|Cadbury's creme egg by Saatchi & Saatchi 2008|
Several comments and posts on the Blogosphere lately have had me wondering about the way in which other people read the Bible... and how I read it.
Each day I read the set lesson from the Methodist lectionary from the Bible I was given at my ordination. As part of my discipline of discipleship I spend some time with that text, not in exegesis as such, but reading and reflecting on what I have read. What verse (if any ) jumps out at me, what does the text say to me about you, or about me, or about other people and the world we live in. I then write a single page of 'commentary' in my journal - as a way of not just reading and moving on.
I gain much from this practice, a deep appreciation of the text, a love of your Word, a knowledge of the peoples and places of the Bible, and a conviction of the power of the Bible to speak to me and to the World today, not in an authoritative commanding manner, but as a challenging transformative opportunity.
But I have been provoked into thinking more deeply about how I read the Bible.
'How' do I read it? Do I read it as a feminist, as a liberal, as a Methodist, as an Evangelical, as a preacher, as a pastor - or as all of these things?
'How' do I read it? Do I read it as your truth, as history, as a source of inspiration, as instruction, as a conversation with you - or as all of these things?
It matters because how we read the Bible determines what we bring to the text and what we expect to take away from our encounter with it. There are some people who are fortunate enough(?) to know exactly how the Bible should be read. They often beat us over the head with it.. but I'm not so fortunate.
I find that I am very inconsistent about how I read the Bible - it all depends on why I am reading it, and who I am reading it for. Like the best of friends, I find the Bible offers its wisdom and wit in the manner best suited to the occasion or the query. So if I am reading for a Sunday service, to preach the Word - the Bible reads differently than if I am reading for personal discipleship, or for class meeting, or for Bible Study..
The words don't change - but I do, according to my needs and expectations the text seems to suggest first one meaning, then another - and then invites me to be transformed by that interpretation.
As a result, I can't read the Bible as a straightforward text.. I find no 'plain' meaning - instead I find revelation (and revelation is a complex and tricky act of grace!)
As I read Scripture, it reveals to me my prejudices, presumptions and needs - it reveals to me my hopes dreams and deepest desires for myself, for those I love, for the whole world. The Bible reveals the gap between where humanity should be and where it actually is - and repeatedly it reveals to me the wonder and majesty of creation and of your love for it all.
And then reveals to me the need, and sometimes even the best way, to change/act/do something as a result of what I have read!
That's a lot of revelation - but it doesn't come all at once - or every time I read..
But I do read expecting revelation - and that's really the 'how' of how I read the Bible. I don't read it specifically as anything or anyone in particular - but I do read it every time in expectation, believing that YOU are particular - and that you can and will use this means of grace to enlighten me.
So to answer my question - How do I read Scripture?
Expectantly - from the inside out, nibbling at the edges as necessary to ensure I can dig deep for our transforming gift of grace.