Diary‎ > ‎2011‎ > ‎March‎ > ‎Lent Lectures‎ > ‎

How to get the most from reading the Bible

This lecture is also available for audio download from Spalding Baptist church
Revd John Bennett, vicar of St Mary & St Nicolas Church, extended a welcome to all who attended the evening and opened in prayer and sung worship before introducing Revd Sally Myers, of Lincoln School of Theology, and the topic of the evening’s lecture, the third in the series, How to get the Most from Reading the Bible. 
Sally encouraged us to seek God everywhere; in our lives and work as well as in the Bible.  She described the four-legged stool of Anglican theology, of which the legs denote doctrine, reason, experience and scripture.  People’s opinions naturally differ as to which is most important, but Sally recommended a balanced view, dipping into each area, to avoid standing on one leg and falling over!

In considering what we can get out the Bible, Sally listed five aspects:

·          The law, as laid down by God to Moses; do we take this literally, to the letter, or figuratively?  Do we actually do no work at all on the Sabbath, or does cooking and feeding the family not count?
·          History, which can alter slightly according to who is telling it – usually written by winners!
·          Poetry, taking a sideways view, with the beauty of the Psalms and the Song of Solomon.
·          Biographies, such as Moses, David, Jesus.
·          Stories, which encompass prophesy, myth and astrology.

The source of God’s living water is, of course, prayer.  We find prayers in the Bible in the Psalms, prophets and, of course, our Lord’s Prayer, as taught by Jesus.  Thus the Bible is a rich source of prayer.

Sally set out two ways of using the Bible devotionally; one using the imagination and the other using Lectio Divina.

St Francis of Assisi brought the Bible to life and his memory lives on in art, nature, paintings and church windows.  Sally read, slowly, the parable of the paralysed man in Mark, chapter 2, showing slides to depict the story, pausing at each image for the audience to imagine being this or that character in the story, getting right inside their feelings, to truly recreate what it might have felt like to be one of the stretcher bearers; one of the throng; the owner of the house, whose roof was vandalised to let the sick man down; the man himself; the scribes, and anyone else who took our imagination.  The story was the richer and more memorable for being tackled this way.

Lectio divina was described as an ancient monastic approach, involving meditative reading.  It is a gift to be received, not devoured.  Sally emphasised the importance of a direct relationship with God – to you, through His Word.  We are to let the Word come to us; notice our reactions and what moves us.  She stated that, though simple, it is also very difficult, because we naturally race through life in the fast lane; we usually speed read, understand (maybe) and move on.  Lectio Divina is different.  We are to expect God to speak to us through our reading and we respond to God.  We are reading, not to acquire information, but to grow in wisdom and therefore, humility.  It is not for relaxation or distraction but active work focusing on God, and entails slow, repeatedly reading of a word, phrase or verse – going over and over, deeper and deeper.  The best start to Lectio Divina is prayer; then read, once, followed by slow repetition.  Meditate on the words or phrases.  Pray more; dialogue with God, letting Him heal and guide you.  Let your contemplation be a simple, loving focus on God.

Sally summed up by urging us to spend time with God in prayer, loving the Bible and gaining the living water, after which refreshments were served and lively discussion ensued about the different approaches to reading the Bible discussed and how the evening's talk might affect how we engage with reading the Bible in the future.