23rd October 2022
Reflection (readings are below)
Today is Bible Sunday making it a good time to reflect why we think the Bible is important (assuming that you do). The Bible (from biblos in Greek meaning books) is a collection of books written over many centuries by different people using different genres, edited and rewritten, and collated into a collection. Which books are included in that collection varies from church body to church body with the Orthodox having the largest and the Protestants the slimmest version. At root the Bible recounts people’s experiences of encountering God.
I would like to suggest that the Bible is important for four reasons: salvation, instruction, glory and encouragement.
The central story running through the Bible is of salvation: God saving his people. It is a salvation that heals, restores and overflows with mercy – from the drama in the Garden of Eden, through the journey from Egypt to the land of Canaan and the exile to and return from Babylon, to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We focus on the salvation of our own kind but there is an underlying current that tells us that God’s salvation is the salvation of all creation:
‘Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth!’
It is a book of instruction. Every Sunday we hear and explore the Bible discovering anew or hearing again the guidance, the instruction, it gives us. We learn of the importance of prayer and hope, faith and love. We are reminded to be both penitent and merciful, to heal and set free. We are challenged to walk the talk, to respond to the cry of the earth – its people, its creatures, its rivers and soils, its plant and wildlife. We are exhorted to be radical – not conforming to the ways of the ‘world’ but adhering to the values of the kingdom of God. The message comes from both what we call The Old Testament – maybe First Testament would be better – and The New Testament.
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor’.
It is a book that celebrates the glory of God. It recounts and retells the amazing things God does. It raises a paean of praise that comes both from the people of God as well as from all the creaturely and non-creaturely parts of creation. It celebrates the harmony that comes when we live according to God’s wishes.
‘In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall triumph and glory.’
It is a book of encouragement. In its pages we see how people before us have struggled, often failed, and been restored by hope. We see our mistakes and shortcomings echoed in theirs. And we find encouragement when we realise that we are not alone, that God has always, will always and is always there for us. We find encouragement knowing that Jesus has laid out the way before us.
And Jesus said ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’
The people of Nazareth are both amazed by what they hear and sceptical. Can they believe that God has chosen a carpenter’s son to be the fulfilment of the scripture, the fulfilment of all their hopes for salvation? He is someone they have known since childhood. He is one of them!
I wonder if sometimes the words of the Bible seem too familiar to us – especially if we heard them oft repeated since childhood. Do we sometimes fail to hear quite how powerful and radical the words are? Do we sometimes fail to hear both the challenge and the opportunity they present?
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other.
By myself I have sworn,
from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear.’
Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me,
are righteousness and strength;
all who were incensed against him
shall come to him and be ashamed.
In the Lord all the offspring of Israel
shall triumph and glory.
We who are strong ought to put up with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Each of us must please our neighbour for the good purpose of building up the neighbour. For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, ‘The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.’ For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. May the God of steadfastness and encouragement grant you to live in harmony with one another, in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:
‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’
And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’ All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, ‘Is not this Joseph’s son?’ He said to them, ‘Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, “Doctor, cure yourself!” And you will say, “Do here also in your home town the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum.”’And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet’s home town’s .