Bible Sunday

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Readings

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (NLT)

14 But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. 15 You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.

But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.

John 5:36b-end (NLT)

The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. 37 And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, 38 and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you.

39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! 40 Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.

41 “Your approval means nothing to me, 42 because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. 43 For I have come to you in my Father’s name, and you have rejected me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. 44 No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God.[e]

45 “Yet it isn’t I who will accuse you before the Father. Moses will accuse you! Yes, Moses, in whom you put your hopes. 46 If you really believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me. 47 But since you don’t believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?”

Sermon by Colin Udall (Licensed Lay Reader)

There is a story in Africa that is told about missionaries.  The source I read attributed it to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but I think it is one of those stories that does the rounds all the time.  The story goes that when the first missionaries arrived in Africa, they had the Bible and the Africans had the land.  The missionaries told the Africans to close their eyes and pray and they did so.  When they opened their eyes, the missionaries had the land and the Africans had the Bible.  I think we got the better deal.

Today is officially Bible Sunday, though it is also true that there is open permission to observe any Sunday in the local Church as Bible Sunday. I read that there has been an official Bible Sunday in America since 1915.  I couldn’t find a date for the UK.  Perhaps it has always been around.  Surely you can argue that if you are preaching from the Bible, then every Sunday is being treated as Bible Sunday anyway because we are celebrating God’s word?

As Christians our sole source for matters of faith and practice is the Bible. Although reason, tradition, and experience aid our interpretation of the Bible, the Bible alone is the basis for our Christian faith and our personal relationship with God.  Different versions and translations of the Bible exist and maybe you have a favourite translation.  I have always enjoyed the NIV, although with some of it’s male-orientated language, I realise it is not perfect for today’s society.

Today Bible Sunday calls each one of us to be what John Wesley called “homo unius libri,” – a person of One Book. Christians are “People of One Book” because the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God Himself. As we have heard in our other reading today, Paul testifies in the 2nd letter to Timothy that, “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.” The original term Paul uses for “inspired” literally means “God breathed.”

In today’s Gospel reading Jesus refers to the writings of Moses.  He says that Moses wrote of Him.  The books of the Old Testament, whether history, poetry or prophesy all lead to the arrival of the Son of God in Jesus as told in our Gospels and then reflected and further interpreted in the letters and other books we find after the Gospels. The sixty-six books of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures speak with Divine authority. As I said, there are different versions of the Bible and Catholic and Orthodox traditions have extra books in their Bibles and some Catholics argue that we Protestants lose out because there are many New Testament references contained within these “missing books” of our versions of the Bible. Although God spoke through the unique personalities of the persons He selected to pen his written Word, He directly communicated His message to each of them. It has been up to others who were leading the early church to feel inspiration from God on which books should be contained in our Bibles from the many books and letters that were available to them at the time.

We can literally see in Moses writings where God has spoken directly to the writer. Note Exodus 24:12, “The LORD said to Moses, “Come up to Me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”

The Hebrew prophets were inspired by God to pen their prophecies. We continually read the phrase in the Old Testament, “The Word of the Lord came to me.” The Christian writers also affirm their messages come directly from God. Paul continually identifies himself in his epistles as “Paul, an Apostle of Jesus Christ,” and other writers of New Testament Scripture identify themselves in similar fashion. In beginning the Book of Revelation John testifies, “I, John, your brother who share with you in Jesus the persecution and the kingdom and the patient endurance, was on the island called Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. The voice that spoke and told John to “write in a book” was the Risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Some versions of the Bible have what is called a “red letter edition”, those words of Jesus are written in red signifying they come directly from His very mouth. The Bible is our sole authority for faith and for practice because it is “God breathed.”

Many people find the Bible a source of inspiration, a foundation for their faith and a place of strength and peace which is difficult to describe in a sermon.  You will all have different descriptions for it, I am sure, just as we all have different “favourite passages, stories and quotes from the Bible that feed and sustain us.  A few years ago in the Church Times there was a long discussion carried on through the letters pages about the place of the sermon in our services.  Essentially the provoking question was, “What is the point of a sermon, which can take hours to prepare, when it is forgotten by most before they leave the building?”  The letter that seemed to close the subject said something like, “I have been married for 50 years and in that time I have eaten countless meals which have largely been cooked and prepared by my wife.  Sometimes they were straight out of a packet or a tin, sometimes they were lovingly prepared from scratch with fresh ingredients and accompanied by good wine.  Mostly I have forgotten those meals by the time I come to the table ready to eat the next one.  Occasionally a meal has stood out so much that we have conversations which begin “Do you remember that meal…?”  But all of those meals have been what I needed to feed and sustain me through each 24 hours.  And so it is with the sermons I have heard throughout the years.  Mostly I have forgotten them, but sometimes one is inspirational and causes me to re-think, but each sermon has been what I have needed at that time to feed and sustain my faith alongside the Bible which feeds and sustains me also.” 

On September 7, 1864, a community group called the “Loyal Colored People of Baltimore” presented a Bible to President Abraham Lincoln for his kind and humane outreach to their people. Lincoln gratefully responded with these words: “In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Saviour gave to the world was communicated through this book. But for it we could not know right from wrong. All things most desirable for man’s welfare, here and hereafter, are to be found portrayed in it.”

So, like John Wesley, may each one of us be “A Person of One Book.” Our Bible is “God breathed” and our source for encouragement, faith and hope at all times.

Intercessions

We pray that Christ may be seen in the life of the Church.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy, hear us.

You have called us into the family of those who are
the children of God.
May our love for our brothers and sisters
be strengthened by your grace.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy, hear us.

You have called us to be a temple
where the Holy Spirit can dwell.
Give us clean hands and pure hearts,
so that our lives will reflect your holiness.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy, hear us.

You have called us to be a light to the world,
so that those in darkness come to you.
May our lives shine
as a witness to the saving grace you have given for all.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy, hear us.

You have called us to be members of your body,
so that when one suffers, all suffer together.
We ask for your comfort and healing power
to bring hope to those in distress.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
in your mercy, hear us.

You have called us to be the Bride,
where you, Lord, are the Bridegroom.
Prepare us for the wedding feast,
where we will be united with you for ever.
Jesus, Lord of the Church,
hear our prayer,
and make us one in heart and mind
to serve you with joy for ever.
Amen.

Closing Worship

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