Friday, 9 September 2011

The use of scripture in our devotional lives - Christine Baxter 

For Christine scripture has been at the heart of who she is and what she's been doing since she was 15.  She studied a degree in theology, became a teacher and a Reader at 23.  She has spent her life teaching scripture and doctrine and being a reader in the parishes she's lived.

Scripture is essential to our spirituality as Anglicans.  It grows over time in relation to who we are and our life circumstances.  Throughout life it is important to find a rule of life for us to study scripture.

Christine asked us to think when we last and will next study scripture.  Perhaps we answered that it's at church, at night, each morning or in some other pattern.

As Christian ministers it is likely that our pattern of reading scripture is daily, weekly/fortnightly, monthly/termly and annually.  For example I read the bible every morning, study in more detail each fortnight through study group, prepare sermons each month and follow the lectionary through the year.

Christine proposes that we talk through our prayer pattern with our spiritual director or someone else.  The purpose of this is to make sure that we are being nourished but not exhausted by our patterns.  From this input we can then make any adjustments that might be needed.  This is especially important at times of transition in life eg marriage, new baby, change of job, bereavement, retirement, licensing etc.

God is available to help us adapt our scriptural studies through life, He wishes us to be sustained as disciples of Christ.  If we start feeling jaded in our ministry we might wish to change our scriptural study to allow the Spirit to work with us more easily.  

It is easy to slip into patterns where we study scripture only for our ministry and not for our own sake; this is a dangerous situation.  We are called to ministry for who we are, this needs sustaining and forming through the work of the Holy Spirit.

For most of us the every day reading of scripture is our breakfast; we remember what we had for breakfast today but not 2 weeks ago, but it's essential to stay alive.  As Anglican ministers we are encouraged to read the offices regularly, committing ourselves to listen to the whole council of God over a couple of years.  This is our spiritual breakfast.  By reading the scriptures we are getting into the mind of God.  This drip feeds us, barely noticeably most of the time; but over years it changes us as a drip on a rock would form a bowl.

Sometimes there are opportunities to look in detail at something, to grapple with it, to really get to know it abc absorb it.  Often these will throw up areas of scripture which are wells of comfort; places that speak to us in times of need.  

For me they include:
Matthew 28:16-20 the great commission "be disciples".
1 John 4:18   "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear."
Jeremiah 1:5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart".

These are passages that speak to me; that are known to me intimately; that are a comfort to me.  They are always there, always available and always speaking to me.

We can help each other in our scriptural study; by reading and praying together, by sharing together and by sharing resources that help us read the scriptures.  There are reflections, patterns for reading, commentaries, art and plays; through these different mediums we can see something new.  Of course not everyone will like everything, but through the exploration we might learn something about the text or ourselves, or both.

One of the great privileges as ministers is that our studying of scripture can result in us teaching or leading others in the scripture.  Allowing a further period of study and grappling and understanding.

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