When I joined the church at 12, my parents gave me a book that had just turned 14 – “The Bible Speaks to You” by Robert McAfee Brown. The book traveled by my side unopened on several shelves through high school, college, and seminary. The title alone seemed reminder enough of what I needed to keep in view.
In my second year as an associate pastor, I felt a nudge to really read the reference for the first time. A second edition had just been published so I read it while keeping the gift on the shelf. I hadn’t been ready for the lessons when I first unopened the book; I was still in my childlike faith. Now my growth experience was put into words with insights to the variety of voices in the stories that shaped my life. Learning about the Bible helped enrich my interpretation of the Bible.
Using the practical question and answer approach of Brown’s book, I transformed the tome into an adult class on an overview of the Bible. That experience grew into teaching a class for 3 years at Synod School called “The Bible Speaks to You”. Soon I was teaching workshops at Montreat and the national Youth Triennium called “The Bible Speaks to Youth”.
Like the wisdom that reads “when the student is ready, a teacher will appear” it was not just the title, but the author that I needed to often see on my shelf. Robert McAfee Brown inspired me to work for non-violent resistance to evil, civil rights, inclusion, and social justice because of my Biblical faith. His books “Religion and Violence: a Primer for White Americans” (1973), “Unexpected News: Reading the Bible with Third World Eyes” (1984), “Saying Yes and Saying No: Rendering to God and Caesar (1986) along with books on Reinhold Niebuhr and Elie Wiesel were added to my shelf and my journey. My revelation today is that “Reflections Over the Long Haul: A Memoir” was published after his death; there’s room on the shelf for that, too.
What book sat on your shelf until you were ready to read it? What authors speak to you along your journey of faith? Describe a time when you were ready and a teacher appeared for you. What questions do you have about how the Bible speaks to you?