, which makes them ancient in internet terms, but very useful.

10 Ways to Draw Me to your Church

1o Ways to Keep Me from Discovering your Church

The other thing I did this weekend is finalized my plans to go to the Ekklesia Project gathering in Chicago. This will be my third year and I think I look forward to each gathering more than the next. The gathering this year will look at the work of the congregational formation initiative, which seems to be going well. I look forward to hearing more about how we can help our congregations live life fully in the Kingdom of God.

Divine Hours

Phyllis Tickle has done good work in helping people observe fixed hour prayer. She has a website set up that allows you to follow along, but I highly recommend the books.

Divine Hours

Try it and see what you think.