St. Luke 4.vv.14-21

~ Then Jesus, filled with the power of the Spirit, returned to Galilee, and a report about him spread through all the surrounding country. He began to teach in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favour". And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing". ~

As a child I often sang the old hymn, "There is a book who runs may read, Which heavenly truth imparts; And all the lore its scholars need, Pure eyes and Christian hearts". I was always intrigued by the words "who runs". I had visions of one running along with a Bible in his hand - until, reading it, he tripped and fell on his face! No-one ever explained the meaning of "who runs"; but one day in school assembly a visiting cleric asked the school what it meant. Here, I thought, was my chance to find out, but no-one hazarded any answer - nor did the questioner! I often wondered whether he himself knew. Many years later I resolved the problem to my satisfaction by assuming it meant the "ordinary run" of people, the average reader.

British people were once called "the people of the book" because of their respect for and love of the Bible, the language of which permeates so much of English literature and our daily converse. Unfortunately the widespread neglect of the Bible in recent years has resulted in the majority of young people today knowing little or nothing of this vast treasure house, the Word of the Lord.

Someone in recent years said, "I read my Bible to know what people ought to do, and my newspaper to know what they are doing", but the Bible is far more than a moral guide, its spiritual content has never, nor ever will be, surpassed.

I thank God that in recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the Bible in home reading, group studies, in Church and preaching.

The Collect for Advent II in Anglican prayer books has always spoken of the inspiration of Holy Writ and of the need to digest the word of God. This may seem a strange idea (though the Prophet Jeremiah was bidden by God to eat a scroll containing God's word so that he might speak out God's word!). The truth is, however, that if we take into ourselves and digest God's word, we become capable of witnessing for God. Someone has said, "We become what we eat", and this is true in a physical and spiritual sense. Christian people are nurtured by the word of God. I cannot remember past sermons any more than I can past meals, but I know that I have been fed good and wholesome doctrine through the years.

Some people despise or reject the Old Testament which was the only "Bible" Jesus knew. This is a great pity because it is in the Old Testament that the New Testament becomes fully intelligible and aids our understanding of them both.

Too much is often made (despite the plethora of guides and commentaries available) of the difficulty of understanding Scripture. I find myself agreeing whole-heartedly with "Mark Twain" (Samuel Clements) who said, "Other people are worried by the Biblical passages they cannot understand; as for me, it's the passages that I do understand that cause me anxiety".

The Bible is the WORD of God. In the Old Testament the "Word" was represented as God's power in Creation and his will revealed to Israel and the world. Isaiah 55.v.11 reads "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose". In the New Testament the "Word" is personified in Jesus Christ, of whom it was said, "Never man spake like this man".

The Bible as the Word of God is powerful to transform lives for it is a book of judgement - "What think ye of Christ?". Someone has said, "Other books I read, this book reads me". Whenever we read Scripture we need to remember that it is we who are judged by God's word. Some modern translators have testified to the effect upon them as they have "wrestled" with the text. J. B. Phillips referred to the electrifying effect it had upon him. The younger son of E. V. Rieu said to his brother, "I wonder what father is making of the New Testament". "I wonder", said the latter, "what the New Testament is making of father".

The Word of God has not lost its ancient power, but academic knowledge without commitment cannot of itself transform the lives of those who read the Bible.

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