A sermon on Bible Sunday 25th October 2020. (Mat 24)
So the main point of this sermon is to encourage you to READ THE BIBLE MORE, think about it, talk about it, explore it. Read Mark Learn and Inwardly digest!
Why do you want to read the bible? How should you read the bible? Which bible?
I hope you’ve been appalled this week at the silence with regard to elevating the previous Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, to the house of Lords. Its always been done. And whilst you might be thinking why do we want our established church in the House of Lords, its bad enough with all those bishops in there. I would suggest that this time round is not the time to suddenly start to say no.
We finally have a black Archbishop and so it really looks like a piece of blatant racism for the Government not to put Sentamu in the House of Lords.
We are coming to the end of Black History Month. I’ve not talked about it, I’m sorry about that. What I would have liked to have done is to make us all read Ben Lindsay’s book – we need to talk about Race – its really good and you should definitely read it. (Jez Lowries – Kings Church has been discussing it this month )
I’ve been challenged this year by Reni Eddo-Lodge – “Why I’m no longer talking to white people about race”. And by David Olusoga’s “Black and British a forgotten history”. And more recently by “How Africa shaped the Christian Mind” (Thomas Oden).
That last book in particular poked at a myth that you know is a myth but we kind of believe it. That in the 18th 19th Century we white folks took the Faith out to the savages of Africa. And in many ways this myth builds on our white patronizing pride and white sense of privilege.
What we badly forget is that Africa first brought the gospel to us. Without the Black contribution to the Christian faith, we would never have heard the gospel.
Pretty much every other theologian of early history of the Church, as the Creeds are being formed – they’re all African. Tertullian, Origen, Athanasius, Augustine – they’re the easy ones.
Without their contribution to our understanding of our creeds, of our faith, and our bible, the gospel would never have made it to these shores.
Its bible Sunday. So this is a sermon about our Bibles, but its good to remember this is not a white mans religion and that should humble us.
So, Which Bible should I read?
Really it doesn’t matter, what matters is that you “pick it up and read it” – as God said to St Augustine.
Over these last ten days I’ve been doing a few five minute clips on our Church facebook page where I talk about different bibles – we’ve looked at the Original Septuagint – the first time the bible was put into the common language of the common people – Greek.
And then the Vulgate, the Latin bible, which has been the longest running, most influential bible of all time. Then Tyndale’s bible with its fabulously bad spelling!
There are some excellent children’s bibles – the Action Bible – that was what we gave to Bryn who got baptized in the Sea! Its brilliant.
I used to read different children’s bibles to my children at Bed Time, and in the middle of reading the Lion’s Children Bible – I suddenly realized that there’s a 2nd exodus – you know the one about Moses. But there’s another sort of Exodus – we usually call it the Exile, but there’s two of those and there’s the return. And you can read all about that in 2 Kings and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel.
This was a discovery for me – and that came after I had been reading the bible for some years. So don’t knock the idea of reading Children’s bibles. Get yourself a children’s bible, read it, enjoy it.
Mostly I use the NIV when I come to sermon prep – but I recognize that that’s because that’s the bible that I’ve grown up with. So when you say Oh I like the KJV – good for you. But then read it.
If you want a really properly accurate translation then probably you should get yourself a NRSV. But then there’s quite a lot of contextual work you’ll have to do to understand it.
Or swing in the other direction for a bible that’s written to be read and followed without too much extra contextual work needed – and that’s where the New Living Translation, the Message – those bibles are brilliant.
No, I haven’t got a Passion translation, yes I will, and maybe this time next year I will let you have my view on it.
So Which Bible? It really doesn’t matter that much. What matter is that you Actually Read it.
Ok So HOW – and shortly we’ll come to the WHY!
How – a little an often. How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. How do you paint the Forth Bridge?
If you read three chapters a day for a year you will have read the whole bible. First time round that’s quite hard. You can get books and Apps that will help you. I think its easier to start off with just reading one chapter a day and seeing if you can read the whole thing in three years. And then you might be ready to read it once a year.
If you’ve never opened your bible then start off with a gospel and then come and talk to me about where to go next.
So that’s how you read the whole bible. But there are other ways of reading it. Audible – listening – the bible was written for us to hear, so I’m enjoying listening to the Message bible at the mo.
Read it slowly- the same bit of bible every day for a week. On your notice sheet you should see Next week’s Bible readings. I print these off and read them every day for a week in the run up to the preach.
This form of bible reading is a little more immersive. Each time you read it you’ll spot something else that you didn’t see yesterday. You’ll get puzzled over certain turns of phrases and that will give you something to chew over throughout the day. You’ll get excited about other bits and that will fuel your prayers, your faith and hope.
There’s one more way of reading the bible – which is Really Important not to forget. Reading the bible with other people helps us not to get too locked into our own way of thinking, our own bubble of what we think God is like.
I recognize that even when you’re in a group that its easy to end up having some group-think problems – but its important to be part of the Church, part of a Home Group, engaging with what other people are saying about God and the Christian life and how they read their bibles.
Which bible – it really doesn’t matter – pick it up and Read it!
How to read the bible – little n often.
Why – why read the bible.
Mark Twain said the problem with the bible isn’t the bits that I don’t understand it’s the bits that I do.
So as you read your bible there will be boring bits – like land distribution in Joshua – actually they’re really interesting but I will tell you why another time.
Or there’s bits that make no sense like the Levitical sacrifices and the approach to what’s clean or unclean and why – and I can help you with that another time. Don’t worry about it.
But there are other bits where God calls us to love our neighbours as ourselves. To forgive, to allow the peace of Christ to rule inside of your hearts and minds, to be thankful.
These are the bits we understand, but they can be hard to apply.
The first bible reading was written by St Paul and he urges us to find ways of showing God our gratitude, singing songs, and in how we live and love.
Whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God.
Its that theme of gratitude and thanksgiving and counting your blessings and rejoicing that I seem to keep preaching!
Its not that easy.
So the Gospel reading promised that we can rely on God’s promises that Heaven and Earth would evaporate before Jesus’ promises would expire. That’s pretty solid.
And his promise is that He is with us, always.
That, alas, does not mean all is well and easy, but it means that God is with you, blessing you,
encouraging you, forgiving you, equipping you.
So why read the bible? Because it reminds me of all these things. It keeps me closely connected to the God who wrote them.
It keeps me aware of His Presence, of His love, of His call upon my life, of the challenges that He sets me and of the comfort that He gives me.
There’s so many other things that are thrown at me through the day – Opinions that other people think I should have, Adverts shaping how I should think about myself, how I should value myself.
But in the bible you will find a God who thinks you’re special, beautiful, lovely, worth saving, created for a purpose, an adventure.
Here we discover that we are each precious in God’s eyes, we are protected by His peace, we are called, we are loved.
Why read the bible? Because its possible that you will find yourself there. Its possible that you will discover an old truth that we forget from time to time, that you are loved unconditionally.
We struggle to hear it, to receive it, so keep at it.
Why read the bible – to remind yourself of the call of God and to receive His comfort.
How do I read the bible – a little and often, sometimes with others, sometimes mulling it over letting it seep into your soul
Which bible do I read – it doesn’t matter – read a kids bible, don’t wait to feel churchy – just pick it up and read it!
Because Heaven and earth will pass away, but the words of Jesus, they will never pass away. Amen.