First things first. If you’re reading this and you haven’t read Scott’s blog post from last week, stop, read that, and then come back here. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.
If you’re keeping up with the Lenten Reading Plan, congrats! You’re a little over halfway through the book of Matthew. If you’re not keeping up on the Lenten Reading Plan, no worries! You can catch up on Matthew 1-18 in about 30-45 minutes depending on how fast you read. How do I know this you ask? Let’s just say I had some catching up to do. Whether you’re right on schedule with the reading, playing catch up, or for some of you, reading ahead, (you know who you are, stop making the rest of us look bad please) there’s a comfort in knowing that many of us are doing this together, as a family.
As Christ followers in the year 2017, we have the opportunity to read through the four gospels, the life of Jesus, on our own, most anywhere, and anytime we like. Most all of us, whether you know it or not, carry these gospels with us everyday in our purse or pocket; and, with a free app on your smart phone, you have access to multiple bible translations and paraphrases anytime, anywhere. Even with this kind of access and even as we attempt to read through the gospels before Easter arrives, we so often approach scripture in solitude—in the haze of an early morning or the quietness of a late night. While the time of day that we come to the gospels hardly matters (as coming to them at all, in and of itself, is a step in the right direction), the solitude and isolation in which we read often leaves us wanting more. Don’t get me wrong, individual reading and study is fantastic and even essential, but the individual is and becomes more, as part of a group, a family, a church. When our individual experience is balanced with reading and study in community, the gospels, and scripture in general, take on a whole new life.
Whether we read through these gospels with a few of our closest friends or our home groups, scripture is often better understood, and honestly often more interesting, when we do it together. There’s this guy who shows up later in the New Testament, (I know, I know, we haven’t gotten there yet) named Paul and Paul uses an analogy of the church as a body in a letter to a church in a town called Corinth. If we think about that analogy as it relates to reading and studying scripture as a family, together, we’re left with the reality that some of us who are “eyes” are able to actually see what’s going on. Playing that out a little further, the “eye” needs to hear from the “ear” and the “ear” needs to hear from the “hand” how the “hand” is feeling. It’s only when we spend time together as “ears’ and “hands” and “eyes” and “heads” and “shoulders” and “knees” and “toes” that we are able to hear and feel and think and see the insights and experiences of others, which in turn shapes and molds us into something that we haven’t been before—a family, a church changed together by the life of a guy named Jesus.
When as communities and families we are changed by the truth of the gospels, we are ready and we are set to do this thing that Jesus refers to as bringing heaven on earth—to bring the truth of grace and the truth of love and the truth of redemption, restoration, and resurrection to a world that could so desperately use more of that grace and more of that love and more of that restoration. Let’s get on that!