By Henry H. Reichner, Jr.
While I spent eight months to finish reading the Bible from creation to revelation. It is only a start!
It was a difficult, enjoyable and challenging experience.
It was difficult, not because I am legally blind, but rather because of the sheer enormity of the task. I did most of my reading and listening in the still of the night and often wondered at the genius of the authors of the King James Version and how they were inspired.
It was enjoyable because of my own memory of biblical tales of my childhood and the familiar words of long forgotten hymns. These last distracted me somewhat as I hummed the tunes in my head while reading or listening. Responding to the challenge was the spiritual equivalent of a long pilgrimage. On my way I met a plethora of characters: faithful and unfaithful, priests and prophets, saints and sinners, heroes and heroines and I could go on and on. Shades of Chaucer!
It was challenging, not because of the length of this epic of epics but rather the strain on my comprehension. In the Old Testament, I was treated to the relationship of God with his chosen people. What a recalcitrant bunch they were. Their attitude toward the Ten Commandments (a theme woven throughout both testaments) was forgetful. “What have you done for me lately” was their attitude until they got into trouble. They forsook the gift of faith. Yet God comes through as sometimes wrathful, sometimes forgiving and sometimes forgetting. The New Testament and its story of redemption did help to clear things up.
While I had frequent contact with the Bible in the past, particularly during the time of my service as Rector’s Warden at St. Thomas’ and as a lay reader of the Episcopal Church in Haiti, my absorption was in fits and starts. Now, in a sense, I have put it all together. Yet there is no such thing as finishing with the Bible. It is a trip through eternity. Is it also a reminder of ourselves?
I have read the first 5 books so far and started Joshua before I got busy. I will need to re-start at the beginning of Joshua. I have been reading it on my nook, the NIV Study Bible version. That makes it easier to travel with and find myself able to read it on the train and even the subway up in NYC. It does make it a little hard to navigate to the footnotes- which are at the end of each chapter but fortunately, Kathy has the hard copy and I use that after I read a chapter to make sure I understand the finer points. It also forces me to read it more like a story- and while you can skim paragraphs when it was getting a bit tedious with the “rules” and family lineages, you can’t skim whole pages at a time and you really can’t “look ahead”.
I have found reading the Bible interesting and clearly I had never seen many of the passages in the first five books through the normal Sunday readings, so I have found it worthwhile.
I am very much a task oriented person, so I found it useful to get through the first 5 books and now will focus on getting through the Judges books. I appreciate your support.
I am about to begin Samuel 2 – Samuel 1 was hair-raising and poignant. I am beginning to see the Bible in long arcs of human history, rather than isolated smidges. First there was creation, then the great patriarchs, and now the kings. All along the way, listening to God and obeying His will is the hardest thing for us. Over and over again, we think we can do it all by ourselves. I am especially intrigued by how much New Testament, and especially Jesus, I hear in the Old Testament now. Maybe it’s just where I am in life, but honestly there was so much Jesus in David for me this time around.
I am moving along, slightly ahead of plan – I will finish Jeremiah this weekend (I am sorry but I have a big picture of a bullfrog in my mind as I read this book). This is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have let go of trying to remember and understand all the different facts and thoughts. There is no final exam upon completion. Rather, I try to be in the moment and appreciate the words as I move forward. It may sound trite, but I am feeling like a much more complete human being, I truly appreciate the fulfilling feeling that reading the Bible is providing me. It’s the old situation where you don’t know what you don’t know.
Our little cottage at the shore has a swing on the open porch where you can see the water at the end of our street. My favorite time is getting up first on Saturday and Sunday and sitting on the swing with my cup of coffee and Bible. I almost get disappointed when my boys (all 3 of them) start to stir and it is time to put my reading down and begin the day’s activities. This is a summer I will always cherish, for many many reasons.
Instead of fretting that I am not doing a” daily read” , I decided to “connect” in another way by watching ospreys, eagles soar, examining the gorgeous sea urchin, mussel shells, feeling the warmth of the stones from the beach on my face, lying on the spongy mosses, lichen with my grandchildren asking what cloud creatures they see. Showing them that God is EVERYWHERE! Because of reading the Bible, I am now so much more aware of HIS gifts to ALL of us and how much fun is it to teach the grands, cousins etc. to “observe”.