This week, I was reminded of the time when I realized that I would never grow tired of preaching on the biblical text. I was listening to the first sermon I had ever heard by Samuel Wells, a sermon given to a bunch of young people—high schoolers. It was on the theological subject of the incarnation. Honestly, I don’t remember the actual text assigned; I just remember that my mind was blown. I felt as if someone held the Bible open in front of me and revealed that it had a hidden trick that allowed its pages to continue unfolding from the center, revealing connections I had never made between Old and New Testament, uncovering mysteries I had never bothered to wonder about that were now endlessly fascinating. Suddenly, all of the easy, thoughtless ways of talking about scripture melted away, and I discovered a richness I never knew existed. At that time, I had already been a serious student of the Bible for about 8 years. And I felt I had just begun again.
Study—in particular, Bible study, but I would also add more general studies of God, humanity, and the life of faith—is an endless adventure. If it’s boring, then you may be doing it wrong! Study is our part in a relationship with God, combing through Scripture to uncover who God is and how God moves in the world, reading books to understand our own and others’ experiences of trying to be faithful, and receiving the gifts of a teacher who will lead us and study with us. Good teachers lead us deeply into our subject—in this case, the Word of God—but they also “make us increasingly capable of fruitful study on our own.” Give a man a fish, Teach a man to fish…
As many of our schools have recently honored their teachers, this week we are honoring those in the church who have taught us so well this year. Their sacrifice of time and energy is a gift to all of us, whether they are at church or on zoom. They enrich our faith and, in turn, our community. They model the enthusiasm we, too, can bring to scripture and faith. And they turn us out to try it on our own.
So, perhaps the Good Book (or the God behind it!) is calling you to make a practice of study. Start with one of Paul’s letters, or get bold and take on a prophet. Don’t bite off too much each day–think of base hits, not homeruns. My dad has read one chapter each day for as long as he can remember, and he’s lost track of how many times he has read the whole Bible with that simple practice. You can use a study Bible, or a study guide, to accompany your study—I’ve enjoyed the Wesley Study Bible as a way to connect our Wesleyan Theology directly to Scripture. I always recommend the NRSV translation, or for an easier read, the CEB is good.
These days at home are a great time to engage this practice and start a new habit of study.
Have fun, and be sure to share with us what you discover!