Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. - This Sunday's opening collect
This is one of my favorite collects assigned to the church year. It speaks about how Scripture not only informs us, but nourishes us. On the heels of returning from a retreat at SSJE with 12 of our parishioners, I feel as though we have had a few days of being completely immersed in Scripture, and it has both informed us - and nourished us deeply.
It also brings to mind a passage I read from Revelation assigned to the daily lectionary last week, in which John is handed a scroll of Scripture, and is told to eat it. It tasted like honey, but it also curdled his stomach. That, to me, describes the life of faith. It is not always a rose garden. There are moments of sweet bliss, and It often calls us to stretch, change and risk, which certainly can upset your stomach at times!
The bible is a mysterious book - one that in many ways seems to be a relic of a much earlier time, hardly suited to our modern life. There are many things in there having to do with the human race's propensity toward slavery, sexism, and war that indeed do turn our stomachs. There was a passage we read while on retreat that really got my ire up over the weekend, as those who were with me could tell you. There are also lovely passages that are nothing but sweetness to our souls, like "The Lord is my shepherd and I have everything I need," or "With God all things are possible." Indeed - honey on the tongue.
If you read and pray with the bible on a regular basis, with the ears of your heart open, it begins to speak to you on a level that goes past those things we at first find either tasteful or distasteful to our modern sensibilities. Through stories of mythic battles, difficult political times, examples of valor, joy and transformation as well as examples of cowardice, sin and sorrow, we find ourselves staring back at us from the page. We feel the spiritual and emotional truths of what it means to be human - in all the sweet ways - and in all the ugly ways - echoing in our deepest selves.
It takes patience to read a book that is not a quick read - not written in current vernacular - a book that takes time and determination to make one's own. But the rewards are very great for those who read, study and pray over the bible regularly. And because, like all spiritual disciplines, regular Scripture reading is often challenging, this Sunday's collect is a wonderful help, because it asks God to help us do it. "Grant us so to hear the words of scripture, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life." And I am always happy to speak to anyone who is hoping to develop a practice of regular engagement with Scripture.
I pray for us all that both sweet tastes and moments of challenging digestion are ours as we deepen in trust in God.
Our readings for this Sunday are HERE. Note that in Ordinary Time, we are using the readings in "Track 2"