“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)
While I have spent my entire life reading from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, those words from the King James Version were on a bookmark that my grandmother gave me shortly after receiving my third grade Bible so many years ago. I found the words intriguing and a little bit scary: dividing asunder felt almost like a threat!
The Bible bearing my name did not seem particularly dangerous or very sharp. Those rounded onionskin pages were not a high papercut risk, and yet, over time the Word of God carefully marked on each page proved to be quick, powerful, sharp, piercing, and discerning.
That Bible, and the many that followed it, helped me define my values (1 John 4:7-8), helped me understand who I am (Galatians 3:26-29), showed me God’s world and God’s people through new eyes (Psalm 104). It has given me words when I thought everything was lost (Psalm 139:11-12); it taught me about God’s love (Luke 15); and scripture shared a vision of God’s community that gives me hope (Isaiah 2:2-5). Each day I return to familiar and less familiar texts and find God speaking in new ways.
This Sunday our third graders will receive their Bibles. We will begin the long process of learning how to find things within it, how to read through difficult names, where to find the stories of God’s Covenants and the Good News of Jesus, how to read texts from long ago with 21st century eyes. We will learn together just how powerful these words can be. I hope that as we do, our students will begin to find words that shape and form them.
The very first thing we will do together is practice opening our Bibles. I know that our third graders are more than capable of opening a book, but in that silly and sacred act we remember that it is not the book that is holy, but the words within it. It is our reading that makes the Bible so powerful.
Part of our tradition at BMPC is pre-highlighting each Bible with key passages, tiny markers to help them as they begin searching through the pages. These are passages that are central to our faith and passages that are especially meaningful to different members of our community. You can read the list below. What passages would you add? What stories have shaped you? What passages have convicted you and comforted you? What sections of the Bible do you avoid, and which pages are well worn?
I wonder if you would be willing to join our third graders this Sunday and bravely open your own Bible and see what quick, powerful, sharp, piercing, and discerning word you might find.
- Genesis 12:1-3: Covenant with Abraham and Sarah
- Exodus 20:1-17: The Ten Commandments
- Deuteronomy 6:4-9 from the Rev. Rebecca Kirkpatrick
- Joshua 1:9 from the Rev. Dr. Franklyn Pottorff
- Psalm 23: God’s Providence and Care
- Psalm 121 from Jeffery Brillhart
- Psalm 150:3-6 from Edward Landin Senn
- Ezekiel 34:25-31: God's Covenant Promise
- Micah 6:8: What God Expects of Us
- Mark 12:28-31 from the Rev. Dr. Kirby Lawrence Hill
- Matthew 6:9-13: Lord’s Prayer
- Matthew 28:16-20: The Great Commission
- Luke 11:2-4: the Lord’s Prayer
- John 3:16: Summary of the Gospel
- John 15:1-5 from the Rev. Dr. Agnes Norfleet
- Romans 8:38-39 from the Rev. Leigh DeVries
- Galatians 5:22-23: Fruits of the Spirit
- Philippians 2:1-11 from the Rev. Rachel Pedersen
- 1 John 4:7-8: The Rule of Love