Recently I was listening to N.T. Wright, considered by many the world’s foremost theologian today, certainly one of the most influential theologians. I heard him say that reading scripture for him is like breathing. He meant that for any Christian, reading scripture is simply a part of our life in God, which imparts life from God, one might say. Indeed all scripture is said to be God-breathed and profitable, so we do well to be in it regularly.
I listen to scripture being read, daily, and I try to regularly recite the “Jesus Creed” as well as the “our Father”/”Lord’s prayer.” I find these passages help get me centered again, or better centered. Also going over passages I’ve memorized can be quite helpful. I wish I knew many more passages than I do. My actual count of passages which I know verbatim is few. Right now my wife Deb and I are working on memorizing the book of James. Certainly a great book.
Scripture is God’s written word, and as Scot McKnight has aptly said, our posture when reading scripture, or hearing it read, should be one of listening. We listen of course, with the intent of obeying, as Lois Tverberg brings out clearly in her recent book. To hear in scripture is never separated from obeying, so that hearing and acting are meant to always be our response to God’s word. As Samuel was instructed to say, “Speak Yahweh, for your servant is listening.”
It doesn’t matter if it seems we’re getting nothing out of it. And I don’t try to make something good happen as I hear it. I remember past times when, say, the book of Job just impacted me in some clear way, and I kind of stood in awe. But the next time around maybe I’m rather in some sort of tizzy and it just doesn’t seem to be coming through the same. But reading scripture is not just reading and looking for some kind of experience. It is really meant to be an interactivity with God. Especially on our part, simply listening, and being attentive to what impressions God may be giving us.
While we need to read or listen to the whole of scripture, from Genesis through Revelation, it is good also to settle down on one passage. Recently I spent some time in Isaiah 26, wanting to not only meditate on the one well known verse in that passage, but to see it in its context. We need to stop and look at the trees, as well as go through the entire forest.
So reading scripture is part and parcel of our life in God through Jesus by the Spirit. We need to do it privately, and we need to hear it read in our gatherings. And first and foremost we need to seek to hear God’s voice to us through it. The Lord will be faithful, and his word will not return to him empty, but will fulfill his purpose as we faithfully seek to listen and obey. In and through Jesus, together for the world.