For those of you wondering where your Lenten reflections actually went these past few days, worry not! Let’s get off of movies and into books! My parents taught me to read before I learned more formally at school, and my room growing up was littered with books of many subjects. I swung from trees with Max and the Wild Things, helped Mike Mulligan with his super-cool Steam Shovel, followed Richard Scarry’s Lowly Worm and Huckle Cat, wrote on the wall in purple with Harold, tried to read Green Eggs and Ham out loud (and wondered why everyone loved such a creepy stalker like Sam I Am! Who would ever teach a child it’s okay to accept food from a total stranger who follows you, wears you down with psychologically manipulative repetitive requests and exposes you to mortal danger?! I mean where are the police in this story?!), and wondered how that little engine every could. Boys don’t ever admit to reading nursery rhymes, but I loved those English ditties which covertly embedded so much traumatic British history into sweet-sounding tropes teaching proper diction. (Even while young “Ashes, ashes, we all fall down” just didn’t sound so fun). When older, science fiction and fantasy works took me to alternative universes and enchanted worlds far away, full of magic and wonder. American history competed with classical and world history in my young adult years before seminary catapulted me into theology and the Holy Land.
But one book alone has companioned me from the first days of my ABC’s…it has grown, evolved and transformed through every season, chapter and moment of my life. Always mysterious, always beckoning me towards the deeper waters Jesus challenged His astonished disciples to net fish after His resurrection, always relevant, always patiently tantalizing me with revelations ready for discovery when I am ready to receive them, always forceful, always demanding of my utmost attention, intelligence and engagement. Every literary form finds its ultimate expression in this masterwork, and every literary master derives her or his craft from the taproot of this book. Without exception. Of course the book to which I refer is the Holy Bible, or if one prefers, the Holy Scriptures, inspired by God as author and textualized by a panoply of diverse writers, translators and narrators across hundreds of years. The scriptural text itself narrates events spanning thousands of years both visible in evidentiary history and also beyond it. Like any good book the bible narrates a compelling story from beginning to middle to end, and also like any good book, as we inhabit the bible’s story we inevitably find ourselves inside the story. Somewhere in those pages, I am there more than once, as are you. In a very real sense, we do not read scripture but rather scripture reads us. The bible transcends text, story or canon, because at root the bible is one love letter from our Heavenly Father to us, and like any loving parent, God has a lot to say!
As we turn to reading in this time of social distancing, a very inexpensive and convenient way to travel anywhere and anywhen one wishes, may I suggest this moment is a perfect time to do the best thing anyone can do with a bible….any bible. Open it. Keep it open and close at hand. Open several around the house. An open bible is the available written word waiting to become the living Word, written not on paper but on the manuscript of our hearts and souls. A good book indeed!
- Do you have a bible or bibles in your home today? Perhaps even a favorite edition? May I suggest gathering your bible or bibles and strategically placing them where you like to stop and read. Please make sure to actually open them!
- When was the last time you actually read from an open bible whether a physical or electronic edition? Could you begin to read the bible today as a Lenten discipline for the remainder of Lent?
- For some beginners a bible “tithe” is helpful, i.e. spend a 10th of the daily time you dedicate to watching news and movies or any screen time actually reading your bible. Others like to tackle a particular book from beginning to end. Still others want digestible bits, one gospel story per day. All are terrific ways to read. Don’t worry about form or strategy today. Just start reading!