Have you ever set out with the ambition to read through the entire Bible? Maybe you succeeded on your first try. If so, you did better than I did. My first effort was in the 8th grade. I ended up wandering in the Sinai wilderness for a number of months and my attempt to read the entire bible died there, somewhere in Leviticus if my memory serves me. All those minor laws in ancient Israel were a world away from my life as a teenager in Temecula, CA. It was like trying to read through the entire classified section of the newspaper, when I didn't even need a job. I failed, and it took me a number of years until I was ready to try again.
I suspect that I am not the only one that has had a difficult time reading through the entire Bible. Maybe you have tried and failed as I did. Maybe you were intimidated to even start. Or maybe you never caught the motivation to mine the treasures of each book of the Scriptures. Whatever, the case, I've got some good news for you.
Over the past couple of years, there have been some very good efforts to bring the whole story of the bible to ordinary people like you and me. For example, I just recently finished The Book of God by Walter Wangerin Jr. This novel uses modest artistic liberties to help weave the stories of scripture into one seamless whole. The Story that is told is compelling with a number of geographic and historic additions that help bring the narratives of scripture to life. Wangerin is a Lutheran pastor with a high view of scripture, and while he treats the text very respectfully, he isn't afraid to use his poetic prowess to craft a very moving experience for the reader. The person of Jesus Christ has only become more vivid to me after having read Wangerin's account. The Book of God can be found on Amazon (Zondervan, 1999, 640 pages; just $7 on your Kindle app).
If you are looking for something more directly from the sacred text, you may want to consider another recent Zonderzan book, The Story (2011, 512 pages). The Story primarily uses the bible text directly from the NIV version of the scriptures. However, it is arranged chronologically, and it fills in a number of historic gaps and explains some of the overarching theological threads of the scriptures. It makes for a very readable experience, and a wonderful way to read through the bible in its (near) entirety. They have published a teen and children's addition as well if you want to make it a family journey.
Whichever way you choose, there is a wonderful opportunity before us. God has reached down to communicate His heart to us through His Word. In today's world we have accessible opportunities to get to listen to the whole message God has spoken. I encourage you, even if you have had a negative experience of reading through the whole bible before, to consider one of these paths to get to be exposed to the most important book in the history of the world. Enjoy the journey.
After finishing Eugene Peterson's memoirs, The Pastor, a month ago I picked up his practice of sending out a weekly letter ( an email called Echo in my case) to our church as a way to reflect on what God is doing in our midst and to encourage living out our faith in the midst of our weekly work place and homes. A few people from the church encouraged me to share this past week's Echo online, so here it is. If you would like to receive our weekly Echo email, please respond or comment on this post and we will add you to the recipient's list. Blessings!
One of my passions is to demonstrate to the world the beauty of God. And that is why I thoroughly enjoyed a day like last Sunday. Let me list out a few of the ways that we had the opportunity to share the character of God with our community on Sunday:
1. By partnering with area churches: God desires there to be one church in the Temecula Valley. Not tribal divisions between denominations, but a united Body that is working together to bring the kingdom of God into our communities. On Sunday we had the blessing of being able to team up with Lamb's Fellowship Elsinore, who did an excellent job with their organization and preparation. And we were also able to help encourage another ministry, Mountainside Ministries, which was affected by the recent Falls fire. These type of partnerships show the world that, in Christ, there is unity and love that overcomes divisions. And "by our love for one another, the world will know that we are (Christ's) disciples."
2. By physically rebuilding and beautifying our community: We had the opportunity to do some painting of a barn and a horse corral, as well as cleaning out some of the fire damaged debris.
Did you know that God is concerned about the physical condition and beauty of our cities? God's desire is that this world progresses in reflecting the very beauty and justice of heaven. When we invest in the physical creation we proclaim that 'this too belongs to our glorious God!' When Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world was going to end tomorrow, he responded, "Plant a tree."
3. By publicly participating in the Scriptures and Sacraments: Our worship took place next to Lake Elsinore as you can see in the picture above. It wasn't easy for everyone. Some of us were hungry. Some of us were dirty. Some of us had aching bodies. But we finished our day with worship together outside. And as we did we were able to exalt the word of God, and the practices of the church without shame in a public place for all to see.
There were three sacramental moments in particular that cried, 'Glory!' to me. One was the moment that our dear Ella was under the waters of baptism. Our baptisms were an absolute delight, like celebrating the birth of a child with a dear friend. Another moment was lifting the host of Christ's body to a blue sky, and seeing the dark brown body of Christ contrasted against the bright blue sky. Finally, there was the moment that I presented the Body of Christ to outstretched hands that were weary, dirty and hungry. I had never presented the Bread of Heaven to hands with so much dirt and ash on them before, and some may have considered the practice irreverent, but it struck me as absolutely profound. Here in the Eucharist the precious Son presents Himself to sinful humanity. The diamond of heaven has come to dwell with earthen, clay vessels. These tired hands have done their best to labor for the Lord, but at the end of the day, all they can do is stretch out their dirty palms, and receive the gift of God's pristine Son. Glory :)
I think the beauty of God was proclaimed this Sunday. Thank you for joining me in the privilege of making Him known.
Author: Cameron Lemons
Reflections from the pastor