As I idly wondered where he was reading from, I caught myself -- I had competely tuned out the reference information when the reader started. It was one of the epistles, but I absolutely couldn't guess which. I hadn't meant to, I'd just...tuned it out.
And it wasn't just this one time. Many years I've spent in church, passing mints down the row, whispering, or smiling at the people behind me as we "settled in" to hear the word. You wouldn't think this was a big deal, after all, those little verse dividers seem a little arbitrary anyway. Shouldn't we just soak in the actual words?
Mmm-No. Ignoring the reference removes the frame of reference for the words. When we know the reference, we can often know the author. If we pay attention to the writers' voice, the time of the writing, and the subject, we can begin to piece together each story we hear into a deep understanding of our faith's heritage. When we know where a passage came from (and more importantly, know where to find it again!), "random" Bible stories can become touchstones of truth in our lives. We get to see the harmony in which the whole of the Bible plays.
While reading the book of Acts recently, summaries of the Old Testament leapt out at me. Really? I can have informative summaries of the complicated Old Testament straight from an apostle's mouth? I don't think I'd ever recognized that before.
The Bible is huge. I know I'm not the only kid who would start Genesis every January only to get terrifically overwhelmed by Leviticus. I didn't even get to enjoy the richness and hope of the New Testament in my personal study until I was an adult, I was so daunted. But we don't need to white-knuckle it through from Genesis onward from the start. If you are feeling like you don't know where to start, pray for clarity of mind, read a short or familiar passage, and hang on God's every revealed word. You will start to make connections, I promise. Actually, God promises.
1My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,And find the knowledge of God. -Proverbs 2