Studying Scripture in Community

I still use the study Bible that I bought my first semester of seminary. It was the first Bible that I actually bought myself. Every other Bible I ever owned was either given to me by my church or one that I took down from my parents’ bookshelves at home.

One look at my study Bible and you will know that it has seen a lot of miles. The binding is taped up to keep it from tearing any more than it already has. The thin onion skin pages are dirty from being turned and flipped through. The pages are a little dirtier at those books I was required to translate in seminary. The pages are a little cleaner and fresher at the books and passages that I have neglected or that don’t appear in our regular cycle of lectionary scripture readings.

I really could use a new study Bible, but I am hesitant to let this one go.

Not because it serves as a badge of achievement for all the studying of scripture that I have done, because it is not. I can’t let this one go, because within it are all the notes and markings that I have made over the years each time I have read or studied a particular part of the Bible.

I have never been one for memorizing scripture or being able to quickly recall which Psalm says what, which parable is found where, or even which of Paul’s letters were written when. That’s why I need to hang on to this particular Bible - because in it is held all the things I have learned, and it is where I return again and again.

The things that I DO remember though, without my study Bible notes, are the people who walked beside me when I studied different parts of scripture.

  • The classmates I translated the Book of Ruth with during my first year of seminary.
  • The parables I read with women from around the world while studying with the ecumenical community of Taize as a young adult.
  • The particularly sticky pieces from the Sermon on the Mount that my husband, Joshua, and I debate back and forth.
  • The stories of un-named women in the Old Testament that my women’s Bible study focused on at my church in Indiana.
  • Paul’s instructions on community that I reflected on every year with each Confirmation class as they learn what it means to be a member of a church community.

When we study scripture we bring our own experiences to the table of interpretation along with the original author’s and the community to which they were writing. But when we study scripture in a community, we bring our collective experiences which broaden our understandings of scripture, challenge our assumptions about what the Bible means for our life today and challenge us to continue to be shaped by scripture as the Spirit works among us.

This month, and especially this Sunday, we move back into our rhythms of studying scripture with one another.

  • The Bible for Beginners class begins September 22 as we walk together through a survey of the New Testament this year.
  • The Coffee Cup Women’s Bible Study has already begun meeting on Wednesday mornings, looking together at some of the great themes and “words” of scripture and how they shape our understanding of God and the life of faith.
  • The Men’s Study Group and the Sunday Morning Discussion Group are moving through the Gospel of Mark together with Paul MacMurray reflecting on the earliest Gospel and its stories of Jesus.
  • The Digging Deeper Bible Study (formerly Couples Bible Study) will spend six weeks this fall at 8:45 a.m. in the Education Building immersing themselves in the world of the Exodus.
  • And brand new this fall we will have a regular Bible study in the Fullerton Room at 11:15 a.m. after worship, studying with a variety of pastors, scholars and lay leaders in our community.

I am confident the work done in these classes and the revelations and epiphanies that will come as people study together, will be just as valuable as the relationships that are formed among members of this congregation as we study scripture together.

If you would like to know more about any of these opportunities or have an idea for another way to study scripture together, please reach out. Being a community that studies together is one of the unique parts of walking the Christian life with one another.