Psalm 119:97,103-105 - Heartstrings at First United Methodist Church
Tell me your favorite scripture without telling me your favorite scripture? I’ll go first….
- Give God an inch
I’m going to drop it in the Facebook chats. I invite you to drop yours in also…
How about this, tell me you’re a disciple, without telling me you’re a disciple…
Tell me you believe in a God that created you imperfect and beautiful and loved, and you’ve responded to that love with a deep commitment to growing in love with the God that created you…
Tell me you’re a disciple without telling me you’re a disciple…
Series – 5 minutes of scripture
If every single day you sat down and read 5 minutes of scripture, would that shape you more and more into a deeply committed disciple? Would it deepen your relationship with the one that created you? Redeemed you? Sustains you? If you read scripture for five minutes every single day, would it tell the world that this journey of faith matters to you?
Glennon Doyle in her book Untamed talks about starting a new habit in her life, for her it was 10 minutes a day sitting with herself. As she sits down for 10 minutes of being still, her head starts going…. She writes grocery lists, to do lists, things of the thousand things she could be doing rather than being in silence… But she was stern with herself as she started this new habit “Ten minutes a day is not too long to spend finding yourself, Glennon. For God’s sake, you spend eighty minutes a day finding your keys!”
As we travel through Lent together, we are, together, we are examining those practices that we put in place in our lives, day after day that shape us, form us, create us into deeply committed disciples of Christ.
I am going to say this again this week, because I think I need to say this every week, of this sermon series… these practices are NOT a way to earn God’s love, forgiveness, or a way into heaven. These practices are a response the God that already loves you, YOU right were you are! They are a way to grow to understand how deep, and wide, and powerful that love for you already is. They are the tools that help us become people so deeply formed by the love of God, so confident in the love we know, that fear is cast out, and others then experience a glimpse of God’s love through us.
And you know, I know, creating new practices in our lives is not actually easy! The start of creating any habit takes intension, work, focus, and a putting into place the building blocks that support the habit.
One of the best books I’ve read on building habits is Atomic Habits by James Clear. The place he starts when he tells us the best way to start a new habit is this… write a sentence, “During the rest of Lent, I will read at least 5 minutes of scripture each day at [TIME] in [PLACE].” During Holy Week, decide if you are going to continue the habit. Decide, what, if anything needs to change. Simply writing down the details of your new habit, makes it even more likely that the habit will stick.
AND decide that you are going to spend some time, TODAY figuring out what that habit looks like to you. Find the way that you think MIGHT work for you.
Maybe you wake up, grab your coffee, sit on the couch, wrap up in a warm throw blanket, and grab your phone, open your bible app for 5 minutes of reading. Maybe you start at Genesis, maybe you are drawn to poetry and song, so you start at the new testament, digging deep into the Good News of the life of Christ.
Maybe you know, (LIKE I KNOW), it cannot be on a phone or computer because Facebook and email and texts are just way too strong of a pull on your attention…. So, you set a actual, physical bible on your coffee table, just waiting to be picked up in the morning…
Maybe you listen to an audio version of the text. Maybe the night before you find a dramatized version of it on YouTube that you can just open-up and watch (There are some really cool ones out there!) What is it that works for you?
Maybe it isn’t about how you will read scriptures. You already have a well-loved bible that you know you will turn to. Maybe instead it is about the habits leading up to reading. Or after reading that you will help you the most.
Maybe you write down a prayer… For years I’ve started my scripture reading with a very simple prayer… I close my eyes, bow my head, feel the weight of the book in my hands, and simply ask that God read to me. I’m hoping that I can set my agenda aside, that I can ignore what the world says these words mean, and simply hear what God my have me see through the words I read. I pray that God use these words to shine a light on the mystery of the sacred, rather than reducing God to the words.
In the Church of The Resurrection sermon for this week’s study, the preacher talks about a group of 12 people that read the same scripture every day. And every day they text the group a word or phrase from the reading that day. It creates a sense of accountability and closeness for the people in the group.
I don’t know what will work for you. I don’t know what habits you need to create to be a person deeply in love with scripture. Allowing it to shape and form your life. But I do know that the first step, maybe the most important one, is to sit down, soon, tonight if possible. Write down your plan.
Depth of Scripture
Of course, the real question is, “why does it matter?”
Years ago, when I had first started attending church here, Kent led a bible study on the Book of Revelation. It’s a hard book to understand for those of you with a lifetime of Bible reading under your belt… It was simply bewildering for me. We would read some assigned readings, then come to class to learn more about what we had read… It felt like I was reading a book written in a foreign language, or like doctorate level philosophy books. I did not have the context to make sense of what I was reading, what it meant, why it mattered, I was SO lost! I could not, no matter how hard I tried, put myself in the story, find myself in it, at all. I was untethered, not rutted to this story. To any sacred story.
But really, that was not new to me. I remember growing up, any time we gathered with our extended family, those parts of the family still attending church, would share these stories. They would laugh, share examples and illustrations from their lives grounded in the story of their faith… They would talk about David and Goliath, Adam and Eve, Jesus and the disciples… I remember feeling like everyone in the world knew these stories but me, I was always so frustrated, left out, untethered to this story…. Sort of lost in the conversation.
It’s part of why we’ve decided to invite the kids to the middle of the parking lot to worship with us and what we hope for them, desire for them, pray for them, is the exact same reason we are going to strive to read our bibles 5 minutes every day. We hope it helps them grow roots them in these beautiful stories we hear week after week. We pray that in hearing our story, we might know, and in all times, turn to the knowledge of God’s love for us. That we might be nourished in deeply rooted hope through our story.
Leanne Hadley, who was the children’s minister here awhile back, tells a story of when she was in seminary. Getting ready to be a children’s minister… one evening she was at a social gathering, she was talking to the guests when she starting talking to a man that had been held prisoner in Iran for an extended time. He lived, day after day, chained to his space so he could not wander off. That chain became an anchor to sanity for him. He associated one bible story for each link on his chain. He would remember a story for each link in his chain… but he was one story left. He had no story to go for the last link in his chain. He looked at Leanne, and told her to make sure the kids she taught were not one link short.
Listen now, for this ancient call to reading God’s word.
Oh, how I love your law!
It is my meditation all day long.
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!
104 Through your precepts I get understanding;
therefore I hate every false way.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.