Saturday, August 2, 2008

One thing I'd like to work on...

I'd like to encourage people to read their Bibles more often. I'd like to promote Bible reading, so that people become really immersed in the Word, and in the stories of the Bible, and in the poetry of the Bible. But when I try to get something like that in a sermon, telling people to read their Bibles comes off like telling them to go to the Dentist twice a year, or eat their vegetables, instead of like telling them to go out and have a steak dinner and a glass of wine and a big fat piece of cheesecake.

So, I back off from telling people to read their Bibles more often in sermons. It just doesn't seem to work. But I still would like to promote a way, or ways of talking about Bible reading, promoting Bible reading, loving the Word, following the Word. I'm going to be working on that, I think, for awhile.

One thing is to acknowledge that reading the Bible has its pitfalls. It's not a piece of cake. It's a big book, with small print and a lot of possible entry points, some of them fraught with difficulty. There are some parts that are hard to understand, and a few parts that nobody understands, and any numbers of parts that are crystal clear, but might possibly make us angry. One can understand why certain segments of the church thought it better to let sleeping dogs lie.

But still, it's our book, it's our story, and not just the theologian's and the pastor's. The Word let loose in our lives can cause all kinds of trouble, but I suspect that it's the kind of trouble we might need. Take, for example, just one small but well known example: "Love your enemies." Try living with those three words for a week, or a month or a year.

Programs that help you read through the Bible in a year have their place, I suppose, but I wonder if they don't give the false impression that what's most important about the Bible is that we know what's in it. We read the Bible as if we were reading the dictionary, looking for facts and definitions, rather than looking for clues to the mystery of the One who loves us.

I know there are some books that deal with this; I have Eugene Peterson's Eat This Book, and I'm reading it now. I also know that I don't know much about a really important tradition called Lectio Divina. I'm considering doing a retreat this fall.

In the meantime, I'm pondering.... what can make the Bible a book not just lovely to look at and soft to the touch, but one that we actually open, despite the risks?


ROBERTA said...

there are many avenues to approaching scripture but i'd like to put a plug in for the power of lectio divina. coming out of the evangelical church years ago, where most of our emphasis was on studying the bible for a literal understanding, i could barely even look at a bible for a very long time after i left. but i love engaging the word in the process of lectio divina.
we have a small lectio group that meets before our 2nd service every sunday to ponder the day's gospel message.
Whereas bible study seemed to be more about what we brought to the analysis of the word, lectio has become more about waiting to hear what the word is telling us.

Lindy said...

Are you sure it doesn't say to ignore your enemies and to write agnst-ridden blog posts about them? Because I would've sworn that's what it said. I'll look again though.

All joking aside, this is an exciting passion, Diane. I think people either can't get enough of it or they just don't want it. I don't konw what makes some of us one way and some the other. But, you may figure it out. Aside froim the perils you address, I think that people just don't see the applicablitly. And they often don't feel a connection between them and the people they are reading about. To nuts like us a couple thousand centuries doeswn't matter much... to some peple it's a problem.

Lectio Divina is very popular right now. There's an older tradition called Ruminatio which you might look into. Lecto often becomes whatever peple say it is. I've seen it done well and.. well, not so well. Thank God that the clarity of the message is carried by the Holy Spirit and not our methodologies!

Thanks for sharing your passion!

Choralgirl said...

I think you're onto something with the "acknowledging its pitfalls" piece. Any time something feels relevant to real life; any time that the Church's sort of modern Pharasaic veneer is stripped away; any time we get really honest about it, that's when people tune in.

When I was in my twenties, the Bill Moyers "Genesis" series came out. My church Young Adults' group rented the videos and talked about them. I ate it up, and so did many others in the group--because Moyers and his panels approached STORY as the organizing idea, not theological approach, etc. It was riveting.

ProclaimingSoftly (PSanafter-thought) said...

Well, reading isn't all that popular in some homes in general......

