By Ken Robertson
Last Saturday, I, some Adventers, and a few Anglican seminary students joined 900 of our closest friends to go listen to a theologian talk about his new 1700 page book on the apostle Paul.
Yeah, it probably was, but if "nerdy" is the first thing that comes to your mind, you need to understand something. This wasn't just any theologian: it was N.T. Wright. Or Tom, as his friends call him.
Never heard of Tom? He's British, a former Anglican bishop in the Church of the England (which means we bear the same Anglican family resemblance), and probably the most respected New Testament scholar and teacher in the world today. So...he's kind of a big deal. And as I discovered at the talk, he happens to be funny (in a British kind of way), brilliant, humble, kind, and...did I mention brilliant? I already liked Professor Wright, but my respect for him only grew from his talk and our short encounter afterwards.
But meeting Tom in person is not what I'll remember most from that night. What I'll remember most is that all of Tom's brilliance, humor, and humility were focused in one place: the Scriptures.
Tom talked about the Bible like some people talk about sports teams, or their family, or brew culture. He knew it backwards, forwards, from top to bottom, right to left, left to right. He had complete command of the BIG STORY, quoting verbatim and in multiple languages from Deuteronomy, Romans, and a whole host of other books I couldn't keep up with. He's made a career out of mining the historical context of these books, and he jumped easily between the Roman, Greek, and Jewish worlds that Paul was navigating at the time. It was a magisterial display of what a life devoted to studying the written Word of God can look like.
It was clear that Tom had a firm grasp of the Scriptures. But even more evident was the fact that the Scriptures had a firm grasp on him. He longed to understand them, lived to be saturated in their world, yearned to see them lived out. He was addicted, in a good way.
Listening in my pew to his heart's cry, I realized that's how I used to be. I voraciously read through my Bible twice in my early twenties, soaking up every nugget of truth I could find. But somewhere in seminary and ministry, Bible study became just another spiritual duty. The delight was gone. I was learning a lot about the Scriptures, but not listening for what God was saying through them to his people today, or to me personally.
But God, as usual, has been gracious to me when I was less than faithful. Since I have been preaching more often, some of the fire has started to return. After I graduated seminary, my personal Bible-reading began to re-kindle my heart. And now, I feel as though some of the spirit that alighted on Tom has been granted to me.
I've read more of my Bible this week than I have in the last 3 months. The Psalms, Hebrews, the gospel of John...even a little Apocrypha on the side. It's been transformative. So I've been scouring the Anglican tradition trying to find healthy rhythms that would immerse me in the Scriptures again for the long haul, and I've found some amazing things. Thomas Cranmer (the architect of the Book of Common Prayer and, therefore, Anglican worship) constructed a schedule for daily Bible reading intended for every Christian that takes the reader through the Old Testament once a year, the New Testament twice a year, and the Psalms once a month. That's a lifetime of 1-year Bible reading challenges, and then some. And throughout the church's rhythm of daily morning and evening prayer (which is too much ignored in our day), certain critical Scripture passages are repeated over and over again, so that we'll experience not only the breadth of the Scriptures but their depth as well. I'm currently praying about what God will have me invest in next year in my devotional times, but I am already convinced of one thing: it will involve a lot more time listening to God's voice in the Scriptures.
Pray for me. Pray that God would continue to rekindle my love for the Scriptures, continue to draw me to his heart through the Story he has written across the pages of history.
Pray for our church. Pray that we would be a people that is quick to listen, quick to read, and quick to obey what God's word says. Look at your own rhythms and ask God what His will is for your relationship with Scripture.
And pray for Tom. Pray that millions more around the world would be taught by God, through his ministry, about the priceless value of the book we too often take for granted.
"Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
- Thomas Cranmer