“Luke’s goal in writing his two-part story is to provide an orderly account so that his readers might know the truth about Jesus.
To what end do you read the scriptures?”
Today is Ash Wednesday. It might be my favorite day of the Church year. While everyday there is the opportunity to confess our sins and repent and return to the Lord, the language we use on Ash Wednesday is the most poignant. The Litany of Penance makes clear those sins of commission and omission that I would rather ignore. The recitation of Psalm 51 takes pieces of scripture that have been spread all throughout our liturgy and reminds us of how they fit together as a word of prayer to God. The absolution, which is more a prayer on behalf of all those gathered, is a helpful reminder that God’s desire is not to punish us wicked sinners, but rather, that God’s greatest hope is that we all might be restored to right relationship. The smudge of ash upon my forehead, and the reminder that I came from and will return to dust, gives me the chance to recall my own mortality – something I would otherwise only do when I got onto an airplane. It is a beautiful liturgy, filled with imagery and action that point us to our need for forgiveness and God’s amazing grace, but above it all, I adore the invitation to a holy Lent.
I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.
As I spoke these words at 7:15 this morning, this week’s Acts 8 Blogforce question in conjunction with the Good Book Club immediately came to mind. There, in the midst of the Ash Wednesday liturgy, I was reminded of why I read the Bible, and, more importantly, why I should. Truth be told, I mostly study the Bible. Four times a week, I sit down and read the lessons appointed for the following Sunday, looking for something to reflect upon, something to dig into, something to study. About every other week, I spend hours diving even further into it. I read commentaries, do word studies, and sit and stare into space, listening for God’s voice, over and above the monkey chatter in my brain, for a word to speak on Sunday. So much of my engagement in the Scriptures is to study and mediate, that I sometimes forget to just read the Bible.
The gift of the Good Book Club, for me, is the opportunity to just read the Bible. I have already so enjoyed just reading about the birth of John the Baptist, the Magnificat, and the Nativity of our Lord. No looking for the kernel of truth. No seeking a sermon hook. No getting lost down the rabbit hole of a Greek verb. Just reading the story, the greatest story every told, of God’s great love for creation. To what end do I read the Scriptures? Well, at least for the next three months, it will simply be to hear God’s love story, yet again.