Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bible Briefs: Introduction

One of the regular features of my monthly schedule is the production of the parish notes for the diocesan magazine. The drawing together the next month's service details isn't the issue - I'm normally reasonably good at planning ahead. Neither does the problem come with the compiling of the various reports and notices from the parish organisations. The leaders are great at feeding me the information in good time and keeping things updated. But there's one part of the notes that causes me some anguish: the Rector's letter.

In it, I'm not just writing to my parishioners - or at least those who get and receive the magazine. It's different to a parish weekly notice sheet, or a special letter to the parish in advance of harvest or Christmas. The diocesan magazine doesn't just come to our folk; it doesn't even just get distributed in each of the other churches in the diocese of Clogher; the diocesan magazine is on sale in Eason's Enniskillen branch and I'm sure in other local outlets. Friends in Belfast have told me that they receive a copy each month and are checking up on what's going on (and even my spelling, punctuation and grammar is checked by a former teacher!).

With such a wide audience, and such a diverse group of people (which, I suppose, is much like a blog), what to say? How to say it? What would bring most benefit to anyone who cares to read a few lines from the rector of a small, rural parish? For the first year or so, I tried to be topical - a short snappy introduction linked to the time of year, with a thought for the day reflection on a Bible verse. They're sometimes hard to write. The rest of the notes are done, the deadline is swiftly approaching, so occasionally no letter was included, nothing would come in a coherent fashion.

Recently, however, I've started a different approach. A couple have appeared, and it's a style that I think I'll continue and see through to the end. It's what I'm calling 'Bible Briefs' - a couple of paragraphs giving a brief introduction and overview of a book of the Bible, with the hope that it will help the reader to pick up their Bible and get stuck into the book.

They're arising out of my own devotions as I try to read bigger chunks of the Bible this year (ignoring chapter divisions and the wee inserted headlines which can sometimes be misleading), and spurred on by the search for the 'melodic line' of each Bible book. That phrase comes from Dick Lucas, the grandfather of The Proclamation Trust, who urges us to discover the key idea / theme / verse that drives the whole book / letter and transforms our understanding of the whole thing.

As David Jackman writes in 'The Practical Preacher':

One of the things The Proclamation Trust has tried to encourage over the years is thinking about the melodic line: every book has its theme tune. If your series does not get your congregation to the theme tune then they are not going to learn the Bible in the way in which it was written. They are going to learn it cut up into chunks by us, and I do not think we do it as well as God did it! So let us preach the Bible the way God gave us the Bible: book by book.

So these Bible Briefs will occasionally pop up on the blog. Together, perhaps we'll come to grasp God's big picture, and get to know the Bible better - because in it, we find the God who speaks to us in and through his word.

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