Yesterday was our first real day of Sunday School for the year. Part of Sunday School this year is the awarding of story bibles to the kids in the congregation. Here is a picture of the group.
Have you ever wondered what the 10 most looked at bible verses are? Well, thanks to the internet we now have a real good idea. Here they are. I somewhat agree with the original observation. With two caveats: 1) Many of these verses already have law/sin/weakness embedded in their understanding and 2) most of them are so common I’m somewhat surprised they needed to be looked up. I guess I might have expected some less well known passages to show up just because people needed to find where they were.
Families used to be local. You knew the family of everyone you knew. Churches gave a formal way to express sympathy – we have all sat on that mourners bench. Kids would learn this stuff from observing mothers. Many of those things are no longer true or are very strained. If you find yourself fumbling for words or actions when someone dies, this is a good short practical wisdom guide.
And this is just a really touching story.
First comment, the Thanksgiving sermon was the better sermon this week. Page down and read that one if you didn’t hear it. That one was winsome and inviting and still crunchy, which by that I mean it had a message behind it that didn’t duck reality. This Sunday sermon was crunchy, but winsome…not so much. Which is a deep error when you are trying to get people to do something. In this case pick up the bible and read it.
It was the first Sunday of Advent which means it is new years day in the church. The lectionary rolls over to a different gospel, this year Matthew. The text was Matt 21:1-11 which is the triumphal entry or Palm Sunday. The main textual point is the welcoming of a king. That day 2000 years ago they welcomed a king who came humbly, but wanted the one who came in righteousness. Somewhere in the future, we welcome a king who comes in righteousness, but what is our impression of Jesus? How do we prepare for the coming of a King?
If the Gallup pole is right, we don’t prepare at all. We probably spend more time preparing for Santa than for Christ. And there are many multiple ways of preparing. Reading the scriptures is not the only way of being in the Word. But it is the seedbed. The scriptures are the authoritative way that God has chosen to speak to us. And here I go ranting again. Being open to the scriptures is just that important. Emotionally, I’m grabbing everyone I can by the lapels and shaking – these words are life. Its that important. Make time for it. Make sure your lamps have oil.
I ended the sermon with three questions. Three questions that a Bible literate loving people could chew on. I think these three questions might get to the core spiritual problem of today. I’ve got some personal answers to them, but they are dangerous and tough. And they require a people grounded on the truth of scripture.
1) What does it mean for how we should be living if the first time he came humble, but with righteousness the next time?
2) Where are we like the Galileans hailing the Galilean messiah today, going home and letting Jerusalem do to our messiah as it wills? [That is a question for laymen and women – because we clergy are probably the Jerusalem.]
3) How does a church forced out to the margins of society – forced to live from the Mount of Olives – respond like David – “weeping for the son who forced him out”?
Its a hobgoblin of mine, biblical translations. I can’t just let it go. I suppose it comes from when I started reading the scriptures. My confirmation was still done in KJV. (My brother two years later had the NIV). My first bible was actually a gold tone Good News Translation. Most my life I used an NIV. In seminary we used the Greek/Hebrew texts themselves.
This news article talks about today’s proliferation of English versions. There is a bible for every niche, but sometimes is seems like a tower of Babel instead of the Word. It is almost enough to make one envy Islam with its insistence upon Arabic as the only language of the Koran…almost.
I really think it comes down to a couple of simple things. 1) Are you willing to put the time, effort and trust into a good pastor and congregation? If you say no, then you need to learn Greek and Hebrew. Sometimes you just need to go back to the original. If you say yes, find a good minister and progress on to using English. 2) Are you a history buff, theology fan or just enjoy $10 words? If you are, pick up the KJV, NKJV or the ESV. These versions are best an maintaining historical continuity and they don’t back away from using the big words. (NKJV is the KJV with minor grammar updates, think ye becoming you.) 3) If you are none of those things, or if you are a novel reader, go get the NLT. The New Living Translation does the best job I’ve seen at making the Bible very readable and understandable. In the narrative sections (the psalms this way lack a certain aesthetic), for me it reads 2x-3x as fast without hurting understanding. The words just don’t get in the way of reading. 4) Make a commitment to that translation. Read it, learn it, and inwardly digest it. This is where a couple generations use the NIV. If you use the NIV, stick with it. If you don’t read it, try the NLT.
And please don’t get any hierarchy of translations out of this. When you leave the Greek/Hebrew, it really is more about what you will actually read and your personality. If you know Greek or the historical theology, the ESV is wonderful, you can see the original grammar and know what is being used. But that comes at the expense of English style.
As far as the tower of Babel complaint – I take it a bit more as nostalgia or longing for a lost or never seen wholeness. Were things perfect when everyone used the KJV? Like my hobgoblin about translations, everyone using the same is an authoritarians hobgoblin. We have to wait for the last day for that wholeness.