By Bishop Linda Nicholls
Over the past year and more Bishop Terry Dance has travelled across the deaneries of the diocese offering contextual bible studies.
It has been a delight to see so many people making the commitment to four or more weeks of study in Advent and Lent. In November 2018 the London Deanery saw an average of 60 people per evening gathering to learn together. A frequent comment has been – ‘Now I understand the bible better’!
The Bible is at the heart of our faith. The Solemn Declaration made at the formation of the Anglican Church of Canada states, we “…receive the same Canonical Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, as containing all things necessary to salvation.” The scriptures are the witness of a relationship with God and God’s story as told by people of faith in their own time and place. Their hearts have been inspired by their experience of God and the Spirit of God within them. Yet reading it in our own time can be challenging without a deeper understanding of how it was formed and the context of its authors.
Now I have to admit that I had not read the entire bible before I entered seminary. Thankfully my seminary insisted on examinations in the Old and New testaments to show we had actually read it! I discovered the richness of the stories of ordinary, very fallible human beings who were part of the great story of God’s salvation of humankind – of evil actions redeemed by grace; of women who were essential to God’s actions; of foreigners and strangers who mediated God’s grace; of the sacrificial love and commitment of those who trusted God; and of the gift of God in Jesus to radically redirect our attention to the heart of God’s love, compassion, forgiveness and justice intended for all people.
Whenever I open the bible I am surprised by how words on a page that I have read many times suddenly come alive in a new way as those words come into contact with this moment in my life or the life of the Church or the world. As if turning prism, the light of God is refracted in a new way. But it is not just the words on the page. Those words are simply pointers to the Word of God − the ultimate expression of God among us in Jesus. That Word is a living Spirit within us that inspires and enlightens. As the words on the page ignite the Spirit within, our hearts light up with new insight; or deepened faith; or possibly with questions never pondered before. This is the wonder of reading scripture. At times we are comforted by a long-standing relationships with a passage like Psalm 23 that resonates with our heart desire for God’s love and care. At other times we are challenged when a passage jumps into the middle of a current situation and invites us to think or act differently – a call to forgiveness; or a wondering if we are being called into something new.
As we begin a new calendar year I pray that we will commit to reading the Bible − the whole Bible! Seek out a bible study that will help you understand its context. Pray that the Holy Spirit will ignite a spark of new understanding, insight or questions in you. Invite a friend to read the scriptures with you and listen to their discoveries.
Join me in a challenge. Join me in reading the Bible in ONE YEAR. We will use THE BIBLE CHALLENGE (thebiblechallenge.org) as an outline. Let’s read scripture EVERY DAY! The website (thebiblechallenge.org) posts the scriptures daily or you can see and print an overall guide at: https://thebiblechallenge.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/TBC_EveryDayInTheWord1.pdf .
There are also study guides for each book of the bible if you want to know more! You may read all the passages each day − or concentrate on the Old or New Testaments. Read and then sit for a few minutes and notice what catches your heart or mind; what surprises you; what invites you to learn more!
Thank you Bishop Terry for igniting a passion for the scriptures in our diocese. Imagine what God may do through us as we hear the Word!