Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Joy of Scriptures

As a dyed in the wool Anglican I suppose it is redundant for me to tell you that I love to study scripture.  Being an ordained minister and having served in both the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Church of the United States it may seem obvious to state that I love studying our Holy texts.  But I should like to point out that my joy at this activity is also found in sharing the study of Holy Scriptures.
My proclivity for bible studies in parishes that I have served has meant that my studies are not solitary.  Along with parishioners I am gifted with unpacking (a term I learned in seminary) the texts with others.  I find it astonishing how lively and engaging such things can be.  To gather with others and bring the texts to life (so much more appealing than “unpacking,” don’t you think?) enlivens me beyond words.  At this point in time I can see my children rolling their eyes and hear them tell me “to get a life!”  However, living with these Holy texts is life, in my opinion. 
The words speak to me as freshly and with such immediacy as if they were being read to me by the authors themselves.  Or better yet, as if Jesus were in the room.  In the case of the gospels years of study now bring me to the point where I really do hear the words in the “voice” of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Each one as individual and as compelling to me as the voice as any living individual I know.
That is one of the beautiful things about studying these gifts we are given – they come alive.  The obscuring mist which seems to surround scripture (any combination of the murkiness of language, mores, and meaning) is lifted and the immediacy of their impact for us fairly leaps off the page for me.  Not always, of course.  But so often that in the truest sense of the word one becomes “addicted” to the process and that with an addiction that is salutary.  There is a deep connection on many levels; a connection with Christ, with the author’s intentions, with those who have sat down and done the same thing for the better part of the last two thousand years, and of course with those alive and well and jumping in with me.  
I am of the conviction that the renewal of the Anglican Church in our day will come about and will do so as a result of people sitting in such studies and finding the intuitive connection I have witnessed so many times.  There is an engagement which gradually emerges and with that a sense of wonder, humility, and response-ability that is so rewarding, so engaging, so spirit filled that one might almost call it divine.
 It is obvious but bears repeating; these texts have survived for so long because they are indeed filled with God’s life for us.  They are magnificently conceived and carefully designed, the Sistine Chapel pales by comparison, to draw us into something much larger than we are.  They are filled with all the variances, shortcomings, agendas, and oversights of which we humans are capable.  At the same time they are filled with a life giving mystery that resonates with the very depths of our humanity.
That is perhaps their greatest attraction to me – they are about us! 
They are somehow a vision of what it means to be human and divine, all other evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.  It is such an honour and privilege to be able to share them with each other and hopefully open them more fully to other people’s hearts and minds.  It is a grace filled gift to be response-able in our day to unfold their meaning for us and then humbly share that meaning with others. 
Dare one say that it just does not get any better than this!