Our Relationship with the Living Word

THE PRAYER FOR ILLUMINATION For the word of God is alive and active. We invite the Holy Spirit to penetrate our thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Let us pray….

Slow us down, loving God as we approach your throne of Grace and your Holy Word. Let us be still in your presence as we receive your Living Word. You alone are holy and our ancestors trusted you to guide them throughout life.  Thanks and praise to you, Jesus Christ, King and Lord of all, given the name above every other name. Enlighten us with the light of Christ to guide our faith this day. Strengthen our heart, soul, mind and strength to serve you and others. Amen.

ENCOUNTERING SCRIPTURE                    Hebrews 4:8-16                       Jesus the Living Word

Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—“today”—saying through David much later, in the words already quoted,

“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a Sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his. Let us therefore make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one may fall through such disobedience as theirs.

Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.

Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

TIME WITH GOD’S CHILDREN# 664          “Thy Word”

SCRIPTURE                                       Isaiah 55:6-13                          An Invitation to Abundant Life

Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake their way, and the unrighteous their thoughts; let them return to the Lord, that he may have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there until they have watered the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;   instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall be to the Lord for a memorial, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

THE SERMON           “Our Relationship with the Living Word”

 

Everyone holds a relationship with the Bible, God’s Holy Word. Like our discussion last week, about our relationship with God, some people have a daily familiarity with Scripture. They memorize chapter and verse, quote it, live by it and love it. Others hold a more distant relationship to God’s word leaving it on the shelf collecting dust.

The worn illustration, the pastor makes a visit to a member’s home. The woman wanting to impress the pastor when he came to visit, said to her little girl, “Honey, go get the book that Mommy loves so much.” The little girl soon returned carrying the new Sears catalog.

Some will use the Bible as a brick to assault to people who disagree with them. They bang people over the head with God’s law without mercy and grace. It can be used as a weapon cutting a person until they bleed to death. I don’t think this is God’s intention. While sometimes the Word of God can be difficult to hear, when it challenges our preconceived notions. The Lord wants us to find hope, peace, and joy through our relationship with Christ revealed in God’s written Word.   2 Timothy 3:14ff

14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, 15 and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All scripture is inspired by God and is, useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.        

If you don’t know where your Bible rests, I encourage you to find it as you might be lost without it. As I told the young people this morning, the BIBLE is our Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth. In our Reformed Tradition, we hold a very high view of Scripture, God’s inspired Word and our instructions for faith and life. God’s Word brings life and helps us to live by faith and to experience the fullness of God’s love.

If you don’t have a Bible get one. Now there are a myriad of versions that can be confusing, but I suggest you get one that helps you understand God’s message. Like Baskin Robbins, you need to find the right flavor. Some like the King James Version. Its poetic Elizabethan English reminds of the mystery of God. For many it’s the version they learned in Sunday School and memorized verses to recite. For those Bible readers, the King James is a familiar friend.

It’s not my flavor, I find it as challenging as a Shakespeare Sonnet. The phrases are unfamiliar and while it’s poetic, God’s message remains mysterious. Sometimes, a word or phrase can be helpful to give imagery, but it’s not my favorite flavor. I do like the New King James version that incorporates 450 years of Biblical scholarship. This modern translation examines the best original manuscripts in Hebrew and Greek (1000 years earlier than the 1611 Authorized English translation). The English is more contemporary and easier to read.

Regularly in worship, the Scripture comes from the New Revised Standard Version, that updated the version I learned in Sunday School. Again, the translators worked to bring the ancient text into modern times, using inclusive language for humanity.  God wants men and women to experience belonging to God’s kingdom.

The Contemporary English Version and the Good News Bible limited their translation to about the 4th grade level. In the 1970’s the Living Bible paraphrased the Scripture to sort through difficult concepts and Paul’s challenging sentence structure. This too has been updated with the Living Translation. Rev. Dr. Eugene Peterson developed another paraphrase Scripture in “The Message” a vibrant read with vivid word images.

I won’t cover all the different translations and paraphrases, because a search for that number yielded, “No One Knows.”  Suffice to say, that you should be able to find a version you like, can understand, and can grow your faith through deepening your understanding of God’s love for you. This should be every Christian’s goal.

I’ve now had my New International Version Study Bible for over 26 years. It was a birthday present from my parents to encourage me in my faith journey. A good Study Bible will also help you understand God’s Word for you. The authors provide explanations and interpretations for some chapters and verses. They will provide historical facts to help us understand the context for those who first received the message. You can also find links to other Scripture passages with similar ideas.  You can discover a multitude of aspects of our faith and spend hours exploring God’s grace.

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.    1 Peter 1:22-23   

The Word of God is living and alive. You can read a pericope of Scripture and the Lord will speak to you a wonderful message. The next time you read the very same passage God will speak new and deeper truths because you’ve experienced Christ in your life. The Word of God brings us into a living relationship with Christ our Lord, who reveals God’s love and grace to those who believe. TGBTG. Amen.

  November 2017  
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