I received a turntable for Christmas and have discovered a new appreciation for music. I grew up with 45rpm and 33rpm LP records. I still have my old records. I also have albums that belonged to my parents and my grandfather. In addition, I have a stack of 78rpm records that I discovered in a box of trash years ago. I am now listening to these for the first time. For many years this collection was in storage as my music collection evolved into cassette tapes, then CDs, and finally digital downloads. Without a turntable, these old records were long forgotten.
Setting up the turntable and playing the familiar records was not only nostalgic; it was instructive. I noticed that my listening habits had changed. Digital music has made me a busy person with a short attention-span. I play it in my car when I am on the go. I play it in the background when I am working on something else. I take it with me. I can advance every song when I get tired of hearing it. It is a random, unexpected experience akin to channel surfing. I can skip through the thousands of downloaded tunes until I find one that grabs my interest. However, the turntable invites me to commit to the music. The turntable is not portable. There is a listening area set up around the speakers. LP means “long playing.” The order of the tracks becomes as much a part of the composition as each individual song. I am actually listening to the music for the sake of music.
Preachers and teachers of Scripture would do well to rediscover an appreciation of Scripture for the sake of Scripture. I am not scolding; rather I am confessing. My habits of reading Scripture had become just as busy and random as my enjoyment of music. My hope is that the following suggestions might benefit you as they have me.
- Avoid strip-mining the Bible for lessons. Being busy prevents us from appreciating Scripture simply as Scripture. We view it as the raw ore that must be processed into sermons and lessons. Instead of “digging into the Bible” perhaps we should just enjoy the landscape. I recommend finding a free and flowing translation such The Message and read just to get the feel for the narrative and discourse. Keep this reading time free from any agenda other than reading.
- Turn your ears on. Scripture is a spoken word as well as a written word. Audio recordings of the Bible are easily accessible. Dramatic performances of the Word are also a creative method to hear Scripture anew. You might even make your own recording and listen to it later. Which leads to another suggestion…
- Organize public readings. This is ancient advice that Paul gave to Timothy (1 Tim 4:13). Be creative in devoting yourself to the public reading of Scripture. If you live in the Bible Belt, chances are good that there’s a Christian coffee house that would gladly welcome people to read Scripture aloud. However, don’t discriminate; set up a reading at the “secular” coffee house or the local library. Join a poet’s corner. So what if you get jeers instead of cheers. It may mean you are a lousy reader and need to improve. I do not encourage you to be a jerk with megaphone and disturb the peace by reading woe oracles, but maybe we can simply present the Word in the public square. I will guarantee that even if you encounter some derision you will have a new appreciation for the Word of God.
- Turn your classes into reading groups. I currently teach a class that has matured into a group that reads the Word together. My lesson prep has changed and there is always a commitment to read the text. The class has overcome the tendency to ask for the quick-fix answers. They realize that I do not speak ex cathedra nor do I have an infallible interpretation of the Bible. I try to encourage dialogue, but my goal is to invite the group to tell one another what they hear. It is inspiring to hear women of all ages describe what it must have been like for Mary to hear Gabriel’s announcement. It is enlightening to hear men in their 90s give me their take on Abraham. When we read Scripture in a community we are all students and teachers at the same time.
What suggestions do you have for gaining a new appreciation for God’s Word?