Okay – we are about ready to go. You may be feeling nervous, excited, scared, a bit dubious. Take a moment to acknowledge how you’re feeling. Be where you’re at. Offer whatever your feelings are to God as a prayer. On Ash Wednesday we will start with a short reading – just 5 pages in the Common English Bible paperback with large print, just 4 in my favorite study Bible (and its tiny print).
As we begin, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with your Bible – in particular its table of contents. Since we’ll be reading in chronological order as suggested by Marcus Borg in Evolution of the Word, we will be flipping around quite a bit. 1st Thessalonians is found after 12 books in the standard canonical order, on page 347 in the Common English Bible (paperback NT). Find what page it is in the Bible you’re going to use, and while you’re there look up the next day’s entry 1 Corinthians, which is found six books earlier in the standard order. You can see that consulting the index for page numbers will save much frustration!
I also want to remind you we’ll cover a lot of material in several writing styles, written over perhaps a couple hundred years, by different inspired human authors and communities with different concerns and contexts. We are looking at the big picture: major themes, impressions and allowing this intentional time spent reading to be a form of prayer and openness to where God’s Holy Spirit might lead.
While there is a time and place to look at single verses, pick apart nuances of word orgins and the like (and yes, I enjoy that kind of study), but that is not what we’re aiming for here. This is about taking a top-view survey of whole books, indeed the whole of the New Testament. Relax, read at your own pace and approach your time primarily as a form of prayer, inviting God to lead you and speak through the text. This is about a relationship, not just reading an instruction manual!
You might want to get a notebook or some other place to jot things down throughout the study. I might suggest you write the date, the days reading and two short columns – “Things I notice” and “Questions I have.” You can then let them sit, add to them as we go through the study, or feel free to post on the facebook group or email me directly if you like.