February 28, 2018

The Power of Scripture

I’ll be the first to admit: I don’t always want to start our leadership meetings with Bible study.

For the past two years, we have begun our weekly meetings with Bible study, first reading through Exodus and now the Gospel of Luke in conjunction with the Good Book Club. Sometimes I get to the meeting, harried and stressed with an overflowing to-do list, and I just want to get down to business.

And then somewhere in the midst of the scripture reading or the discussion with my colleagues, I am reminded that reading and exploring God’s Word is the foundation of our business as an organization committed to serving the wider church. If I can’t make Bible study a priority, then all else will suffer.

When I let God’s Word in, past my self-built barriers of too-little-time and too-much-to-do, I am changed. Every time I hear or read scripture, something new strikes me.

I have found this is particularly true as I’m reading the Gospel of Luke during the Good Book Club. Of all the books of the Bible, this one is the most familiar to me. Perhaps I can thank Charlie Brown for that, as Linus quotes from the Gospel of Luke in the cartoon Christmas special. Luke has the Magnificat and the Christmas-pageant version of Jesus’ birth. It is in Luke (and only in that Gospel) that we hear the parables of the Good Samaritan, the Lost Sheep, and the Prodigal Son—all stories that shaped my early Sunday School years and helped me understand what it meant to be a beloved child of God.

Yet even though much of Luke is familiar, it is not rote. These words express an uncommon and remarkable way of living, and I need to hear and read reminders every day about how I can try to walk in the same path.

As part of the Forward Movement staff, I have been involved in the creation and planning for the Good Book Club for more than a year. We began with a simple question: What could happen if a large group of Episcopalians (and others) gathered together across the wider church and read scripture together? We made a risky decision to use Forward Day by Day as a vehicle for this collective scripture reading. Instead of our traditional practice of following the lectionary, Forward Day by Day meditations during Lent and Easter are moving through the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. While Forward Day by Day has a broad reach, with an estimated 500,000 readers, we didn’t want to pursue this initiative in isolation. So, we reached out to as many Episcopal organizations as we could across the church and invited them to partner in the Good Book Club. Amazingly nearly every group that we contacted said yes. And we began regular video meetings with representatives from more than 25 church-wide organizations as we worked together to prepare a library of resources. In nearly two decades of work on a local, diocesan, and national level, I have never experienced this type of cooperative coming together for common cause. It’s not a miracle on par with feeding the 5,000, but I’m certain Jesus has a hand in it.

In these first few weeks of the Good Book Club, I have been amazed at the number of people and churches who are reading and discussing Luke together. We hear stories every day from callers, and we see on social media innovative ways that churches and groups are adapting the program for their own context and needs. In our own office, we read Forward Day by Day each morning at 10 a.m., but we have also added a weekly brown bag lunch and Bible study so we can dig deeper. And of course, our leadership meetings still begin with scripture and discussion.

I don’t know how God will use this work for God’s purpose. I hope and pray that the fruits of the Good Book Club will be rich and varied and long-lasting. But my role is to help sow the seeds, not fret about the harvest. In my own life, this journey of intentional scripture engagement is changing me. I feel more in touch with the word of God than perhaps ever before, and I feel a deep opening in me, a well primed to be filled. I’m ready to get down to the business of following Jesus.

This blog is part of a series for the Good Book Club. Learn more about the Good Book Club here.