Having hit my goal last year to read through the Bible, I thought I would give it another go. I was stunned in a recent class when a professor asked students, “who read through the entire Bible before entering seminary?” Very few hands were raised, and the ones that did were seemingly embarrassed by the “achievement”–anyway, I digress. This time I am using the Message to provide a new perspective, since when I read knowing the outcome, it is often difficult to really sit in the moment of the story.
I was inspired by [bookmark worthy]this article, when a bored Jewish man at a briss, opened his pew Torah to discover the vivid stories of sex, murder, death and deceit that populate the scriptures that led his own rediscovery of the “Good Book.” So when I sat down and read Angels and Demons in 5 days, I wondered why Bible reading had become such a chore. Though Dan Brown’s chapters are shorter than most in the Bible, Scripture really is an interesting narrative that is actually more provocative, and less predictable than Brown’s book.
I thought a more lesuire and narrative approach (that is why I am using the Message for you naysayers), rather than the typical textbooky style, would produce a more fruitful experience this time around as the past merges with what is going on now, like when Cain and Abel’s story intersected with a conversation at PC(USA) Bloggers regarding Saddam’s hanging:
Recently, I have been struggling with retributive justice; The Yahoo gallery is filled with images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging, yet when I look at this story of Cain and Abel, I find God’s response perplexing. Yes, God does punish Cain, He makes Cain a homeless wanderer, but He also ‘puts a mark on Cain to protect him so that no one who met him would kill him.’ God does not kill Cain, the fitting retribution for Cain killing Abel. Instead God places a mark of protection. Again the cycle of closeness, rejection, broken relationships, and a strange act of God’s mercy returns humanity to its closeness.
But back to my digression and soapbox: Seriously, if you are about to go into the ministry fulltime and you have not experienced for yourself the richness of the full narrative in a personal–not a textbook/analytic–approach, I’d get on that.