Reading the Bible: Episode 1
Hello, welcome to Reading the Bible. My name is Collin, I’m a pastor at Redeemer Anglican Church in Dacula, Georgia, and in this season of shelter-in-place, I want to help you and your family learn to love reading the Bible in your homes. I think many of us don’t really know how to approach reading the Bible. It’s a strange book written thousands of years ago, and though we’re told again and again that we should be reading it, whenever we try, we don’t feel like we get anything out of it. If that’s you, you’re not alone, and I want to help. Because while this is a strange book written thousands of years ago, I’ve come to believe it to be the most transformative work of literature the world has ever known; and I want help you discover that as well.
This week we’re kicking things off and asking a very important question, and one that needs to be answered before we go any further, and that question is, “Why do we read the Bible at all?” If you’re a seasoned Christian, you may say something like, “Well because it’s the Word of God.” But then your two year old comes along and asks, “Why do we read the Word of God?” and then you may start fumbling a bit. If you’re a skeptic, you embody this question, and you don’t understand why your Christian friends would bother with such an archaic book.
“Why do we bother reading the Bible?” That’s what today is all about.
In the 1960s, the sociologist Peter Berger helped revolutionize the way we think about human culture. Berger introduced us to the idea that we all live in a particular interpretation of our world, and this interpretation is built on the stories that we hear, believe, and experience. He says that stories shape our sense of who we are, what is our role in the world, even what kind of a world is this.
Think about the stories that make you who you are. Chances are you’re an American, and so you’ve been steeped in the stories of our nation. We have this story of the self-made individual, the American dream, this story that a person can go from rags to riches in this country. Or think about the stories that your family tells that have formed your view of the world. My mom’s parents grew up in rural Oklahoma, in Tornado Alley, and the stories they’d tell, which were built from stories they certainly heard from their parents, but their stories of storms were told to my mother, and so whenever there was a whiff of in-climate weather when I was growing up, we’d be herded down into the basement, because those stories shaped my mom’s view of the world.
It’s like if you’ve ever traveled to a different country, and I’m not talking like a Sandals resort, I’m talking really going to a place that is foreign, that is unlike your home culture. In my college years I had the opportunity to travel and each of those experiences left their mark on me. When you come home from spending time in another culture, you see your own society in a new light. In Spain, people spend most of their time outside of their homes, out in plazas, sharing a meal with friends, a meal that lasted well into the night sometimes. I came back, and I see how our culture is so much more individualized, that we create a lot more distance between ourselves and neighbors, and we spend a lot of time inside our homes, and because of the story of my time in Spain, I wanted to change some of that and be more present and available to friends and neighbors.
The stories that we hear, believe, and experience shape our interpretation of the world, who we are, and what we’re supposed to be about.
So what does this have to do with our question, “Why do we bother reading the Bible?” We read the Bible, because it tells our story. It tells the story of our God who has called, saved, and commissioned a people to live in a new way - the way of Jesus; and that story shapes and transforms us to be those people who live in the way of Jesus. Reading the Bible is about identity formation, because as we tell and retell this story, something happens to us: the story begins to shape how we view ourselves, how we view the world, and in doing so, we are invited into the new way of life that flows out of that story. Reading the Bible is all about identity formation.
And here’s the thing: following Jesus is really difficult. Following Jesus is the minority view in the world. It involves living by a particular set of values that are not shared by the majority of people you interact with. So, we have to ask, how do we retain this particular view of the world and this particular identity? We have to go back to the story, and tell it and retell it to ourselves over and over again, and this is exactly what the Bible is for. This is why it was written and preserved over these thousands of years.
And so we’re in this season of social upheaval. Nothing about our present situation feels normal, and there’s no telling when things will begin to be normal again. Now more than ever, we need to tell and retell our story, the story of the Bible. In times of crisis, times of uncertainty, when we’re looking for an anchor to hold on it, when we’re asking what do we do now, God has given his people that anchor.
In Joshua chapter 8, the Israelites were just about to enter Canaan, the land that God had promised them, and yet the land inhabited by their enemies. It’s a time of uncertainty as to what’s going to happen next. And what does Joshua do on the eve of entering into that land? He gathers all the people together and they read the Scriptures. Why do they do that? Because they need an anchor. They need to be reminded of their story, of who they are, of all that God had done for them.
This is why we bother reading the Bible. It’s our story, and stories are the lens by which we interpret the world. We read the Bible, because we want the story of God’s love and faithfulness to be the story that shapes us, and anchors us, and we want to live in the new way of life that flows from that amazing story.
As we end each week, I want to give you all something to chew on until our next time together. So here are some things to think about discuss with your family over this next week:
What are the stories that have shaped you individually? What about your family?
How does the story of God calling, saving, and commissioning a people change the way you see yourself and your world?
If someone were to ask you, “Why do you read the Bible?” How would you respond?
Thanks for listening and engaging this with me. We’ll be back next to answer the question, “If the Bible is one unified story, what is it?” “What’s the story of the Bible?” Thanks again or listening, and if you’re interested in learning more or connecting with us at Redeemer, check out our Facebook page or website, and send us a message. We’ll get back to you as soon as we can. But that’s all for today, so may the story of God’s love shine bright in your heart and mind this week, as the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit walk alongside you in your journey of faith. See you next week.