For the third Sunday after the Epiphany we continue to follow along with the Church School curriculum and read a story from the Book of Nehemiah. Have you ever been a part of a six-hour communal Scripture reading? Would you want to? Does it sound like drudgery or intriguing? (Nehemiah 8)
The story that we will read is about the Jewish community in the 5th century BCE Jerusalem after their return from the Babylonian exile, learning and understanding God’s word as part of their gathering to renew the covenant with God. We will imagine participating in an almost six-hour communal Scriptural reading in those ancient times and going through a transformative and powerful journey of studying the Word: paying attention, wondering, understanding, worshipping, affirming, weeping, finding joy, celebrating. What would it take for us now to be deeply engaged with Scripture? How could we even do that when time goes by differently than it did in those times as society changed and we have so many more commitments?
We will then reflect on our own experience of learning and understanding God’s word, as we come from different stages in our faith journey and in studying Scripture. We will ask ourselves:
What is our experience with Bible study?
What passages bring us joy?
Which passages are we wrestling with?
Does the act of studying God’s word draw us deeply into community?
Do we share the joy of hearing God’s word with other people?
The Scripture is complex and not always easy to interpret or clear. Sometimes it is difficult to understand the meaning of various passages or to agree with it. Other times it is hard to follow the Word in real life. Some passages bring us joy, some passages don’t. We can relate with some, and not with others. Regardless of our experiences with Scripture, we keep returning and meditating on it each Sunday. Discovering the underlying message of God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness may not be easy, but it can become a spiritual anchor that will bring joy and strength.
Iuliana, 2022-2023 Seminarian
Image credit: https://truthsnitch.com/the-holy-bible-tiffsnotes/nehemiah/nehemiah-8/