Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Eat and act

As a young convert it was impressed upon me that I must read my Bible through at least once a year. The reading plan most used was by Murray McCheyne which involved reading through four chapters a day from the Old and New Testaments, two with the family and two in secret. I will always be very grateful for the discipline of reading my Bible this way as it has given me a wonderful overview of the Bible and a better grasp of the bigger picture or story which unfolds from Genesis to Revelation. However, probably because I was such a poor apprentice, I did this without any real concern to put things into practice and soon my knowledge grew but my heart shrivelled. The Bible teaches us many things but it is next to useless if we don't put it into practice. Like food it is ingested and then digested in order to power us to good works for God.

That was always what struck me so about the way the desert fathers treated the scriptures. Their Bible 'meals' were a lot smaller than mine but because they placed such a great emphasis on digesting the texts and then allowing the Word to express itself in practice, they became transparent with the love of God. Take the following story of Abba Abraham:

"Abba Abraham told of a man of Scetis who was a scribe and did not eat bread. A brother came to beg him to copy a book. The old man whose spirit was engaged in contemplation, wrote, omitting some phrases and with no punctuation. The brother, taking the book and wishing to punctuate it, noticed that words were missing. So he said to the old man, 'Abba, there are some phrases missing.' The old man said to him, 'Go, and practise first that which is written, then come back and I will write the rest.'"

Read it and do it is the simple message here and for so long we have ignored it. If the Bible is food for the soul then to what end? That putting it into practice we may become like Jesus and everyone "seeing your good works will give glory to your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16)

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