(I shouldn't have said anything about the power and internet being functional when I said I'd post this back on Thursday. I think I jinxed myself or something. This is apparently the week for things not to work as we've been without water, internet, AND power at various times. I think all three are functional at the moment...so I'm posting this now before I am prevented again...HA!)
In my last post on this section, I explored a little bit the role of the mind in our formation. Today, I want to talk a little bit about engaging with the Scripture not only as a manual for doctrine and practice (which it is, of course), but also engaging with it as a Story.
Smith makes the point that Scripture has greater shaping power when we are able to grasp the story of it – to engage our imagination and sense of wonder in the way that we interact with it, rather than interacting with it as a series of dos-and-don’ts: “Over time, when worship confronts us with the canonical range of Scripture, coupled with its proclamation and elucidation in the sermon, we begin to absorb the story as a moral or ethical compass – not because it discloses to us abstract, ahistorical axioms, but because it narrates the telos of creation, the shape of the kingdom we’re looking for, thus filling in the telos of our own action. We begin to absorb the plots of the story, begin to see ourselves as characters within it; the habits and practices of its heroes function as exemplars, providing guidance as we are trained in virtue, becoming a people with a disposition ‘to the good’ as it’s envisioned in the story. Because we are story-telling animals, imbibing the story of Scripture is the primary way that our desire gets aimed at the kingdom.”
I had also suggested this way of approaching Scripture in my post on Chapter 4 (in that post there are also several other links discussing this idea – it seems to keep popping up!). Interestingly enough, this point was brought to my mind yet again through the messages we heard from the devotional speaker (a visiting pastor from the UK) at our conference last week. Now that I think about it some more, I would say that he made a point to preach in this manner. After reading the Scripture passage, he narrated the story in such a way that helped us to imagine that we were there. He described the response of the people to the reading of the Word of God in Nehemiah chapter 8 – their submission to its authority, their enthusiasm and commitment, their understanding, their brokenness over their sin, their joyful celebration. He challenged us with the question: “Does God’s Word still excite and invigorate you?” And then he left us with the reminder that Scripture study doesn’t have to be dry and abstract because when we immerse ourselves in it with are “entering into the story of God’s Great Rescue.” Only then, after he had helped us to enter in to the story, did he bring it around to his points for practical application. I know his teaching had an impact on me, and my husband said he felt like the speaker was speaking right to him. I can’t help but think that his pattern of preaching – of bringing us along with him in the story – had something to do with that.
A couple of days later in my devotional reading – currently Matthew alongside JC Ryle’s commentary – a similar point was brought home to me again. In contrasting the Magi, who saw the star and believed, with the priests and Pharisees who refused to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, Ryle points out that head knowledge (which the priests and Pharisees had in spades) matters very little if it makes no difference in our hearts, and that “familiarity with sacred things has a dreadful tendency to make men despise them.” I got to thinking that perhaps approaching the Word with wonder, intentionally engaging our imaginations, helps to avoid that ‘familiarity that breeds resentment’, that familiarity the keeps the Word from moving past our heads and into our hearts. I know that I have been guilty of this - having been raised in the church and well-versed in all the stories from the time I was little, it is so easy for me to gloss over the Scripture with the thought that there is nothing new to take away from it. That’s not true of course – there’s always something new to learn because I haven’t ‘arrived’ yet, and won’t until He takes me home. But it has occurred to me that perhaps I do need an attitude shift in the way I approach Scripture. (Shoot, I’ve encountered this idea from so many different angles lately, how can I ignore it?)
So I’ve been trying this out a bit – this idea of approaching in my personal Bible reading with wonder, engaging myself not only in the truths to be applied, but also the Story of it – both in my personal Bible reading as well as in our family Bible reading. When we do our family Bible stories in the evening, I’ve been asking the children to try to imagine as if they are there in the story, or to “make a movie in your mind” as I read. (We are currently reading through Catherine Vos’ The Child’s Story Bible, and the tone with which she writes lends itself quite well to doing this). I have been trying to do likewise in my personal Bible reading. It’s too soon to tell, really, just what kind of impact this might be making. I just know that I long to be invigorated by the Word, and I long for my children to not only know the Word, but to love it too. (If anyone else has thoughts or ideas on this topic, I’d love to hear them!)
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