Friday, March 13, 2009

Reading the Bible in Lent

It was the late 400’s. The Church had been free of persecution for about 150 years. Although the books of the Bible had been a part of various congregations for four centuries, the official books making up the Canon of Scripture was now universally agreed upon by the vast majority of Christendom. As Christianity became all but universally accepted, its influence was unrivaled by any other faith tradition. Something strange begins to happen when those who had been persecuted now found that they held power. This power was not just the power of persuasion, but a power enforced by the Empire. As the old Roman Empire was transforming into the great Byzantine Empire, some in the Church were becoming aware of how easy it is to use Christ message of grace and righteousness as a springboard to law and enforced holiness. One such Christian leader was a man named Mark. Born in Athens in the late fifth century, he moved to the deserts of Egypt, where he memorized the entire Bible and worked to spread the Gospel among the poor. Mark is quoted as saying, “He who is humble in his thoughts and engaged in spiritual work, when he reads the Holy Scriptures, will apply everything to himself and not his neighbor.” Scripture should have a personal application. In our weekly Bible studies, one of the questions we ask is “What does the mean for the original readers?” That question should be followed with, “and what does it mean for me?” Where are you when you read of Adam’s fall, or the murder of Abel by Cain, or Peter, James and John witnessing the Transfiguration of Christ? I am often asked, “Where is God?” But just as in Genesis 3, it is typically God who is forced to ask, “Adam (a Hebrew word that simply means “man”), where are you."
Lent is a perfect time to develop a spiritual discipline. In addition to Sunday worship attendance and various Bible study opportunities offered at your Church, consider a discipline of daily Bible Reading. Remember that you are reading the one Bible in three perspectives. It is first, Church's sacred history. Second, each passage and story in Scripture is God's activity in human history in a specific moment in time. Finally, and for the early Church Fathers, perhaps the most important: Scripture is God's personal word to you as one of his disciples.

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