Last week in church I asked the question about how often we read the Bible. Now it wasn’t to be meant to shame or guilt trip anyone because the main issue is not just reading the Bible, but when we read the Bible, how do we read it.
I often must remind myself when I read the Bible, I'm not just reading it as a part of my daily routine. Reading the Bible is not about something I just check off my to do list. I must remind myself that every time I read the Bible, my life will undergo a change.
A change, not in a way that I suddenly need to change my life in drastic measures, but a change in a way that I receive new insight. I believe it is theologian, Karl Barth once said, “I don’t read the Bible, the Bible reads me.” And certainly, we should be reminded that it really is the Bible that allows us to reveal something about ourselves that needs attention.
Every time we open the Bible it is about God’s revelation about our life and that it may force us to contemplate and think. The Bible is not just some book that we read for pleasure, but it is a guide to life, and that the words off of the Bible is speaking to our very existence and situations.
Also, we need to realize that even the most familiar stories in the Bible, that we have read over and over again, can still give us a new meaning in every stage of our life. Sometimes, I think I know what the scripture will say and I assume I know what it means. But if I allow myself to approach the texts as if I have never seen it before, slowly read each word, I realize that I have learned something new.
I encourage you all to approach the Bible different starting this week! Just pretend it is a book that you have never seen before. Just pick a familiar story in the Bible, or maybe read the Gospel of Mark, and take your time reading each word. I know it may sound painstakingly boring and I know your mind will try to force you to read faster, but don’t! Take in every word you read. Stop between verses and even read the same verse you read before again and again. Try to do your best not to assume anything you know about the Bible and the passages that are in it. Open that book as if it is the first time you have seen it. This week, once again, fall in love with the Bible.
For the longest time the United States were the leading country sending out missionaries to other countries. Helping needs of the needy, preaching the Gospel, giving hope to the lost. And we still are doing that, and we always should. But boy has things changed. Did you realize that the United States has now become the mission field? Especially missionaries coming from all over the globe to preach the Gospel in the United States!
I don’t find this off putting at all, but wonderful in a way. Maybe it feels a bit humbling, that no longer is the United States seen as the “most Christian” nation in the world (whatever that means). But it is remarkable how much the word of Christ has spread to other nations, and that individuals felt so deeply moved, that they too decided to become vessels to outreach to others as well. Good News is good news after all, regardless of where it is coming from and who is telling it!
But as a pastor it also feels a bit alarming hearing from people around the globe telling me that they are praying for the churches in the United States. Butat the same time I feel comforted that there are Christians around the globe that are praying and showing concern for the American church.
The American church is slowly dying. Last year our church had a membership of 64 and now we are down to 62. We have gained a few new families to come to church, but we have also experienced death in the church, people who have been called to be in heaven with Our Maker (which is still Good News). But this is happening all over the country, in every church in the United States. So as a parish minister in the Word of Sacrament serving a church in the United States, what am I supposed to do?
Is the answer to try and take on social issues of the day in our church? Or is it to be more politically involved? Are we to make a gym and make some program to attract and maybe trap newcomers? Or should we preach hell, fire, and brimstone to scare people in coming to church? Or do we need to develop a contemporary style of worship? Well, those could work, if you decided to do so, but I am not all that comfortable with any of those strategies.
What I would like to see is a revival. Now I’m not talking about the big tent revivals, megaphones, out in the streets screaming about the coming of Jesus. But a revival that isn’t just s weekend event, but a revival of church worship. I want to folks coming into church to be reminded of their Christian roots. Sometimes, worship isn’t about what is said on the pulpit, but what is spoken in prayer, what is confessed in our confession of sin, and confession of faith. Sometimes it is about what we sing.
When I first arrived at Ward Ave. I tried to use a lot of the contemporary style of hymns found in our most recent published hymnal, but I wasn’t feeling anything. That doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the most current hymnals, but I just personally wasn’t feeling like it was reaching out to the congregation. Music is so vital to worship and life! The music that gets you out of bed, the music you listen to on your commute, or the music you use to study, or the music you use to get you out the door to workout. Music surrounds our daily living, and we should have music that not only moves us and motivates us in our daily life, but also in worship.
So, I made a quick change, and that is changing the music to be more traditional in worship. Songs that we could just remember the first verse because we remember singing it as a child. Yes, the music that is considered to be of the past. In the past but very much relevant. Music that could move worship and move hearts.
American churches need worship that will move us, inspire us, and motivate us. Sometimes that is a simple change in music. I love singing the old hymns because it reminds us of our faith, it reminds us about what church was like when we were younger. And now becoming a de facto choir director who has no knowledge of music what-so-ever, I decided that sometimes the old time hymns of church choirs of old are the most passionate it can be.
Whatever you think that will work for your church to create a revival type of experience, do it! Sometimes it isn’t about a big event, but a small change in daily worship that could make all the difference. Sometimes the answer isn’t about trying to find the new fad or newest method of worship, sometimes it is about going back to our Christian roots.
And sometimes all you need is a message to let people know that they are children of God, and that God loves them no matter what. Sometimes we just need music and word from the pulpit and choir that says that there is nothing we can do to separate ourselves from God's love, and that there is nothing more that God wants is to be with you and hold you.
Hey this is Rev. Brian Choi's random thought throughout my week. Most of this stuff, will probably be about family, church, fishing, music, movies, food, whatever I think of, hopefully it will have some sort of theological reflection (maybe).