We used to (25 or more years ago) use the pew Bible for people to look at during the Sunday service Bible Readings. The readers would state the page number and pause long enough for the people to look (who wanted to look.) At least that got people into the Bible. Then then got some newer Bibles and for some reason, the lessons weren't on the same page numbers in those Bibles. Then they started putting the lessons into the bulletin. We don't use those preprinted lesson pages. The pew Bibles don't look the least bit used.

Lutheran preaching is usually far from a proof texting "lets look this up right now" exercise, yet we may go to the extreme other end by not showing people that certain things are really in the Bible, including the liturgies.

So I guess, I'm not giving you a suggestion, just a reflection.

Gannet Girl said...

For a couple of years we did a small group lectio divina on Sunday evenings at church. For the few of us who participated, it was wonderful.

Lindy said...

I am opposed to pew Bibles. Absolutely and passionately opposed.

Diane said...

Lindy, I've never used them, myself, but I'm interested in your passionate opposition to them. Tell me more about that.

One thing that got me is long ago when our pastor told us where some of the things in the liturgy were in the Bible. That was fascinating. I do think the liturgy gets some scripture deep down into us.

Another thing is what choralgirl said about getting really honest about what the Bible is saying and struggling with that and where we're and how it might be different. Not just glossing it over.

Hot Cup Lutheran said...

wonderful reflecting...

Barbara B. said...

I just clicked on your "Eat This Book" link -- might have to get that!

I did make it a point several years ago to read the Bible from beginning to end (used NIV one)...I think it is a starting point to at least know what's in there!

Diane said...

Barb -- what an accomplishment! I know I've read the whole Bible, but I would had to admit that I haven't done it in the most organized way.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I wish I had a suggestion for you. Having grown up Baptist and then attended Wheaton, I was steeped in a culture in which one had to know the Bible to be accepted as a Christian. As an adult, I did spend some time away from it and I've had to relearn the way I read it, but I never really doubted its importance.

I guess the key is somehow showing people that it does apply to their lives--and not just in a "Thou Shalt Not" way.

Oh, maybe I do have a suggestion after all. Do you know the book When Jesus Came to Harvard by Harvey Cox? It discusses a class he taught at Harvard in which he had students examine stories about Jesus, not to look for black-and-white rules but to think about the principles that might have informed Jesus' moral choices and have students then apply those principles to modern issues. It was quite interesting. That's the type of process I'm talking about that might help the Bible seem more pertinent.

Audio Bible said...

Why don't you encourage listening to the Bible? For most of humanity and history, hearing the Word of God has been and will be the only entrance of God's Word.

You and your visitors can download a free audio bible at

This ministry has 11 English versions and the New Testament in 311 languages.

FranIAm said...

I love this post Diane.

As someone who did not grow up with a strong Bible tradition, I still longed to read it. I tried to do this on my own, with little success... a comment on community, no?!

Anyway, I also love Lectio and recommend the book Too Deep For Words, which was my introduction to it, many years ago!

Jan said...

I love lectio divina. I've led a lectio group for over ten years that meets weekly. I was surprised when I realized that this had become a "spiritual discipline!" It truly brought me to realize within me that the words are the Living Word of God. We can email about this if you'd like--or even talk on the phone!

Singing Owl said...

Paragraphs three and four were just terrific! As one of those evangelicals roberta mentioned, I find that while I still value study of the Bible, I loved lectio devina when I was introduced to it. I used to have a link to an excellent explanation, but I lost it. I'll try to find it again.

Anonymous said...

It's hard for many of us to maintain a consistent schedule of reading the Bible, but I think what's important is that we keep trying. Personally, I found that having an electronic version (on my iPhone) helped me a lot.

There are also some OT books that I know I will not make it through without serious risks to the strength of my faith, so I focus on others :)

zorra said...

You might like to look at the Bible in 90 Days program. That was very well received at our church and made a big difference in some people's lives. We may do it again next year.

Lindy said...

I see it's only 67 degrees in your town today. I am envious... and hot!

I'm glad to be able to check in on you today Diane. I've missed your blog.

Give some love to your good dog for me and have a great week.

Your pal,