Most of us make New Year’s resolutions with hopes of starting fresh or doing what we meant to do last year. For many Christians, each year’s clean slate begins with a resolve to read the Bible all the way through, but distractions occur or we get discouraged when we reach chapters that seem too heavy or hard or, well, boring, and so we never get pass those passages.
Instead of getting caught up in that guilt trip, try these suggestions:
. Prayerfully read previous posts on the Bible Reviewer and find a translation that speaks to you.
. Read Talking with the Bible by Donn Morgan and get to know the many inspired voices that speak to us as One Voice from the pages of Holy Scripture.
As the author explains: “To have real conversations with the Bible, we must be able to recognize the voices of scripture, to know what they sound like and what they want to tell us.”
Besides being communal expressions of faith collected in the Bible canon, “Biblical voices come from prophets, seers, apostles, cultic leaders, storytellers, poets, and many more. These voices are expressed in individual prayers, as stories about patriarchs, as epiphanies, as letters, as records of one variety or another, as oracles, and much more [laws, letters, visions.]”
As we read what God says to us through these voices, scripture begins to shape how we see the world. For example, “The Bible as storyteller exposes us to values, character traits, salvation events, sacred spaces, foreigners, threats to unity, God’s purposes for the people, and more.”
Since I enjoy reading and writing poems, the chapter on “Talking with the Bible as Singer and Pray-er” especially spoke to me. Often expressed through poetry, “The voice of singer and pray-er is also a voice of consciousness-raising, prompting us to recall the things we need to complain about or praise God for.” In addition, “This voice can function as a spiritual director, encouraging us to adopt a rule of life filled with regular prayer and reflection, integrating faith and practice in the midst of difficult times and challenges.”
Bible prophets often spoke through poetry, too, but rather than focusing on the personal or lyrical, “cries for social justice abound” with such attention-getting words as “Woe” or “Behold!”
Those inspired to write books of history usually chose less dramatic language as they wrote genealogies or episodes intended to give a larger view of the ongoing relationship between God and God’s people. However, to hear the voice of the historian clearly, we must “listen to it and hear it on its own terms.”
As we listen carefully to these many voices expressing the voice of God, we separate the sounds of poetry and history and biblical truths in story, noticing, perhaps, how “the visionary voice of scripture thinks and speaks in polarities.” Similarly, the voice of the sage might come across as judgmental at times, but “wisdom is often a topic of discussion, with the sage reflecting on experience to enlighten us.”
When troubles arise, however, and no clear answers exist, the voice of the lamenter or skeptic may be heard, riddling God with questions and trying to make sense of things that challenge our faith in order to return to a position of praise.
And, isn’t that how it is for us? Don’t we also moan and groan and sing and pray and praise? Don’t we tell our family histories and give our children sage advice? Don’t we also hold dear our clearest visions – of Christ’s return or the Spirit of Love reconnecting the Body of Christ?
Through the Bible, God speaks for us! The Bible also speaks to us and with us through a diversity of inspired voices who encourage us to keep on reading, believing, and Talking with the Bible every day.
As we apply these insights to our own lives, we might also ask what stories we have to tell as we write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry – or as we spread the Good News of God’s good gifts and the mercy we have received.
©2013, Mary Harwell Sayler
Talking with the Bible, paperback
Talking with the Bible, Kindle e-book edition