Today we begin the Diocesan Year of the Bible and the Bishop has asked us all to bring our Bibles to Church. If you haven’t – and that’s quite understandable – might I ask you to pick up one of the pew bibles so we can join together later on in a little study and a corporate act of dedication.
This morning we have a reminder that there are really two tables at which we feast on Christ: the table of the Word of God and the table of the Blessed Sacrament.
Man shall not live on bread alone but on every word that proceeds from the mouth of God our Saviour said, as he was strengthened by the memory of his Father’s word in the desert. All scripture is breathed out by God, Paul says to Timothy, scripture is profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
More and more of us are in fact ill-equipped so far as reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting the word of God. This morning as we call to mind and confess our failure to live in God’s presence let’s remember especially our failure to read his Word and put it into practice.
Confession and Bible Sunday Collect
LAUNCH OF THE YEAR OF THE BIBLE - Bishop of Chichester youtube
If you could turn with me to your Bible’s content pages right at the start after the title page, preface, acknowledgments, foreword and so on.
Another name for this list of books is the canon of scripture with that word "canon" coming from the Greek κανών, meaning"rule" or "measuring stick".
Christian Bibles have canons or contents ranging from the 66 books of the Protestant canon to the 81 books of the Ethiopian Orthodox canon. Anglicans go with something in between these two which will be demonstrated by your contents list.
Our Scriptures include sixty-six canonical books (the thirty nine books of the Hebrew Old Testament and the twenty seven books of the Greek New Testament, which had become generally accepted by the Church during the early centuries, with the books of the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical books being read by the Church ‘for example of life and instruction of manners’ but not being looked to ‘to establish any doctrine’.
We’re going to look up today’s first reading on the second Sunday in Advent from Isaiah which is in the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible. To find Isaiah in your OT contents list you have to look down the first five books Genesis – Deuteronomy known to Jews as the Law or Torah and beyond those five down through a list of historical writings that flow the story of Israel from Moses up to Christ. These end with Esther. Then we have what we call the writings, that is timeless wisdom writings such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
The prophets start then and they start with Isaiah.
Let's look up Isaiah 11.1-10
James Nicholson to read it from Jerusalem Bible prefacing with comment
The OT text as we know it came together 3 centuries before Christ in a Greek translation of the original Hebrew books by some 70 Jewish scholars hence being called the Septuagint. This Greek translation, along with the New Testament, that was originally written in Greek, was retranslated into Latin and then later on into various languages. After the Reformation King James 1st commissioned scholars to translate the Hebrew Bible into English which is the origin of our King James Version.
Show school version.
Let's look up today’s Psalm which is Psalm 72v1-7.
Kay Macnaughton to read from King James Version prefacing with comment.
Now we move from the Old Testament to read from one of the 27 books in the Greek New Testament, the letter of St Paul to the Romans Chapter 15 verses 4 to 13.
Here is a New Testament in the original Greek which I’m going to pass around.
The New Testament starts with 5 historical books, the 4 Gospels and St Luke’s account of the Acts of the Apostles. The rest are letters of the apostles save the final book of Revelation which stands apart and contains words and visions from the risen Christ to St John the seer.
Let's look up our second reading, Romans 15.4-13
Lisa to read Romans 15.4-13 from New International Version
Let's go round church reading the first verse 15:4 in different translations as this is scripture telling us about scripture.
For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope.
Now Deacon David will introduce the Gospel.
Picks up on how the King James Bible had its followers the late 19th century Revised Version, mid 20th century Revised Standard Version and late 20th century New Revised Standard Version used in our Anglican Lectionary. Mentioning standing for the Gospel which is a reminder of how so when we hear scripture in the Christian assembly we hear the risen Lord speaking in our midst.
Yea, amen,... Gospel acclamation and reading Matthew 3.1-12
Christians believe in the Bible, because we believe in its ultimate authorship. It contains the promises of God which cannot fail. We believe in the Bible out of love for its ultimate author. The words of scripture are there because Jesus is the Word of God through whom all things were made. The scriptures bless us. The Holy Spirit who inspired their writing can inspire us as we read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them.
Yet, sad to say, without the Holy Spirit who leads the church forward into all truth (John ) the scriptures fall on deaf ears.
The Bible is God’s Word in our words. It’s also the family album of the church tracing God’s action back to our first days. Christians believe in the Bible but look to the church to guide them to its truth.
What about the factual errors and inconsistencies people say they find in the Bible?
We don’t need to defend the Bible here because we have God’s promise that it contains the truth necessary for our salvation. This doesn’t make the Bible, for example, a science text book because it addresses the why questions more than the how questions in life.
Approached with humility the Bible brings spiritual encouragement. Approached with argumentative pride it presents a different picture. Christians believe the Bible can’t be mistaken as it presents the good news of Jesus to honest seekers.
It’s true there are difficult passages. Mark Twain said pointedly it wasn’t the passages of the bible he didn’t understand that troubled him so much as the passages he did understand! At the start of the Diocesan Year of the Bible we salute God’s word and pledge to heed it more profoundly with our lives.
People mention sometimes the violence in the Bible especially parts of the Old Testament. The church uses these passages carefully and only in the light of Christ who fulfils the Old Testament. The sacrifices offered in the Old Testament point towards the meaning of the Cross as the fulfilment of the scriptures.
When we say as we shall say in a moment ‘on the third day he rose again’ we add in the Nicene Creed ‘in accordance with the scriptures’. Without the framework of God’s dealings with
Bible the Christ of the Gospels would be a beautiful picture but one without a
frame. His entry into history would be
one unprepared and unexpected. Israel
Through the Bible God’s people welcome this frame for all that Jesus stands for as well as the word and promises of God that bring power and direction into the life of the church.
If the Bible is to do its work in us, then the starting point is to somehow get the words of the Bible into us. Once God’s word is in our lives it can start to challenge our values and opinions, to set off the process Paul calls ‘the renewing of your mind’ so that we will not ‘conform’ ourselves to this world, but let God 'transform' us (Romans 12.2).
So what can we do to get more into the Bible and more of the Bible into us?
You could make it the basis for a daily or maybe occasional special prayer time. Dedicate a time. It needn’t be first thing in the morning or last thing at night. It could be part of your lunchtime routine, a way of getting away from the desk. Choose a portion for study, maybe Mark’s Gospel which takes an hour and a half in total to read for an average reader. Don’t beat yourself up about it if you miss a few days. If reading the Bible is difficult, why not buy one of the readily available CD or MP3 recording and listen to that?
You have the texts of the Sunday readings to take away each week with the thoughts on them given by the preacher. If you miss Church on a Sunday you can check the church website for the readings and sermon. This is an opportunity to thank our web editor Judith Bowron for her work on updating the site.
There are some bibles in the lectern if people want to use them when they come to pray in Church. Each of us, or each family, should ideally have a bible in modern translation. The New Revised Standard or New International Version are in wide use. There is also a popular American paraphrase called The Message that folk are finding helpful. Buying a new modern translation can be a helpful tool to awaken us to the meaning of the original text. You could subscribe to Bible study notes like New Daylight, Bible Alive, Closer to God and Every Day with Jesus. You could join St Giles weekly life and faith group and we have more group Bible study planned during the coming year especially in Lent. There’s more ideas in the Bishop’s message and Diocesan Year of the Bible handouts at the back of Church.
This coming year’s a chance to develop our understanding of and application of the teaching of God and his church in today’s world through reflecting on what the Bible says and how best to respond to this in our own situation.
In conclusion may I invite you to reflect for a couple of minutes reading through today’s collect before joining me in repeating the Prayer Book Collect for today which is on p2.