Dear Parish Faithful,
"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." (II TIM. 3:10)
The new topic for this Monday morning is the upcoming Summer Bible Study that will begin on Wednesday evening, following Vespers at 7:00 p.m. Every year I make an effort to "recruit" new members for our Bible study in addition to our core group that for the most part returns on an annual basis. (An interesting line of pursuit would be to examine why our core group continues to return on an annual basis. What is the "draw?"). I am confident that if you find the time and make the effort you will be very glad that you did, and find the over-all experience more than a little satisfying. This year, I would especially like to appeal to those of you who have been in the parish for many years, but have yet to come to the parish Bible Study - some never and some perhaps on a rare occasion. Before you say "I don't do Bible Study," I ask that you think it out a bit first before dismissing the possibility.
To both challenge and inspire everyone, I would like to share a passage from St. John Chrysostom about the great need that Christians have for reading and studying the Scriptures. St. John may have lived in the 4th c. but "life is life" and he understood well some of the reasons - that he, frankly, would dismiss as poor excuses - that we invoke as to why we can't "find the time" for the Scriptures. St. John, of course, was a tireless Scriptural scholar of his day, and his reading and interpretations inform our own understanding of the Scriptures to this day as Orthodox Christians. Be that as it may, here is what St. John said:
Do not let anyone say to me these vain words, worthy of a heavy condemnation, "I cannot leave the courthouse, I administer the business of the city, I practice a craft, I have a wife, I am raising children, I am in charge of a household, I am a man of the world; reading the Scriptures is not for me, but for those who have been set apart, who have settled on the mountaintops, who keep this way of life continuously." What are you saying? That attending to the Scriptures is not for you, since you are surrounded by a multitude of cares? Rather it is for you more than for them. They do not need the help of the divine Scriptures as much as those do who are involved in many occupations ...; but we, as if tossed in the midst of the sea, driven by a multitude of sins, always need the continuous and ceaseless aid of the Scriptures.... For it is not possible, not possible for anyone to be saved without continually taking advantage of spiritual reading. Actually, we must be content, if even with continually use of this therapy, we are barely able to be saved. But when we are struck every day, if we do not use any medical care, what hope do we have of salvation?
Even allowing for St. John's use of his wonderful gift of rhetorical eloquence, his point is well-made and it remains a fair assessment to this day: We ignore the Scriptures at great expense to our spiritual lives. Of course, you can read the Bible on your own. But participating in the Bible Study will commit you to reading through three of the Apostle Paul's wonderful epistles over an extended period of time. This, in turn, could help you form a new practice and begin a new much-needed dimension to your spiritual life that will out-live the extent of the Bible Study. And no one, on his or her own, can possibly come up with so many insightful interpretive points as found in a large group discussion; as well as discuss the application of the Scriptural word to your own life situations. In fact, this summer we will be studying the most "parish-oriented" of St. Paul's epistles. All in all, it's a "no-brainer!" It just demands resolve and commitment - and a desire to be nourished by the living Word of God.
If you have never been to one of our parish Bible Studies; or, if you are newer to the parish and want a more well-rounded experience of the parish - and if circumstances allow it - now is the time to begin. As my mother would tell me when I was reluctant to try a new food: "Try it, you may like it!"
On Wednesday evening, I will provide some background to the Pastoral Epistles of I & II TIM. and TITUS. Then we will begin Ch. 1 of I TIM. There is some excellent background material posted on our parish website from Fr. Thomas Hopko. A possible question to discuss: What is meant by calling these particular epistles, "pastoral?" Also, in Ch. 1, we will read a "confessional passage" from the Apostle Paul: "... that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners." (v . 15) Where do you recognize this from and what does St. Paul mean by this?
I am looking forward to Wednesday evening!
Vespers - 7:00 p.m.
Bible Study in the education center - 7:45 p.m.