Deep in the Allagash Wilderness, my friends and I met a gentleman and his two sons at an overnight camp.
My friends and I were in our last year as Boy Scouts on a week-long wilderness canoe trip with our leader, a former park naturalist. Forty years ago, the Allagash Wilderness had three roads: one that led to the launch point, one to the pick up point a hundred miles down stream, a logging road that crossed near the mid-point, and nothing in between them.
Before retiring for that evening when we had met that gentleman with his grandsons, we discussed the river and our plans for the next day. Our leader had a set of detailed topographical maps. That gentleman had a gas station road map. It adequately showed each of the various lakes and the river, but it made no mention of campsites, the ratings of the rapids or of the waterfall.
Our plans included portaging around that waterfall. The gentleman was glad we had met each other, for before we parted company in the morning our leader had drawn on his map the location of the waterfall and of the swiftest rapids.
In many ways the Bible serves as a map for life, showing us what to avoid and what to seek. It is possible to get through life without reading the Bible. Some people do this with much success. But knowing of potential hazards and how others persevered, enhances life.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
— Psalm 119:105 (NRSV)
For most of my life I read Scripture like a text-book, seeking what information it could tell me about God and God’s relationship with creation. I learned stories of encounters by prophets and apostles, by sinners and saints. Even today, when I study a passage to prepare before writing a sermon, I delve into the details and nuances of each passage. I look at word usage including the meanings of named characters and consider why the Church has preserved particular details for two thousand years.
And as I reread familiar stories again and again I notice how familiar passage that I can almost recite word for word tell about me. Thus the Bible becomes a book that reads me. I wonder how am I like this character, or need to hear that counsel. Each time I open the Bible it shows parallels with my life and demonstrates why it remains near the top of best seller lists.
Sometimes when listening to a very familiar passage, especially one I have heard several times in close succession, I get caught up by the flow and sound of the words. My mind wanders to think of other things. Only by considering this third way of reading Scripture do I understand that the Church chose passages for their usefulness as liturgy in worship. This third way helps me appreciate why people who suffer from memory losses and other cognitive impairments can recite familiar passages along with me as I read them. In this third way of reading there is no longer a need to ask what did the author intend or how might it affect me. Instead Scripture reading becomes a key that opens my mind to God with us. God with us though ages past. God with me this day. God opening a way to a glorious future.
Your word is a lamp that gives light wherever I walk. — Psalm 119:105 (CEV)