The story goes that a new priest arrived at a highly active parish, full of joyful and truly interesting people. The church hummed with happy souls. The priest was happy in his new cure but began to feel something was missing. It was hard to put his finger on right at first. The church was full on a Sunday. There was money in the accounts, no worries about how to pay the bills or salaries. His calendar was full with meetings, social events, pastoral calls, and the general hubbub of a healthy church. So, what was missing?
After a while, he realized that the thing missing was study! After years of being a member or leader in Bible studies, or theological studies with the churches he’d served, now there was none. He began to feel it in his bones. Not that he wasn’t studying, but that those around him were not. Where were the questions that typically came up? “Rev. Father, we were studying James in our class, and I had this question….” Or even his least favorite one, “When are we going to study Revelations?” That had two problems, the first is that no one really understands that book and the second that it is the Book of Revelation, no “s.”.
This story could be about any number of churches. But, except for the priest’s gender, it is true of St. Andrew’s. What’s more, it has been true for a long time! It is one of the things identified in the Congregational Assessment Tool (CAT) that you completed when Fr. Paul announced his retirement.
But, as announced earlier, it is coming to an END! This Sunday, October 31at 9:00 a.m., Deacon Bob Sullivan will begin his class looking at the reading for the week. He is so excited. He has been preparing and is waiting for the people to gather. Will you be one of them? Oh, I hope so!!
Also, next Wednesday, I will be leading a study on the Gospel of Luke! While Deacon Bob is meeting in person at the church, I’ll be meeting with this group on Zoom at 6:00 p.m. And I am as excited as Deacon Bob, and I pray that you’ll be there.
What do you need to do before either of these classes? Just arrange your schedule so that you can be there! I hope that you’ll have a Bible with you so that you can look things up and make notes. I’m a big fan of having at least one Bible that you are very comfortable writing in! I use the Oxford Study Bible with the New Revised Standard Version translation of the text. Though I also have a study Bible with the English Standard Version. Of course, I would not expect most people to own as many Bibles in as many translations as a priest. Some of us should really be on a hoarder’s program just for our book accumulations. But that’s a topic for a different day!
In my experience, the tools needed for Bible study fall into two categories. I’ll start with the stuff. A Bible you can and are willing to write in. A pencil and a pen, oh, and an eraser! Plus, a notebook for taking more extensive notes. Stickies to use as bookmarks, or if you can never make yourself write in a Bible.
The other list is about the learner. Start with prayer. If you are going to investigate a printed book and hope to find holy things within, you need to start with prayer! Second, curiosity. You can read something repeatedly and never see what it says if you start knowing what it says. Study the words with an open mind, with a heart prepared by prayer, and of course, with faith that God will be with you in the endeavor.
People’s whole lives have been changed by opening the Bible with the hope of knowing God better. But be ready. Like any kind of learning, you’ll find that there are more questions as you delve deeper. That’s good. We’re looking for God, not for answers. We’ll find markers for a journey, not a souvenir. And by doing it together, we’ll see, once again, that we are not alone.
I can’t wait to take this journey with you!!