Dear brothers and sisters,
“Read it again, Daddy!” my son would demand. And so, once again, we’d make our way through Green Eggs and Ham or The Cat in the Hat or (let’s be pre-seasonal) How the Grinch Stole Christmas. It’s been well more than three decades since I read and re-read and re-re-read those books, but the words are emblazoned in my mind. “I do not like green eggs and ham. I do not like them, Sam-I-Am. . . . I do not like them in a box. I do not like them with a fox. I do not like them in a house. I do not like them with a mouse. . . “ Over and over and over. Words have the power to become part of our inner life, accessed at any time and in the most surprising ways. If you begin reciting a Dr. Seuss book in my presence, I’m likely to chime in. I won’t be able to help myself.
All of which, I suppose, seems a long way from the Bible Challenge, but it really isn’t. Many of you joined me in reading the Bible cover to cover, Genesis to Revelation, in 2013. But now here’s a secret. Well, not a secret: I’ve been up front about this from the very beginning. The Bible Challenge is not a one-time event – as though, next year, we’ll move on to some other great peace of literature, perhaps War and Peace or the Iliad and the Odyssey. No, the Bible Challenge in 2013 is only the start of a life-long project. My intention, as we enter the new year, is to begin all over again, with Genesis 1 and God’s first recorded words: “Let there be light.” I invite you to join me for Bible Challenge II.
The goal, of course, is to internalize the Story, to take it into our hearts and make it our own. That can only happen when you read and re-read and re-re-read, an ongoing journey rather than a single intense immersion. In other words, Bible reading is a project that we never complete. There’s never a time when we can “check it off” and move on. Like the Christian Year, we continually start afresh – and, like our experience with the Christian Year, we are often surprised by new insights, elements of the Story that we’d missed, passages that we skimmed last time around and this year grab our attention and demand our obedience.
Again we’re sending to each parish copies of the Bible Challenge reading list, a systematic way of approaching the Scriptures. You can also sign up for a Diocese of Northern Indiana Facebook page, and for weekly Bible Challenge e-mailings (http://ednin.org/bible-challenge/). The reading list is based on a pattern of three chapters of the Old Testament, a psalm, and one chapter of the New Testament each day. (The pattern actually slows down toward the end of the year, with shorter daily readings.) If the entire Bible is too big a chunk for you in 2014, you could simply do the New Testament readings. If you read the Bible in 2013, you might consider a different translation, or a version with study notes. Whatever pattern you choose, you can’t lose! Forming a habit of daily Bible reading will help you, in time, to make the Story your own.
“Read it again, Daddy!” – and eventually, over time, I hardly knew when I was reading and when I was reciting from memory, the words had so burned themselves into my mind. Will we ever get to that point with the Bible? It is, admittedly, a much more complex book than anything written by Dr. Seuss! But we should never underestimate the Bible’s power to get into our bones, so to speak, and change our lives. Nor can anything replace the day-in, day-out reading of the Bible as a way to deepen our faith, strengthen our walk with Jesus, and challenge us faithfully to follow where he leads. May Bible Challenge II draw us ever near to the heart of our Lord himself.
Yours in Christ,