The Bible Challenge. Monday, June 19th is Day 29. June 26th Day 36

Note: Sunday is counted as a day but has no readings assigned because the expectation is that you will hear the Lectionary in Church.

Useful links:

Following online

Here is the link to Day 1 of the web page for following online if you are not using the book. We will have reached Day 29 on Monday, June 19th.. The fastest way to navigate through the pages is to change the day numeral in your browser line. Otherwise, you can navigate from page to page using the buttons at the top right of the daily page. You will notice that as you move to each day the first page that comes up contains and in-depth commentary covering each of the readings separately. If you click to the next page there is a shorter overview commentary on all three readings from a noted commentator. This is the commentary that appears each day in the book version.

The Bible Challenge as paperback

or Kindle book

Introductions

An editorial comment will be posted after the week’s readings. When you select The Bible Challenge in the EDUCATION drop down menu you will see the editorial post appear on the left of your cursor.

The Bible Challenge Resources Page  visit here for articles and useful video links

An introduction to The Bible Challenge

The Bible Challenge experience

Recommended Bible translations:

New King James NKJV, New International Version NIV and NIRV, New Amercian Standard Bible NASB, New Revised Standard Version NRSV, New Jerusalem Bible NJB. We recommend an electronic version of the Bible which gives the option for listening as well as reading. Audio versions will be helpful if you want to listen to the daily readings while commuting or maybe before bed.  Recommended Bible App for smartphones and tablets or Desktop Computer Bible access  There is a multitude of Bible reading apps out there. I recommend the one above because it’s free to use.

Background

Evidence from RenewalWorks, a data gathering and strategic direction setting program from Forward Movement, shows that many Episcopal congregations are now placing spiritual deepening as a key priority. At St Martin’s in Providence, our experience of the RenewalWorks process certainly bears this out. The data we collected revealed 33% of the congregation self-describe as exploring a life with God. These are people taking their first small steps towards an intentional spiritual journey. The Episcopal statistical norm for this stage of spiritual development is 19%. A further 43% self-identify as growing in a life with God. These people are more committed to an intentional faith but still feel they are at an early stage in this experience. The Episcopal statistical norm for this group is 56%. 22% as against an Episcopal norm of 21% self-describe as deepening in life with God. These folk experience and increasing reliance upon God’s presence and power in their lives. Only 2% self-describe as living a life with God at the center. Interestingly, the Episcopal norm for this group is also quite low at 4%, whereas another statistical indicator, the All Churches norm is 24%. Further evidence from RenewalWorks shows that the fastest way for facilitating a community’s spiritual deepening is through community Bible reading programs. You can read more on our local and denominational context.

Moving Forward

Moving to the next stage of exploring the Bible leads us to encounter The Bible Challenge, a reading program which comes in both book and Kindle formats from Amazon Smile as well as online through Bible Challenge .One difference between the book and the online formats is that in the book, each day’s contextual commentary offers a one-page overview of all three readings, whereas the daily contextual reflection on the website is more extensive and detailed, giving more attention to each reading. I recommend the book version with the option of going to the website for more commentary should you wish it. Last Sunday we sold all our 35 copies. We have ordered 12 more for those who can’t buy online. I encourage others who have online access to purchase from Amazon Smile.

The word challenge in The Bible Challenge evokes different reactions. Challenges stimulate us to greater achievement. They also can seem too daunting so that we are discouraged from the outset. Embarking on this 365-day program of reading will challenge some to discover a new and unexpected relationship with scripture. Others will experience the challenge of a daily reading as too much for them at this point in time. Most of us will begin well, but find over time, that other things interfere with the daily discipline and weeks may go by when we do no reading. The temptation here will be to feel there is no point returning to the practice after a period of absence. I remind us that the Bible is not a continuous, contiguous narrative, but a series of overlapping, ruptured, at times competing, narratives. Like the Bible itself, The Bible Challenge can be resumed at any point along the timescale from Day 1 to Day 365.

In the 12th-century, St Bernard of Clairvaux, founder of the great Cistercian reform of Benedictine life described Holy Scripture as a vast sea in which a lamb can paddle and an elephant swim. Let’s take this to heart and make it our motto as we approach The Bible Challenge. Another image is of the Bible Challenge is of embarking on a train journey with many potential stopping off, layover, and re-embarkation places. The important thing is to begin and continue on the journey at our own pace. How will we be shaped and changed as a community by our experience of taking such a journey together?

Our approach

I expect that as we go ahead we will discover new and unexpected ways to deepen our exploration together. To start with, however, I will use the Sunday adult forum space to offer an overview on the week’s readings to aid our collective momentum. I encourage the idea of forming neighborhood groups, particularly involving neighbors as well as members of St Martin’s as venues for a more intimate reflection space. Tuesday – Thursday each week, Morning Prayer is said in the chapel, and some of us continue the practice in our virtual Daily Office group on other days. The Lectionary for Morning and Evening prayer follows a two-year cycle and during the next year, we will use The Bible Challenge as our lectionary. So to begin with in addition to our own individual daily following the program, we will reflect together on Sunday’s and at Morning Prayer, Tuesday to Thursday each week. We will continue to harbor the hope that smaller group venues will emerge as more intimate places for sharing our experience.

Look for the regular updating of this page as we move forward together on yet another aspect of being a community that is on a journey together.