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.-- Collect for Proper 28, BCP pg. 236
I have mentioned the name Father Lee Graham before in this blog. He is the priest with whom I have the pleasure of serving with on Fridays at the noon-day service at St. John's. And this Sunday's collect is "his" collect. I say it belongs to him because these are often the words that he'll pray aloud before he begins his homily. This particular collect has its roots in the Reformation and is based on words in Paul's Letter to the Romans. But beyond the academics of the Collect, I think it expresses a truism about what we are to do with "The Good Book."
For some, the goal is to memorize the passages from the Bible so they can spout them off in the heat of a dialogue with a "non-believer", or a Christian who isn't from "their" Church. Fundamentalists and Baptists seem to enjoy this art of debate with Episcopalians because we are notoriously bad at knowing chapter and verse, but we're always impressed with how often the Bible quotes our Book of Common Prayer! ; )
While there are certain passages of Scripture that I do have readily available in my brain, I haven't gone about my studies of Scripture with a mind toward memorization. Instead, the encouragement I receive from listening to Fr. Graham, or Mtr. Phoebe or my mentor is to think about what is being said in the Scripture. Listen and hear first what is in the lessons of the morning, and often the sermon will provide one person's insight into what these passages mean for us in the here and now.
This past Friday, our reading for the noon day Eucharist service was from Wisdom 13: 1-9, a passage that notes how some of our ancestors would look to the stars for gods, but not see the work of an artisan God who gave them the stars... and lots, lots, lots more. As I read through the passage, I saw it to be a distancing from pagan cultures of the time, and a personal reminder to go look deeply into the heart of a rosebud and not only see that rose blooming, but to know that it receives its nourishment from the earth and the sky, which are all part of the creation that we, as God's people, are to look after. When we got to the homily portion of the service, Fr. Graham said much the same thing about the Wisdom reading, and went further to remind us that the gifts of God (the bread and wine) are also part of that earthly piece of creation... having once been wheat and grapes growing on a vine.
The joy for me in this journey is when we come across a passage in Scripture that pings me in the head, and makes me take notice. And then, in looking at it again, and putting it in context and then broadening out from there to get a sense of why these words resonate with me, I am doing the very work that the Collect of the Day is calling on us to do: take these words into your body, and see how they fuel your thinking and being in the world. Such attention, I think, is the road map that keeps us on the journey and living into the eternal life that is promised to us.