Tomorrow, Monday, January 5, we at St Thomas will begin the Bible Challenge — we are going to read the Bible together in one year! I love to see the look on people’s faces when I talk to them about this. Some look at me quizzically, as if to say “And how exactly is THAT going to happen?” Some look at me confused, like I just said the parish is going to walk to the moon together. Some just look nauseous when I mention it (you know who you are!).
Before we get started, I want to address some of the frequently asked questions (or frequently THOUGHT questions that you are too afraid to ask!) So here goes:
Are we really going to read the whole Bible, word for word, every single bit?
Kind of, but in small doses. Each day we will assigned one reading from each of the parts of the Bible — the Old Testament (also known as the Hebrew Bible), the Psalms, those beautiful and heart wrenching poems who some believe were written by King David (although most scholars think otherwise), and the New Testament, including the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) and the letters of St Paul. Each day will have a short synopsis of what we will be reading, some questions to ponder and a short prayer to say as you begin.
How will I know what to read and when?
At the top of each page will be the book we are to read along with which chapter. For instance, on Day 1, we will be reading Genesis (the first book of the Hebrew bible) chapters 1-3 (about 3 pages), Psalm 1 (6 verses long) and the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew (1 page).
I don’t know anything about the Bible. How will I understand what I am reading?
There is no need to have any prior knowledge or understanding of the Bible in order to participate in the Bible Challenge. The daily synopsis will be very helpful in giving a good overview of what you are about to read. You can also post questions to this blog that I will happily answer. We will be having periodic discussion groups following Sunday service to ask questions and talk about what we are reading.
I’m using the Poverty and Justice Bible given to us by the Lilly Foundation. What are these orange highlighted passages throughout the Bible?
Part of the purpose of this challenge is to get a better understanding of God’s call to be peacemakers and care for God’s people. Those are the passages that highlight our call as Christians to be a voice for the voiceless and to work for justice and peace throughout our world.
Am I supposed to believe what i read, word for word?
Episcopalians take the Bible seriously, but not literally. This is not a history book. It is a the salvation story of God and God’s love for God’s people written by those who have gone before us. We believe Scripture to be inspired, the Living Word. It is not static. It speaks to us here and now in our lives and in the context of our world. But we do not read it literally.
I don’t know if I believe in all this. Should I even be reading the Bible?
You are EXACTLY who should be reading the Bible! Most of us know so little about the Bible, and much of what we know has been distorted. The Bible Challenge is an invitation to give it a try, to look at this important book with new eyes, an open heart and a mind filled with your question and doubts. Bring it all to the experience. You are invited to come as you are and see where God leads you.
What if I miss a day?
Things happen. Try to keep up as best you can. After the habit has been established, you will actually look forward to doing the readings each day. i promise!
I don’t know…. I still feel a little nauseous!
You’re starting a new thing — it’s normal to feel anxious. But what have you got to lose? Give it a try. No judgments. See where it takes you.
I hope this helps answer your questions. I am looking forward to making this journey with you this year! If you haven’t already received your Bible Challenge book and the Poverty and Justice Bible, please stop by the Parish house and pick them up.
I wonder where we will be a year from now after all this? Hmmmmmm………