Rev Molly Deatherage came to Galilee Spirituality Centre last night. She spoke in a series on Seeking the Face of God about discovering God in the Word. She offered us some texts for reflection. Before reading one text, from Romans, she said ‘this is my favourite bible passage.’ I had been participating very happily but this made me alert. As the text was being read I was not only wondering what it was saying to me and us, I was wondering why Molly had said it was her favourite. When Molly asked the group to share anything which had spoken to them I found that the most pressing connection I had made with the passage was this question about why it meant so much to her.
I was reminded of the wedding presents – the few that remain after thirty years – in our home. When I pull out the wok, most days, which Dan gave us, I think of him. When at Christmas we take out the goblets which we always use for mulled wine I think of Martin. The cracked and glued large fruit bowl is Mike and Sabine. The teapot where we keep the cooking utensils (after losing the lid) came from the All Hallows pastoral ministry programme team…and so on.
It came to me last night that the same happens when I read the scriptures. As the years have gone by friends and colleagues have shared particular passages which have held great meaning for them in their faith journey. Often we have prayed them together. I never now read those texts without these people being present. Not that I always consciously remember, but more that they are there, inhabiting the text with their life and witness. They have, at various times, made me alert to the Spirit speaking in a passage which before had not necessarily been fruitful for me.
It may seem obvious to say that we mediate God’s presence in the Word to one another. The liturgy of all our churches is centred around this. Sharing in bible groups is focussed on encountering the God of the Word together. And… this personal selection of Word which has stirred and nourished the lives of others feels like a deep and precious connection. It reveals a Word which is sacramental in the manner of its presence. It has permanently changed me and my discipleship. It brings human love, friendship and memory into the reading of scripture. Not only am I connecting to the lives of those by and about whom the bible is written but with those who now read it in faith.
I realise today how much I treasure these associations. Through them the bible has become a personal encounter for me – not only in my own reading but in the living reading of others. Whatever my state of mind when I approach my personal reading, these passages speak of those I love, have ministered with or who have ministered to me. I realise too that I have given my own reading as a gift to others. That there may be passages (I know which ones) that have my name on them in the reading of others. Like the wedding gifts which are so much part of our home and everyday lives (many now not in the state of wholeness in which they arrived) these mediated texts are part of the furniture of our stories, our faith and our encounter with God. In the Christian journey nothing is ‘alone’ or individual. It is all ‘us.’