I was once challenged to read nothing but the Bible for a month. I think my friend was genuinely concerned for my salvation. One day she came to me and said, “Jeff, it’s obvious that you read a lot of books. But I’m wondering if you spend enough time reading the Bible. I’d like to challenge you to spend a month reading nothing but the Good Book.” Somewhat intrigued, I told her I would give it some thought and prayer.
I later called her and said, “I’ll do it. But I have a request of you. While I’m reading the Bible, I’d like for you to read three books of my choosing!” My friend agreed, and we decided to meet each week of that month and share our discoveries.
So the following month I read nothing but the Bible. No newspapers, magazines, books. I had Janice read me my mail and I joke that I got lost every time I got in the car, not being able to read street signs and all. And I must say it was a fantastic experience! My friend and I both learned a great deal about ourselves, each other and the texts we studied. The experience cemented our relationship in mutual respect. I fell in love again with large parts of the Bible, Isaiah and Luke, in particular. And I was reminded of huge swaths of prejudice and violence that somehow made it into the canon.
And, of course, I realized my friend was right: I don’t spend enough time reading the Bible.
September 13 is Bible Sunday. We will give Bibles to our children and we’ll consider how we are a people, as John Wesley said, “of one book.” I hope you’ll plan to be present in worship.
You may be wondering what titles I put in my friend’s hand. If you’ve been around Dayspring the past year you can probably guess the authors of two of them! I asked her to read: The Clown in the Belfry: Writings on Faith and Fiction, by Frederick Buechner, Jesus: A New Vision by Marcus Borg, and, of course, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism by John Shelby Spong.
Blessings, Pastor Jeff