READING THE BIBLE 012511
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Peace Mennonite Church of Columbia, MO
www.peacemennonitechurch.net (under construction)
Meditation and thoughts follow the scripture.
7 Hear, O Lord, when I cry aloud,
be gracious to me and answer me!
8 ‘Come,’ my heart says, ‘seek his face!’
Your face, Lord, do I seek.
9 Do not hide your face from me.
Do not turn your servant away in anger,
you who have been my help.
Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
12 Do not give me up to the will of my adversaries,
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they are breathing out violence.
13 I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord!
12The Midianites and the Amalekites and all the people of the east lay along the valley as thick as locusts; and their camels were without number, countless as the sand on the seashore. 13When Gideon arrived, there was a man telling a dream to his comrade; and he said, ‘I had a dream, and in it a cake of barley bread tumbled into the camp of Midian, and came to the tent, and struck it so that it fell; it turned upside down, and the tent collapsed.’ 14And his comrade answered, ‘This is no other than the sword of Gideon son of Joash, a man of Israel; into his hand God has given Midian and all the army.’
15 When Gideon heard the telling of the dream and its interpretation, he worshipped; and he returned to the camp of Israel, and said, ‘Get up; for the Lord has given the army of Midian into your hand.’ 16After he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and put trumpets into the hands of all of them, and empty jars, with torches inside the jars, 17he said to them, ‘Look at me, and do the same; when I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. 18When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then you also blow the trumpets around the whole camp, and shout, “For the Lord and for Gideon!” ’
19 So Gideon and the hundred who were with him came to the outskirts of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, when they had just set the watch; and they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands. 20So the three companies blew the trumpets and broke the jars, holding in their left hands the torches, and in their right hands the trumpets to blow; and they cried, ‘A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!’ 21Every man stood in his place all around the camp, and all the men in camp ran; they cried out and fled. 22When they blew the three hundred trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow and against all the army; and the army fled as far as Beth-shittah towards Zererah,* as far as the border of Abel-meholah, by Tabbath.
Shining as Lights in the World
12 Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmuring and arguing, 15so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world. 16It is by your holding fast to the word of life that I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. 17But even if I am being poured out as a libation over the sacrifice and the offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you— 18and in the same way you also must be glad and rejoice with me.
The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
READING THE BIBLE 012511
Yesterday’s blog talked informally about various Bible translations. Today I want to talk a little about how, we hope, each of us reads the Bible.
After you have had time to review and ‘test-drive’ several versions of the Bible, and have had opportunity to acquire or borrow a Bible (it should be cheap to acquire a Bible. Many people have unused Bibles at home!) the following are hints for reading the Bible.
And I almost forgot to refer you to websites where the Bible may be found in various translations. http://www.biblegateway.com/ has numerous translations and versions of the Bible, including The Message and the NKJV. It does not have the NRSV (some churches become angered at its mention!) but NRSV can be found at http://bible.oremus.org/
Bible commentary is also found verse by verse at numerous online sources, but I cannot recommend any in particular. Generally, the commentaries I’ve found are very, very old, and I do not connect with any I’ve found very well.
The next thing one needs, after choosing a Bible is a friend. Yes, a friend. Your friend and you should develop a Bible reading plan that both of you can follow, and then, hold each other accountable to that plan. This means that you will encourage, love and help each other read the Bible each day, and then find time to discuss the Bible verses you’ve read together.
In Mennonite and Anabaptist theology and practice, the community of believers is the authority that guides us to understanding and interpretation. This means that a community (a church) is needed so that we all, with the presence of the Holy Spirit may come to an understanding of the Bible.
I certainly would object if a distant and powerful leader thought it necessary to instruct us all in the ‘correct’ interpretation of the Bible. I’d revolt!
Instead, we have to remember that religion is all about you and God, together. It is not about the church or a powerful, ‘wise’ leadership structure. So, the idea is for you to learn from the Bible, by learning from God.
I suppose many ideas in the Bible appeal or speak to individuals in various ways, and that individual learning is what a personal God promises us. The community of church brings that reading and learning more to a consensus position. If you believe the Bible has told you to hate homosexuals, or to hate divorced people, or whatever, maybe we’d better take care to read the Bible together because I don’t find instructions to hate anybody in the Bible. But this is how a community of believers should work. We should be able to live, learn and worship together, and doing so makes it better for each of us.
I also cannot deny that I rely on the written words and instructions of Bible scholars far more committed and able than I. My Greek and Hebrew skills are absent. I have not spent a lifetime in study, although sometimes I wish I could.
I have read, and continue to read a wide variety of studies on the Bible. Be forewarned however. The variety of writers is as broad as the variety of Christians and there are fundamentalist, evangelical progressive, etc varieties of writers about the Bible, and you will be able to find one that appeals to you with a little effort.
I also recommend a study that talks about the cultural, social and political environment of 1st Century Israel. Also, Christ and Christianity were Jewish, and some Biblical passages make sense only with an understanding of Israel’s history, and Jewish culture.
Tomorrow’s blog will focus on being a Christian in an apocalyptic world. I think I see it coming!