Johnston: Reading Scripture
Fr. Bob Johnston (email)
This past week at Incarnation you may have heard several speakers reference the key role of Scripture in the Christian life. Our guest speaker at Parish Night, Dr. Jim Denison, talked about reading Scripture and even memorizing it. He said that the more Scripture we know by memory, the more the Holy Spirit has to work with. Then, in the final sermon of the Stand series, our preachers discussed the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17).
Scripture not only protects us but forms us. I know the season of my life in which I experienced the most significant spiritual growth was the year that I read the Bible cover to cover for the first time. I read it using a one-year schedule that involved reading an Old Testament lesson, psalm, and New Testament reading each day. That worked well, but there are many ways to come up with a plan for reading the Bible.
Planning Your Bible Reading
I currently use a two-year reading cycle that has no gaps. It involves two readings a day: an Old Testament passage and New Testament passage. The schedule I use can be found at http://www.wholesomewords.org/family/bibleread/biblerea.html. There are many other useful sites that do similar things.
BibleGateway has numerous plans also: https://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/.
The Book of Common Prayer offers a daily lectionary as well that eventually covers most of the Bible over two years.
Another way is to sign up for a daily email that has the readings. One example is the service from the Anglican priest, Nicky Gumbel (http://www.alpha.org.sg/friends/news/bible-one-year-nicky-gumbel). That offers the convenience of getting it pushed to your device each day.
The important thing is to find a way to read Scripture regularly to fuel growth. After all, in Scripture, we encounter God. The catechism of the Book of Common Prayer says it is called the “Word of God” because God still speaks through it. It equips us. It changes us.
Perspectives on Bible Reading
I asked a few of my colleagues about how Scripture reading had impacted them and how they approach it. Ryan Waller answered this way:
Raised as a Baptist, Scripture reading and memorization was a critical part of my development. I read quite a bit and memorized quite a bit. But over time, Scripture reading became just another item on my daily to do list. I was still reading but it felt more like a chore as opposed to quality time spent with God. In seminary, however, I was introduced to reading scripture in a new way. Ignatian Spirituality invites the reader to use their imagination when reading scripture, taking shorter passages and asking questions like, ‘What am I seeing in this passage?’ ‘What am I hearing?’ ‘What am I smelling?’ ‘What does it feel like to be here?’ Asking these kinds of questions really helped open scripture up to me in new and meaningful ways. For me, that’s made all the difference.
Deacon Chris Yoder extolled the place of the lectionary this way:
I began using the daily lectionary (Book of Common Prayer, p. 933-1001) to structure my reading of the Bible soon after I graduated from college, and before I became Episcopalian. I liked how it provided readings from the Psalms, the Old Testament, the Epistles, and the Gospels every day. When I started using the daily lectionary, I would read all the lessons together in the mornings. Now that I typically follow the lectionary in the context of Morning and Evening Prayer, I read a psalm and the Old Testament lesson in the morning, and a psalm and the Epistle and Gospel lessons in the evening. Because the readings each day tend to follow ‘in course’ (i.e., one after another), the daily lectionary, over its two-year cycle, you end up reading a good portion of the Bible. This is especially the case with the psalms, as you will generally read all 150 psalms every seven weeks; the language of the Psalter—you might call it Israel’s prayer book—gets into your bones.
I pray that, however you approach it, you will take up the Word of God and read.