Looking back through the library
All through October we were Living in the library, reading, exploring and celebrating the wonderful range of stories, characters and genres contained within The Bible. Because the Bible undoubtedly contains timeless wisdom, ethical insight, and moral guidance it can be tempting to scan its words for a neat ‘answer’ and dash out the nearest exit, rather than taking our time in the library.
This month we have been encouraging one another to instead browse the shelves, to slow down, to pick up on interesting details, to sink into the stories and find resonances that resound on through some of our favourite novels to this day. The Bible has directly and indirectly inspired so much of our culture and it is fascinating to read it alongside classic and contemporary stories to appreciate both in a new light.
Our fantastic Daily Worship writers Jock Stein, Jan Cross, Gordon Kennedy and Lily Cathcart have unpacked the month’s biblical texts with a sensitivity to the poetry, mystery, complexity and humour that we can sometimes miss when we are rushing through. They brought a compelling and diverse reading list of novels into conversation with the Bible. They invited us to read Shakespeare alongside Job, Harper Lee with the Psalms, Dostoyevsky with Ephesians, and Margaret Atwood with Hebrews. We were introduced to murder mysteries, memoir, fantasies, dystopia - all genres richly inspired by biblical themes of justice, faith, hope, fear, redemption, creativity and imagination.
At the start of the month we explored these themes in our Living in the Library Radio Show, which you can listen back to on the site, or check out as a podcast. Through discussion, refection, prayer, poetry and music we ran with this idea of the Bible as a library rather than a book. We considered the role of Jesus as a storyteller himself, and talked about our favourite Bible characters and which books of the Bible we would take with us to a desert island. We also got our groove on courtesy of the incredible Those Scottish Campers.
When we bring our favourite stories to the Bible, we bring different parts of ourselves to the Bible. Like our sense of humour, or our love of adventure, or our curiosity to investigate. The Bible is a densely packed, richly evocative treasure trove of language and story for a reason. These ancient words, gathered over hundreds of years and across many cultures and languages, are inviting us to engage with our head and heart - to bring our whole lives to the text. The Bible is not a bullet point list of do’s and don’ts - rather it is layers and layers of narrative that miraculously invites us to join the story.
The wonder and expanse and generosity of God who always loves us, who is always there, allows us to learn our own story - to make sense of our lives - and see how that narrative fits into the unfolding story of God’s creation. Through reading the Bible and encountering triumph and failure, delight and anguish, fear and excitement - we recognise ourselves and our own journeys.
And all our stories are connected to one another.
Who knows what role you will play in someone else’s life? Perhaps something you say casually in passing will utterly transform someone’s day, week, year… An invitation you make, a gift you offer, a compliment you give… could be a key plot twist in the life of someone else. Who knows you could even be the romantic lead in someone else’s life and not even know it...
My wife Lily (one of our writers this month) and I have a funny story like this. There’s a photo that exists of the two of us standing next to each other - that was taken a year before we met. We didn’t know each other at the time and only discovered the photo once we were already going out. I was standing right across from the love of my life that I would marry a few years later and I had absolutely no idea… But we both agree that we are glad that we met the following year as that’s when the timing was right. Who know what or who God has waiting for you - and it could be closer than you think.
Timing, romance, chance encounters, surprise meetings - stories are an integral part of being human. We learn through stories, as children but also as adults. They give life shape and meaning. They help us to join the dots, to harness memory and imagination to see old truths and new possibilities. We need stories to grasp how the world works, to make sense of how we got to where we are right now, and to glimpse the inner workings of our hearts.
Thanks for joining us in the library and we hope that the month encouraged you to pick up a Bible and have a leaf through - to wander the shelves and discover, or rediscover, new characters and stories. Let’s keep reading, let’s keep an open mind, let’s enter into God’s story.