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“Lord, to whom shall we go?”

February 13, 2015 2 Comments

To-Whom-Shall-We-Go

by Mathew Block

It’s something I grew up singing regularly as part of the liturgy, right before the Gospel reading: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). The verse is a potent reminder of the power of Scripture; these aren’t just words on a page. They’re powerful. They change people. They bring eternal life.

And yet, if I’m honest, I too often live as if the words of Christ were not life to me. Too often I leave my Bible sitting on the shelf, dust slowly accumulating. I find myself “too busy” to spend time in the Word, and yet somehow find time to read this or that book, watch this or that movie, and browse this or that website.

It’s not that these other activities are somehow wrong; they’re not. But when we choose them to the exclusion of Scripture reading we demonstrate a certain hard heartedness on our part. The 16th century theologian Thomas Cranmer paints the problem well. “What excuse shall we make at the last day before Christ if we delight to hear men’s fantasies and creations more than His most holy Gospel?” he asks. “What excuse can we give if we never make time to do the very thing we should do above all other things? What shall we say in our defense if we choose to read everything except Scripture, the very thing we ought to make time for before all other readings?”

What defense indeed? “Man does not live by bread alone,” Jesus tells us, “but by every Word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mathew 4:4, Luke 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). We nod our heads in agreement when we hear the words in church. Then we go home and fill up on “bread alone,” as if the words were never spoken.

I know and you know that we Lutherans are not always very good at reading our Bibles regularly. It’s a problem, and one we need to own up to. But it’s not just us. Canadian Christians in general have abandoned reading Scripture in recent years. “The majority of Canadians, including those who identify themselves as Christians, read the Bible either seldom or never”—that’s the grim conclusion of the Canadian Bible Engagement Study, which was released last year. In 1996, 27 percent of Christians in Canada read the Bible at least once weekly; by 2013, that number had dropped to 14 percent.

Things have certainly changed from the heady days of the Reformation. At that time, Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible into common German spurred average Christians to commit themselves to Scripture reading. One of Luther’s contemporaries—an opponent, actually—summarized the situation in this way: “Even tailors and shoemakers, yes, even women and ignorant persons… studied it with the greatest avidity as the fountain of all truth.”

The fountain of truth: that really is what Scripture is. And the truth it contains—the life it bestows—is Christ dying and rising again for us. The Bible brings us Christ, and Christ brings us salvation. It was this Good News that motivated Christians in Luther’s time to dig into the Bible so voraciously. They wanted to be near the Christ of their salvation. They wanted to hear the words of eternal life that He was speaking.

The fountain of truth: that really is what Scripture is. And the truth it contains—the life it bestows—is Christ dying and rising again for us. The Bible brings us Christ, and Christ brings us salvation.

The Holy Spirit can use the same Good News to motivate us to spend time in Scripture—to begin healthy spiritual practices like private reading and family devotions, and to attend worship regularly in our congregations, where we hear the Word of God publicly read and proclaimed.

cl3001-cover-webThis issue of The Canadian Lutheran has tools to help you dig into that Word. [Read the full issue at the bottom of this page]. “How God really speaks today” (page 6) reminds us that the Word of God isn’t something hidden; the voice of God isn’t secreted away in some corner of your heart waiting to be discovered. Instead, it’s available to you in an external, trustworthy way—written down in the Bible and proclaimed in your church.

But maybe you’ve never read the Bible on your own before. Or maybe you’re out of practice. That’s okay. “Reading the Bible 101” (page 11) gives you some helpful pointers to keep in mind as you get started. Your pastor and other mentors in the faith are also valuable resources here: ask them for their advice and guidance.

Starting with this issue, we’re also including a Bible reading plan (page 41) in The Canadian Lutheran. By reading six small selections each week, you can finish the entire Bible in two years. Invite your family to do the readings with you, or encourage a friend to take part. That way you can keep each other on track.

The One who bled and died for you is speaking. He wants to give you the good gift of His Word—a Word that strengthens and sustains faith, draws you closer to Christ, and transforms you more and more into His image. Tolle lege: take up and read.

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Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran and Communications Manager for Lutheran Church–Canada.