Monday, November 25, 2013

The Secret of National Bible Week

1940 was a very scary year to be alive. Hitler was ravaging Europe, Pacific nations were being conquered, and the Great Depression had by no means disappeared. Many Americans were determined to stay uninvolved and isolated but it was becoming increasingly apparent that they and the other democracies of the world were being surrounded. A latent fear was pervasive.

In the midst of this a group of professionals in New York felt it was important to turn people's minds to the hope offered by the Bible. So they formed the National Bible Association to simply encourage people to read this pivotal book, regardless of their religions affiliation or lack thereof.

In 1941 the first National Bible Week was observed the week of Thanksgiving and they've been held ever since. This year it runs from November 24th through 30th.

Now, it is true that Bible Week is, to a great extent, part of the "civic religion" that I see as one of the ways we try to shave the rough edges off the Christian Movement and make it comfortable. Jesus is not here to be the mascot of any government or society; he is here to take over. To repeat N T Wright's famous dictum, "If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not."

But I also believe this: The Bible is a time bomb. "The word of God is living and active and sharper than any double-edged sword," one of our early thinkers said, "piercing even to the point of dividing soul from spirit, and joints from marrow; it is able to judge the desires and thoughts of the heart," (Letter to the Hebrews chapter 4, verse 12). Saint Paul himself found that the Great Announcement of the Gospel was not just a series of words but, "God's own power for salvation," (Letter to the Romans chapter 1, verse 16, CEB).

When the Scriptures are read, the human heart is exposed to God's raw, transformative energy. This is not an ordinary book. Anything can happen. The corridors of history are rife with stories of people whose lives were changed and minds convinced simply by reading this book. In many churches, reading the Bible is known as a "means of grace," a physical thing or action that God uses to convey his life and mercy to us.

If National Bible Week prompts someone to pull their old family Bible off the shelf -- or even use the Bible Gateway gizmo at the upper-right of this page -- and start reading the Prophetic Scriptures, well... you never know. That time bomb might just go off.

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