Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Heart of Anglican Bible Study

Tom Wright, Bishop of Durham, gave a talk at the Lambeth Conference that went relatively uncommented-on over the last few months. Fulcrum has finally put the text up here. I want to highlight a tiny portion - though certainly his talk was much farther ranging and insightful than this small bit - that really struck me.

All this is of course nurtured by the straightforward but deeply powerful tradition of the daily offices, with the great narratives of scripture read through day by day, preferably on a lectio continua basis, so that ‘living prayerfully within the story’ is the most formative thing, next to the Eucharist itself, which Anglicans do. Classic mattins and evensong, in fact, are basically showcases for scripture, and the point of reading Old and New Testaments like that is not so much to ‘remind ourselves of that bit of the Bible’, as to use that small selection as a window through which we can see, with the eyes of mind and heart, the entire sweep of the whole Bible, so that our ‘telling of the story’ is not actually aimed primarily at informing or reminding one another but rather at praising God for his mighty acts, and acquiring the habit of living within the story of them as we do so. That, I suggest, is the heart of Anglican Bible study.

I've always read the Bible to "learn that bit"... It didn't really occur to me to take it in a broader context of the whole Story (and, yes, I will capitalize Story here!) I've been disappointed with our Sunday School classes at church recently because we've been reading books about the Bible, or about Christianity. And I think this is why I've been disappointed, but I didn't really know or understand why until I finished reading this article. I want to go to Sunday School (and every night in between) and READ the Bible - not to memorize specific vignettes, but to read and worship God in awe of his might and power. I want to talk about the Scriptures with other Christians, and see what they think, and see how they may fit the passages we read into the larger fabric of the Story. As we see the Story come to life, and as we see how we fit into the story, we also revel in the Glory of God.

Of course, I'm reminded of Tolkien here (I should've used an obscure Tolkien reference in my blog name, shouldn't I?) where Sam and Frodo are talking about the story, and how they are taking their place in it. Sam says, "Why, to think of it, we're in the same tale still! It's going on. Don't the great tales never end?" (From Two Towers, "The Stairs of Cirith Ungol") But I think Bishop Wright is making the same case - we ARE part of that great Biblical Story, and it's still going on. And it's up to us to see our part through as best we can, with God's help.

(Tip o' the Tinfoil Hat to Stand Firm)

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