Minds Opened – 4-10-24

You can listen to this reflection here. Sunday’s gospel reading is here

Scripture is hard to understand. We attach great import, meaning, even authority to these words set down thousands of years ago, which were invested with import, meaning and authority by the communities who preserved them. Wildly diverse in literary style, theological understanding, point of view – yet all of it is regarded as the Spirit-inspired Word of God. And so often it baffles, bores, or even offends us.

Not for nothing does the Book of Common Prayer contain a prayer for the reading of Scripture: Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ…  

Should grappling with Holy Writ be so much work? Turns out this is yet another aspect of the Christian life we are not to attempt on our own steam. That’s what Jesus’ disciples found out on Easter Day, not once but twice, when he explained how the hopes and songs and prophecies of the Hebrew Bible were fulfilled in his life, death and new life:  Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.

“Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures.” Ah! That’s how it’s done – Jesus opens our minds! That’s also how the two on the road to Emmaus described their conversation with Jesus:  They said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?”

There is a wealth of love and wisdom and beauty to be mined in the pages of the Bible, and like mines that produce precious gems, it doesn’t always yield its riches easily. We need tools and some sweat, and the help of others, to interpret these ancient words for ourselves – in the way the apostle Philip asked the Ethiopian official reading Isaiah if he understood what he was reading, and he replied, “How can I, unless someone explains it to me?” (Acts 8:26-40)

There are many ways to try to comprehend the words and stories and teachings of the Bible, tools and techniques and forms of analysis – literary, linguistic, textual, symbolic. It definitely helps to read and study it with other people, to share perceptions from different angles and ranges of experience. Perhaps the most important tool, though, and often the most neglected, is to ask Jesus to open our minds to understand what we’re reading. We can pray before we open up the Bible, “Okay, Jesus, you know my mind and its ways. Open it to your truth. Show me your love in these words.” And then open the book!

I believe he wants these words and stories and people and songs to have life for us as they have for all the generations before us. He has opened minds before; he can open ours as we say, “Come, Lord Jesus.”

© Kate Heichler, 2024. To receive Water Daily by email each morning, subscribe hereHere are the bible readings for next Sunday. Water Daily is also a podcast – subscribe to it here on Apple, Spotify or your favorite podcast platform.

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