Thursday, September 8, 2016

Read, mark and inwardly digest. . .

It is not uncommon to find instances in which Scripture is said to eaten.  I think immediately to Ezekiel.

It was then I saw a hand stretched out to me, in which was a written scroll which he unrolled before me. It was covered with writing front and back, and written on it was:  Lamentation and wailing and woe! He said to me: Son of man, eat what is before you; eat this scroll, then go, speak to the house of Israel. So I opened my mouth and he gave me the scroll to eat. … I ate it, and it was as sweet as honey in my mouth (Ezekiel 2:10-3:3).
And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey.  (Ezekiel 3:3) 
Or Jeremiah.
Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O LORD, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)
Or Psalm 119:72, 97, 101-103, & 111 or Job 23:12 or Revelation 10:9-10. . .

Scripture is not meant to live outside of us as something unfamiliar or foreign to our nature and mind.  No, indeed, the Word of God is meant to live within us.  God enters us through His Word and makes His dwelling place within us and in this way His Word lives in us by faith.  Baptism does not compete with this but seals us to Christ's death and resurrection so that the old has passed and the new has been born wearing Christ's righteousness and recognizing the voice of Christ in His Word.  We arise from the font to desire the voice of our Good Shepherd and by the power of the Holy Spirit His Word makes its home in us.

As a child growing up we ate hot grains for breakfast in the winter.  Oatmeal, Farina, Cream of Wheat, Malt-O-Meal. . .  My mother insisted that we needed food to stick to our ribs as we went out to walk to school or play in the cold and snow or do our chores.  She was right.  Christians need the food of God's Word to stick to their ribs so that they carry it with them.  We read Scripture not like we read for knowledge but as the hungry desiring the food of life, as the sheep desire to know and hear the voice of their Good Shepherd, and as the people of God who desire to be like Him in holiness of life and speech.

The sad truth is that the Word is not internal to many Christians, many Lutherans.  We have itching ears and desire the new and different more than the forever and familiar.  We are enamored of novelty and sentiment and get more exited over what somebody found meaningful on Facebook or Pinterest.  We are weak and easily led astray because the Word is not inside us but on the fringes of our minds, hearts, and lives.  We are easily swept away by the winds of change, by culture that seeks to inform the faith instead of the other way around, and by other authorities that compete with the Word of God.

Faith comes by hearing and it stays by hearing -- hearing not only what is outside of you but the Word of God that the Lord has planted within you.  Planted and rooted in you, this faith grows and sustains, endures and remains, and commends us when Christ returns in His glory.

The ancient collect gets it just right.  It is our prayer as the Scriptures are read in the Divine Service and at the Daily Office.  It is our joy as we pray them at home and in our devotional lives.  It is our duty as we teach them to our children.  It is our responsibility as we speak them to those who have fallen away from the faith.  It is our privilege to speak them in witness to those who have not heard.  But it all begins with me -- with the Word of God stuck to my ribs, inhabiting my mind, and informing the desires of my heart.  Won't you join me in praying this collect daily?

BLESSED Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast, the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.


ginnie said...

I remember when "inwardly digest them" was changed to "take them to heart," which upset me every time I heard it. Seems it was at the time of Lutheran Worship hymnal. I no longer hear it recited that way. What/when the change back to original from BCP?

John Joseph Flanagan said...

Many devout Christians have difficulty being righteous and holy every minute of the day. The minds of people are filled with continuous thoughts and desires, conflicts, subconscious longings, distracting feelings, opposing ideas, and unless one is fast asleep and not having Rem dreams, we are all left to wander alone in our world within. A class in Psychology 101 during my college days outlined the internal struggles and interactions between the Id, the Ego, and the Freud analyzed it. My studies in English Literature described the internalized conflicts writers and poets describe....Existentialism, Realism, Stream of Consciousness. I have always been a reader of history and literature, and of course, the Bible. I have wondered how God created our minds to absorb so much data, how some of it becomes internalized and reveals itself to us in the evidence of irrationality often expressed almost unconsciously. Our experiences, memories, images....all placed into sections of our brains and catalogued. Some thoughts we suppress, others we wonder why they torment us. But the substance of this article today is ingesting the word of God. I try. I believe God's word in faith. But I know even during my most fervent prayers, sin lies at the door, a distracting or sinful action can result even before I leave the church. And so....I was created with a conflicted mind which is beset by competing thoughts continually, and although the ingested word of God resides within me, I honestly must rely on the grace of God and the cross of Jesus to finally free me from sin. A pastor may lecture us on our need to ingest the word of God, but even the greatest of saints cannot claim to be holy and righteous as often as they wanted to be.