Bible Sunday 2021

Her is ALM Carol O’s reflection for Bible Sunday 2021, based on these texts:

Isaiah 55. 1-11

2 Timothy 3. 14-4.5

John 5. 36b-end

Thou whose almighty word, Lord thy word abideth, Glorious things of thee are spoken, just 3 of our hymns today speak about God’s word telling us this is Bible Sunday. Why today you may ask, when we use the Bible every Sunday, but today we give thanks for the Bible. I’d like to begin with the following poem which I came across when preparing my reflection:

They lie on the table side by side
The Holy Bible and the TV Guide.
One is well worn and cherished with pride –
Not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
One is used daily to help folks decide.
No, not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
As the pages are turned, what shall they see?
Oh, what does it matter, turn on the TV.
So they open the book in which they confide.
No, not the Bible, but the TV Guide.
The Word of God is seldom read.
Maybe a verse before they fall into bed.
Exhausted and sleepy and tired as can be.
Not from reading the Bible, but from watching TV
So then back to the table side by side,
Lie the Holy Bible and the TV Guide. 

That poem is quite amusing but it’s also a sad reminder of how some neglect the Bible and yet it is from there that we learn about God’s work in the world and his love for the world and every single person in it – including you and me.

I suspect we all have a favourite version of the Bible, one of mine is the good news bible, why, because it uses a different language which gives me a different perspective on a bible passage; but all bibles have the same message; all contain the same stories on an epic scale – thrillers, adventures, family sagas and more. Yet a single current, one of love, sadness, betrayal, and forgiveness flows through. They point to a Father who offered his only Son so that we can go free. A cast of thousands crowds the pages, people living in different times and different places. In the continuing drama, each one of us is invited to play a part in God’s plan for the world, not as watchers but as doers in all kinds of different ways. Our readings today help us with this.

In Isaiah we are invited to come and experience God’s grace – everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! We are to come and accept the gifts of God, to accept his grace, his love, his mercy, and to find refreshment and renewal in his care. We are invited also to ‘buy’. It’s a language we can all understand, living in a consumer society we are used to paying for things, except for this gift there is no charge, we buy it for nothing! We are to accept our free gift, to use it, to take out our gift to transform our lives and the lives of others.

In other words, we are to be doers. We are not to look at the gifts of God and admire them from afar. We are not just to take them and keep them for ourselves, but we are to enjoy them and to use them in our own lives, and to seek to glorify God in all that we do, and that must include sharing this message that we read about in the Bible – a message of love, hope, peace, acceptance, forgiveness, grace, and mercy, and so much more.

And then in Paul’s letter to Timothy we read that ‘all scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.’ Later Paul writes, “proclaim the message; be persistent whether the time is favourable or unfavourable; convince, rebuke, and encourage, with the utmost patience in teaching.” and also “carry out your ministry fully”

Paul is emphasising the importance of the Bible for living and he is also reminding those who heard these words that each one of them had a part to play in ministry. Today we all have a part to play as well. Each of us is called by God to ministry. That ministry may be standing up leading worship, it may be offering prayer, helping with flowers, cleaning the church, offering the gift of music, or a whole host of other things. God calls us to serve.

It is an enormous privilege to be called to serve God and to play a part in this incredible journey that we call life, but God, through the Holy Spirit, gives us the tools to enjoy that life to the full and to share that enjoyment with others. God called me to serve, some 12 years ago now, as an ALM. He waited until the time was right for Him and for me. I didn’t know I was being called, I did know there was a black hole in my life and only God could change that, and He did, by giving me the gift to spread His word to His people through prayer, through wholeness and wellbeing and through scripture. Part of that service to which we are all called is to tell others about our faith and about our Saviour, and we may sometimes feel inadequate to do that, I know I still do, but the Bible can give us confidence, the Bible can give us strength, but we must engage with it, pray with it, grapple with it – not leave it on the table by the TV.

Our gospel reading says, ‘you search the scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life… yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life… I know that you do not have the love of God within you.’ After stressing the importance of knowledge of the Bible and real time spent reading it, thinking about it and praying with it, there is here a little warning that words by themselves mean very little – we can know the bible backwards but not live by the words; we can discuss all kinds of things relating to the bible, but if we do not live by the command to love then we’re wasting our time, our knowledge of the bible has to be visible in our words and our actions.

I am going to tell a short story which reminds us that the Bible can literally be used in all kinds of different ways:

A new Vicar moved into a town and went out one Saturday to visit his parishioners. All went well until he came to one house. It was obvious that someone was home, but no one came to the door even after he had knocked several times. Finally, he took out his card, wrote on the back “Revelation 3:20” and stuck it in the door. The next day, he found this card on the offertory plate. Below his message was a note just saying, “Genesis 3:10.” I am sure some of you will know the 2 sayings, but for those of you who don’t:

Revelation 3:20 reads: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me.”

Genesis 3:10 reads: “I heard your voice in the garden, but I was naked, and I hid myself.”

The Bible gives us lessons, it gives us encouragement, it gives us guidance and hope and peace, and it gives us promises from God that he will be with us, he’ll never leave us, he’ll provide for us a place in his heavenly Kingdom, and he’ll love us when we do good things and he’ll love us even when we mess things up a bit. Ultimately the Bible reminds us of God’s constant invitation to draw closer to him – and so as we hear his Word may we have a burning desire to read more, may we know his limitless love for us, and as we share his Word with others, may we recognise his strength in us. Amen

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