Thursday, January 9, 2014

Eugene H. Peterson on Eating the Book!

I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll; and he said to me, ‘Take it, and eat; it will be bitter to your stomach, but sweet as honey to your mouth.’ And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it; it was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter.” (Revelation 10:9-10)

Apostle John who wrote the inspired Book of Revelation in the Bible was an early-church apostle and pastor and writer is stood before the angel and eats the scroll. Hey, he eats the scroll! This is the most striking biblical metaphor for reading the Scripture. “He ate the book”, observed Eugene H. Peterson, “Not just reads it – he got it into his nerve endings, his reflexes, his imagination. The book he ate was Holy Scripture.” Can you imagine if God ask you to eat the Holy Scripture? Can you swallow it? Wait, it is just a metaphor. But have you ever wondered what does it mean to “take it, and eat”? How does it apply to us now?

In his introduction for Eat this Book: The Art of Spiritual Reading, Eugene H. Peterson (author of The Message) wrote about what does it really mean to read the Bible and how we should read it:

“I have been at this business of reading the Bible ever since I was not much older than Hans (his seven-year-old grandson). Twenty years after I first started reading it I became a pastor and a professor; for over fifty years now I have been vocationally involved in getting the Christian Scriptures into the minds and hearts, arms and legs, ears and mouths of men and women. And I haven’t found it easy. Why isn’t it easy?

Simply this. The challenge – never negligible – regarding the Christian Scriptures is getting them read, but read on their own terms, as God’s revelation. It seems as if it would be the easiest thing in the world. After five or six years of schooling, schooling that the whole community pitches in to pay for, most of us can read most of what is written in the Bible. If you don’t own one and can’t afford to buy one, you can steal a Bible from nearly any hotel or motel in the country (except in Malaysia of course). And without fear of arrest – who has ever been arrested on a misdemeanor charge for stealing a Bible in this fair land?

But as it turns out, in this business of living the Christian life, ranking high among the most neglected aspects is one having to do with reading of the Christian Scriptures. Not that Christians don’t own and read their Bibles. And not that Christians don’t believe that their Bibles are the word of God. What is neglected is reading the Scriptures formatively, reading in order to live.

…’reading’ but not reading, reverent and devout but uncomprehending, honoring in a most precious way this book but without awareness that it has anything to do with [everyday life]… the Scripture depersonalized into an object to be honored; the Scriptures detached from precedence and consequence… it is the devil’s own work to take what is presently endearing and innocent… and perpetuate it into a lifetime of reading marked by devout indifference.

What I want to say, countering the devil, is that in order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it is necessary at the same time to live them. Not to live them as a prerequisite to reading them, and not to live them in consequence of reading them, but to live them as we read them, the living and reading reciprocal, body language and spoken words, the back-and-forthness assimilating the reading to the living, the living to the reading. Reading the Scriptures is not an activity discrete from living the gospel but one integral to it. It means letting Another have a say in everything we are saying and doing. It is as easy as that. And as hard.”

Take it, and eat” mean to live the Bible as we read it;
To read in order to live it;
To let God of the Scriptures have a say in everything we are saying and doing.
Are you really reading the Bible?
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