Cambridge terms run for 8 weeks, Thursday-Wednesday, and people here often keep track of where they are in term by marking the fact that we are ‘near the end of Week 1’ etc. There is also the notoriety of the ‘Week 5 blues’ – supposedly because most people are worn out by that point in the term, but find themselves only at the half-way point.
Last term, to make the way we relate to the different weeks a little more positive, Siân and I named the weeks by different fruits of the spirit. This term, the weeks are named after ‘the armour of God’, which can be found in Ephesians 6. This is the final week.
Rachel – a way not to lose sight of the sweet, fierce pleasure of knowing Jesus
This week has been difficult for me because week ‘sword of the spirit, which is the word of God’, has fallen on a week where I’ve found reading the Bible hard. Which makes this reflection a sort of ‘reset’ in re-examining why it is that I place so much importance on reading the Bible.
Reading scripture is not something that is owed. Nor is the Word of God a sort of encyclopedia, in which case it may either be concluded that it has little to say about some crucial issues of modern life or passages will be used in accordance with our own purposes.
Instead, the scripture points us to the person and work of Jesus, through whom alone we fully understand the nature of God. (See this article: How Engaging with Muslims Teaches Us More About the Importance of Jesus).
I know the Word of God to be truly refreshing and life-giving. I know the difference between a day where I have engaged in the scripture, and one where I haven’t. I believe it has the power to transform lives.
Reading scripture is not a requirement. But it is an immense privilege.
I have been through a roller coaster of legalism, and cynicism, and apathy in the way I understand scripture’s place in my life.
But scripture isn’t meant to hold that place. Scripture continually communicates our need for grace and its being offered to us. We are asked to acknowledge who and where we are, and we are offered a view into the ever-expanding, vastly fulfilling relation between you and God. We are offered substance and strength in our frailty and futility.
Scripture helps us not to lose sight of the sweet, fierce pleasure of knowing Jesus.
Having had this time to reflect, I’ve decided to re-read Ecclesiastes, my favourite book of the Bible. It’s an account of Solomon’s life – a man who has the most wisdom, the most money, and the most pleasure, and yet he still concludes that all is a ‘chasing after the wind’. I love the balance of Ecclesiastes. It acknowledges the beauty and goodness of life, but also the frustration, ‘The eye never has enough of seeing, nor the ear its fill of hearing.’ There is a yearning for significance which only returns with despair, for, ‘No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them.’
It may be cynical, but it’s a cynicism I know. It may be nostalgic, but it’s a nostalgia I am familiar with. I love that Ecclesiastes confronts pessimism and wandering and yearning and weariness head on, and then counters these things with the hope we have where we do not place expectations on things that are temporal. There is groundedness, significance, wonder, and fulfilment. And it is all in Jesus.
I pick up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Reflect – some questions to ask
- What attitude do you have towards scripture? Do you have experiences of cynicism, or apathy?
- Read the article: have you thought about scripture as being in this relation to Jesus before?
14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.