The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. Psalm 119.130
So, what are these ancient Scriptures - called by Christians our Bible - and what are they for? Many refer to the Bible as God’s Word - perhaps conflating or confusing the understanding of the greatest expression of God’s revelation which is not in words but in the Christ. But yet, these words present some revelation of God, some way of seeing God in action in our world, the desire of the Divine to reach out to humanity and in doing so to bring us all to our place within the Divine.
We learn from the word of God in scripture where it shows us the love and life of God, seeking to wrestle meaning from the events of human history, as the writers, compilers and editors of our scriptures ask, again and again, “where is God in all this?” We learn as much from when the stories offer disturbing accounts of God’s nature - genocide and exclusion in the name of religious or racial purity - as when it reminds us of the overarching goodness of God seen in human activity in life, in the principles of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. faith, hope and love. The Bible is not an easy book to understand, it offers layer upon layer of meaning, interpretation, understanding. The Bible, when we fully engage with it, does not so much answer our questions, as question our answers.
In the words of Scripture we are invited to share a greater story, indeed, to inhabit a greater story - the story of God’s interaction with humanity, God’s revelation of Godself to us. We are invited to see creation, our relationship to one another and to the earth in a new light. We are invited into a narrative which talks of grace and wisdom and which beckons us to search for both. In the story of God’s engaging with us, we are invited into the mystery of God and called to engage with the God who calls each of us by name and loves us as God’s own.
But the way to do this is not through detached analysis, nor through overly symplistic reading of the words of scripture. The way to engage with the wisdom of the ancients is to see it in terms of poetry, metaphor, image and principle. To see in the stories, poems, hymns, histories, parables, teachings, letters and visions which make up our Bibles something of God’s greater story. We are called, invited, drawn to inhabit the scripture story - in our worship at the Eucharist, in our times of silent, and noisy, prayer; in challenging our scriptures and allowing ourselves to be challenged by them; in allowing the Spirit of God to breathe through the words of scripture to show us the new life of the way of God in Christ.