Thursday, December 31, 2009

POCKET SERMON 7: "WHY NOT CHECK OUT THE BIBLE THIS NEW YEAR 2010? YOU MIGHT LIKE IT!" By REVEREND BARBARA SEXTON






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POCKET SERMON 7: "WHY NOT CHECK OUT THE BIBLE THIS NEW YEAR 2010? YOU MIGHT LIKE IT!" By REVEREND BARBARA SEXTON
Take this little Sermonette, print it and share it!    
     A curious thing, the Bible is and people read it for a variety of reasons.  Some read it out of curiosity and some out of cynicism or criticism of it's contents. Yet others read it as part of a college assignment and there's always the turn-to Gideon's Bible in the bedstand drawer of every hotel room.
     Nevertheless, the bulk of readers all over the globe turn to the Bible for encouragement, spiritual guidance and comfort, in times both good and bad. 



Only you know if you might wish to take up this New Year's Challenge to check out Scripture and only you will know why.  All I can say is it is certainly worth a shot.

True Light

     Some people 'start' their first Bible reading at Genesis, the first 'book' of the Bible in the Old Testament.  Others start at the New Testament with "Matthew", or they simply start reading an extended quote they read on some 'blog' or elsewhere online.  Wherever you start, you are bound to find something interesting, I can guarantee you.  The Bible contains every bit of 'human wisdom' ever espoused (yes, that includes all the great commentators) since it was written.


courtesy Jim Sutton http://www.gospelgifs.com/
     Just so you know, I tell folks that if they're about to die and have never read the Bible before and they want to, they should start with 'Mark' in the New Testament.  It's short, concise and gives an easy 'read' of Christ's ministry. 
     The word used to describe Biblical books about Jesus in the New Testament (NT for short) is "Gospel" or "the Gospels".  The word "Gospel" means "Good News" from old English "god spell", with a 'long' o.  This was the name of a musical some years ago, if you recall.
     Three Gospels of the New Testament are similar and they are Matthew, Mark and Luke.  They are formally called the "Synoptic Gospels" meaning from the same perspective (literally 'seeing together')  John is not one of the Synoptic Gospels because it is different from Matthew, Mark and Luke.  Don't let this terminology confuse you.  The message of God is simple and easy to understand, easy enough for a child to do so, and that's a fact.


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     For those new to reading the Bible, let me share with you how I approached the task when I became a Believer in the late '80's in my late thirties.  First, I started attending regular Sunday services at The Salvation Army in Stamford, CT and read and studied the Scripture verses for that week.   Then I bought (and extensively use to this day) the New International Version (NIV) Zondervan Study Bible.  Here is the link: http://www.zondervan.com/  It is very readible and fully referenced. But most importantly, the text of the NIV is understandable for the modern reader, while preserving the integrity of much older versions and I fell in love with it at first sight.  The NIV was chosen by the Salvation Army as the best possible version for use in worldwide missionary work and this former Soldier knows why.
      Please don't get me wrong regarding the KJV (King James Version)of the Bible used by Catholics.  I love the poetic flavor of the older English used in the KJV, but it is just not that understandable to the average reader nor to children.  That said, I can't imagine using anything BUT the KJV at memorial services, etc. for the 23rd Psalm, etc, for the beautiful quality of these well-known words and the comfort they bring.  
     But pity the poor novice Bible reader with the old 'King's English'.  He/she may soon come across the RSV or the NRSV (New Revised Standard Version) of the Bible.  At the other end of the spectrum, this version is generally considered to be the choice of 'academics' and is (in my opinion) lacking in the passion and poetry of other versions of the Bible.  Simply put, the NRSV is the choice of those who wish a non-emotional read, the NIV is favored by basic, down-to-earth believers (yes, including evangelicals) and the KJV and NKJV are preferred by orthodox groups including Catholics and those who prefer a close to the original translation of the Bible. THE CHOICE IS YOURS and these are simply my guidelines for you.


      In all my years at the UCC (United Church of Christ which uses the NRSV), I clung to my old rugged NIV for personal use and when I conducted my own services and  have never regretted it.  When serving as a co-liturgist, I read from the NRSV as requested, of course, for it was not much of an issue.  However, the new Bible reader will find that Believers can be very passionate about their choice of Bible.
     So...if anyone here is looking for a really 'cool' New Year's Resolution, why not vow to check out the Bible?  Read some of it and see what all the fuss is about!
     Just so you know, there are 39 books in the Old Testament (the 'Jewish' part of the Bible) and '27' books in the New Testament (the Christian part of the Bible) for a total of 66 books.  Of course, as you read, you will see that the two Testaments totally overlap and interact and predict and repeat and enforce each other in very many ways.




Courtesy of GospelGifs.com
courtesy of                http://www.gospelgifs.com/ 
     There is also a body of writings which are called the "Apocrypha" (meaning "hidden" in Greek) which contains some writings pertaining to the time 'between the testaments' as well as supplementary information.  Some denominations in Christianity treat the Apocrypha as legitimate writings, while others do not.  I suggest you do as I have and read for yourself and discern the truth with the aid of the Holy Spirit in you!  I believe that clergy should guide fellow believers, but no one man's or woman's interpretation is the be-all or end-all, ever.
     There is so much more about the Bible I could tell you about right now, but I'd prefer you find out for yourself and urge you to take up my New Year's Challenge, even if you think it all bunk.
         And if something in the Bible rings true to you, embrace your 'find'.  Perhaps God will have given you the gift of what Christians call 'faith'!  And even if nothing clicks with you as you read the Bible, at least your curiousity will have been satisfied and you'll be able to hold your own when speaking about it.
     I pray that God does such work in your life this New Year that He makes His Neverending Presence known to you and to those around you in a very real way.   And I pray that He blesses and keeps you safe and sound in His Love at all times. 
AMEN 
HAPPY NEW YEAR from Reverend Barbara Sexton
"The Biblical Biochemist"  December 31, 2009

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