I have been asked to be the featured speaker at the upcoming Jr. High Winter Retreat at Camp Friedenswald in January. For my topic, I decided to go with: “What do we do with the Bible?”
I chose this topic partially because the High School Sunday School class is already doing a related curriculum, but also because it is a question that I still wrestle with on a regular basis. My sense is that I’m not alone. So often those of us who have moved away from more fundamentalist or literal readings of scripture find ourselves lacking a clear sense of direction when it comes to how we actually can and should approach the Bible. We have plenty of ideas about how not to do this but few ideas about what we actually should do.
I don’t think there is any one answer to these questions, and I hope to approach this topic with an appropriate amount of fear and trembling. While I was doing some reading the other day, I came across an analogy that I think can be a really helpful framework for thinking about how to read the Bible.
In the book Children’s Ministry in the Way of Jesus, authors David Csinos and Ivy Beckwith compare learning to read the Bible with putting together a puzzle. At first you dump out the hundreds of pieces and it can feel overwhelming. It doesn’t necessarily make sense, however, to start trying to put together any random two pieces. Instead, you start to look for the pieces that make up the main subject of the puzzle (let’s assume this is a typical puzzle and not one of those intentionally frustrating ones). While the main subject is starting to emerge, you might also begin working on the edge pieces, finding the corners, and building in from there. With the border constructed and the central image in place, then it becomes easier to make connections within the sea of sky pieces or the rolling landscapes made up of subtle shades of green.
When learning to read the Bible, we ought to ground ourselves in the central image of Christ. With that image as our foundation, we can begin to find the borders, edges, and corner(stone)s that help us see how everything fits inside. Then we can make more meaningful connections within this overarching framework between the rest of the stories, poems, and writings and the good news of Christ.
It’s not a perfect analogy by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s helped me see things in a new way. As I continue to think about how to approach this topic, I’d love to hear your stories about how you incorporate scripture into your journey of faith or things that you’ve found to be helpful in reading the Bible.