Bible Sunday

Rev'd Heather
Sunday, October 27, 2019 - 9:30am

‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.’

One of my highlights of the past few months was attending the Monday afternoon discussion group in September. We were all invited to bring a favourite Bible verse or Bible story to share with the group. It was amazing to hear favourite Bible verses shared – and alongside them stories of when the Bible had given someone hope or encouragement. There was such a strong sense in the room of God’s presence in our lives, inspired by the scriptures; it was wonderful to hear.

And so, on this Bible Sunday, I wonder what you would choose as your favourite Bible verse or story?

Now a wonderful combination of the reformation, and the printing press, and the freedom of speech and religion, that we enjoy in this country, is that we can all have access to Bibles in our own language to read, study and

pray with. And it’s not just down to the priests to interpret it or share the highlights...

So, I wonder if anyone would be prepared to share their favourite Bible verse or story?

I have to admit I never find it easy to limit myself to one verse or story. But one particular favourite is Jesus’ words in the Gospel of John. John 10:10: ‘I have come that they may have life, and life in all its fullness.’ It really sums up for me the heart of the Christian life – that promise life and freedom and joy of being with God. Yet there are also many verses from the Psalms that I love for their hope and encouragement in more difficult times. I have a necklace, given by a friend, with a pendant that symbolizes the opening words to Psalm 46 ‘God is our refuge and strength.’ And these words are echoed in another favourite Psalm of mine, Psalm 91 – a Psalm in which the Psalmist puts their total trust in God, and there is a promise that whatever life brings – and we all know that life has its ups and downs - God is watching over and protecting us.

And it is the Psalms that I turn to when we hear of pain, grief, tragedy, as we have done in the

news this week. There is rawness, honesty of emotion, questioning – where are you O God? And yet at the same time there is also hope, God’s promise to be with his people, to lift them out of the depths of despair.

Part of the beauty of the Bible is that it is a collection of books, telling the stories of the People of God. Of people, who like us, are wrestling with life, and all its messiness and looking at where God is in the midst of it all. Their stories give us encouragement and hope as we too live out our faith too.

The lectionary readings for morning prayer last month were particularly apt for this! We heard readings from the minor prophets – Habakkuk and Haggai, books towards the end of the Old Testament. The prophets wrestle with God, often over the political situation of their time. They cry out for justice and against the evil they see in the land. Accompanying these readings at Morning Prayer, we have a book of reflections, written by contemporary theologians. They would have written them last year in time for the book to go to print – long before we knew the Brexit deadline would be extended from March, and yet they felt spot on

for our current political turmoil – these reflections helping us to find hope today from the stories of those who have gone before us – from their endurance. Like the prophets, we are called to trust that when the leaders of the nations are in turmoil, God will one day bring justice and goodness out of all situations.

When we turn to our Gospel reading this morning, we find Jesus reading out a piece of Scripture that is important to him... he unrolls the scroll and reads from the book of Isaiah, a piece of prophesy that is close to his heart and that sets out his calling, what his ministry is to look like. He has been anointed to proclaim the Good News – to share God’s love, and in this account in the Gospel of Luke, it becomes clear that the focus of his ministry will be upon those society usually does not notice, and that ultimately will embrace all people.

Today we too are anointed at our baptism, and called to continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus both informally and formally. Winchester Diocese is currently investing in the training of lay people through short courses to share in the ministry of the church, recognising that – lay or ordained - we each live out our Christian story

in different ways, we each have different gifts to share and that there can be great benefits for individuals and the church in formally recognising this. If you love to hear stories about God is at work in people’s lives and love to encourage others to grow in faith, then perhaps you might like to consider exploring the Bishop’s Commission for Mission programme? Next Term – January to March the diocese will be running four different 10 week courses to equip people for lay ministry – for living out their faith in a distinct way. The four courses to choose from will be: Evangelism; Children, Families and Youth; Pastoral; and Prayer Champions. Over the past few years this programme has grown, with new courses being offered each term, and so far 400 Christians from congregations around this diocese being commissioned by the Bishops to share in the ministry of their churches. We’re yet to send anyone to participate in these courses, but it would be wonderful if we could! There are leaflets near the door with more information, please do prayerfully consider if this is something that you feel called to.

And so this Bible Sunday, I pray that you will continue to be inspired and encouraged by the

Bible – by its verses and stories, and the ways in which through these we encounter God in our lives, and that the hope we find we can share with others.