This year I am attempting to read the entire Bible. I am finding it very difficult.
When I read the Bible at home, just scripture and me, I don't get very far. Every now and again I find a new little insight that helps me know or love God better, but more often than not I end up frustrated. And confused. Along with a very large helping of doubt in the whole system. Christianity is a strange, strange religion, and when I'm reading scripture on my own I tend to see the strangeness and wonder just why I'm staking my life on something so completely nuts.
Reading alone, just me and the Bible, often seems like an invitation to Satan to join me and offer his own exposition.
(I'm not saying that it is always like this, or that it is like this for everyone. I am very, very aware that this is likely my own personal failing.)
This morning I went to church, and I heard scripture read and I heard a solid exposition from a good man who, in his office, represents Christ to me. And we sang the creed, those things that Christians throughout all ages have agreed to be true, and we received Christ's body and blood in the consecrated bread and wine.
And all the doubts and the confusion and the frustration that had cropped up in my reading all week, just disappeared. I remembered. More than that, I knew. The creed and communion gave me the context necessary to believe even in the midst of doubts about the written word.
From the earliest days, scripture has been a communal endeavor. In Nehemiah chapter 8 we are told about how Ezra brought the Law of Moses "before the assembly, both men and women and all who could understand what they heard," and he read to them. They responded with worship, and then the leaders of the people "helped the people to understand the Law...the read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading."
We do this same thing today in the Church, and I am grateful because I need it desperately. Without this kind of communion and help from leaders past and present, I get stuck in the text and forget the Man.
The Word of God, written, is important. It is good that I learn to study it. But the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. And when he left, he left us with the Holy Spirit and his body the Church, a community with leaders to help us understand and to aid our sometimes faltering faith.
Thanks be to God, who knows our frailty and is gracious unto us.