“Then the king directed that all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem should be gathered to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord, and with him went all the people of Judah, all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the priests, the prophets, and all the people, both small and great; he read in their hearing all the words of the book of the covenant that had been found in the house of the Lord. The king stood by the pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.” - 2 Kings 23:1-3
How Is That Bible Reading Coming?
“Will you continue in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in the prayers?” (from “The Baptismal Covenant,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 304)
“We call [the Holy Scriptures] the Word of God because God inspired their human authors and because God still speaks to us through the Bible.” (“The Catechism,” The Book of Common Prayer, p. 853)
“Will you be diligent in the reading and study of the Holy Scriptures, and in seeking the knowledge of such things as may make you a stronger and more able minister of Christ?” (“The Examination,” The Ordination of a Priest, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 532)
We are encouraged and reminded as laity and as clergy - over and over - to read and study the Holy Scriptures. This is one of the key spiritual practices expected of followers of Jesus. Jesus studied and knew the Hebrew scriptures - our “Old Testament”. We are reminded at every baptism to continue in the apostles’ teaching. The apostles’ teaching has come to us through the Bible. We believe that one of the best ways to encounter the LIving God - the Christ - is through the Word of God... Holy Scripture.
A young King Josiah was told that the “book of the law” had been found in the house of the Lord - the Temple - presumably after it had been missing for awhile. When a man named Shaphan read it aloud to the king, Josiah tore his clothes - a sign of mourning and repentance. (2 Kings 22:8-11) A little while later, King Josiah called all the inhabitants of Judah to the house of the Lord, and then read the book of the law to them, and then “made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord, keeping his commandments, his decrees, and his statutes, with all his heart and his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. All the people joined in the covenant.” (see verses 2-3 above)
The finding of this “book” - which was probably a scroll - let to the religious reforms that King Josiah became known for during his reign. (Continue reading 2 Kings 23)
Without access to, knowledge of, and putting into spiritual practice the Word of the Lord, we have only many, many other words, voices, and opinions - many of which may not be grounded in God. When President Lincoln said “A house divided against itself cannot stand” - in a speech at the Illinois State Capitol on June 16, 1858, when he was campaigning for the U.S. Senate - he was quoting Jesus (either Matthew 12:25 or Mark 3:25 - take your pick). His listeners would have known that he was quoting from scripture - from Jesus’ own words. (I wonder - today - if some Americans might hear those words and say, “Oh! That’s Lincoln!”, but not realize that the words originated with Jesus.)
The point is that the word of God leads us to Christ and leads us to life - to what Jesus called “eternal life”, to what Paul called “life in the Spirit”. The Bible isn’t primarily an “answer book.” It is designed to lead us into a whole new way of living and loving - grounded in God - with “Exhibit A” being the life and teaching of Jesus, who is revealed as God-in-the-flesh.
But none of these words make any sense, and this whole new way of life isn’t often known as an option available to us... unless we turn to the Bible, and read and study what is there. Paul wrote to the Romans: “But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him?” (Romans 10:14)
There are all kinds of people proclaiming the faithfulness of God, the love of Jesus, and the power of the Spirit in the Bible. Yes, one of the main ways that we hear this proclamation is to spend time reading the Bible, on a regular basis... as a spiritual practice.
So... how is your Bible reading coming? If it has been awhile since you opened that Bible on your headboard, on your nightstand, or on a bookshelf, pick it up! Where to begin, you might ask? Well, the Episcopal Church has a Daily Office Lectionary - a guide for reading the Bible on a daily basis. Pick up a copy of “Forward Day by Day” in the narthex (or find it online), find the daily readings and a short meditation for each day of the week, and spend a little time with those readings for the day. Even if you just read one of the lessons for the day, my hunch is that you will begin finding new life. You may also encounter the living Christ in a way that you haven’t in a while. Not only that, you will probably hear something very different than you are hearing all the time online, on the radio, on TV, etc.
You and I have an opportunity - every single day - to read and hear the timeless Word of God. Let’s take advantage of that opportunity! Perhaps our doing so will lead to a major new reformation in our own land.