From Sunday's sermon, Astonished By Words
Nehemiah 8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10
Rev. Chris Pollock
Over the years, the Bible certainly has created controversy. It has been used as a weapon, a history book, a science book, and a book of philosophy and ethics. Some have said that by reading the Bible, they have received special/secret insight from God that no one else has received (the Hebrew word for this is, “HOGWASH!”). It has been polarizing when it has been used for political purposes. It is totally loud about some issues (i.e. money/the poor), but is silent on other issues (i.e. What ever should we do about issues related to legalizing marijuana?).
And yet we, the people of God, like those in Ezra’s day, affirm and know that the Bible is this:
It is the testimony of how God has acted in human history.
The Bible is not to be worshipped. It is not to be idolized. But it points to the One who is to be worshipped!
In Ezra's day, the people of God were not celebrating the law. They were celebrating the God who had established the law. The law that would protect them was a reflection of a good and gracious God. From time to time, when the people held the law above the God who established the law, they found themselves in big trouble. The same happens to us.
Today, the Bible – the Holy Scriptures – is composed of law, poetry, songs, wisdom, letters, stories, and even statements about the end of the world. And, it is 100% consistent in telling the story of how God is working on behalf of the world – to renew, remake, and restore the world – through the person of Jesus Christ.
The scriptures were written for one reason only: to be read. And when we read them, the Jesus that the scriptures point to – the written word that points to the Living Word – is revealed. As a result, our lives can be changed. The Bible is precious to us. Let us be mysteriously and astonishingly captured by the words before us. Let us allow them to penetrate us deeply.
As one of your pastors, my deepest desire is that you have the ability to be astonished by the work of God in your life. I would encourage you to make it a daily practice to read the scriptures.
So, we want to make it as easy as possible to do that. Here are some suggestions:
1) Carve out 15 minutes – that’s it! – of each day. Sit in a chair or a room so you will feel comfortable.
2) Grab A Guide to Prayer for All God’s People that Pastor Michaele has been talking about on Sunday nights. The Guide to Prayer will follow the texts that guide us on Sundays.
3) If you don’t have A Guide to Prayer, begin reading the Gospel of Mark or John.
4) As you read, take a journal, think about, and answer these questions:
• What is the good news here?
• What is the bad news here?
• What are the characters feeling?
• What does God seem to be doing?
• What is going on in my life and what do I sense God is saying?
5) Allow the Jesus revealed in scripture jump out and all over you with his love.
It is my prayer that in this Epiphany season, you will pay attention, be astonished, and tell about it.