Unlocking Sacred Texts
Science fiction fans of all ages are excited for this coming Sunday’s premier of the next installment of the Star Trek franchise: “Star Trek: Discovery.” It’s hard to imagine that it all began 50 years ago this month when Captain Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy first started traveling the galaxy, going “where no one has gone before.”
Star Trek was my favorite TV show as a kid, and I’ve grown up with the many subsequent series and movies. One of the episodes I remember from that original series involved a planet where one of the countries had built their society on a sacred document, left behind by a visitor from a distant planet years before. It was kept safe in a sealed box to which only a few leaders had access, and they were more interested in keeping it safe and locked away, instead of available to all to be shared and studied. In the closing scene of the episode, Kirk opens the box to the horror of the Keepers of the Sacred Writings. Then he reads from them in his trademark—Shat—Ner—Esqe style, and when he says the opening words of the document, “We the People,” it’s revealed that this sacred text is none other than the United States Constitution. He then gives a very impassioned (and a little more than slightly awkward) reading of the Preamble. If you haven’t had a dose of campy, 60’s sci-fi for a while, you can watch the scene here.
As ridiculous as the premise of the episode may seem, I wonder if we don’t treat our Bibles the way the Keepers treated their sacred writings. We rightfully gild the Gospel Book and enshrine it on the Holy Table in the church. But we open it, read from it, and at every Divine Liturgy a sermon is preached in which we are challenged to live the Truth contained in that reading.
Then we go home, and for too many of us, we won’t hear Holy Scripture again until the following Sunday. What missed opportunities we give up when we do that! The Bible is the written record of God’s message, addressed to us all. In Holy Scripture, God is talking. And when we open them, read and listen, we are immeasurably blessed. Too often God seems to us to be distant, mysterious, and unknown. And yet in the Scriptures, God can be seen as the God who is immanently close, and who is revealed to us as the Lover of Mankind. It’s only in our modern day that each person has access to their own copy of the Bible. We could—and should—take advantage of this priceless gift!
Many people tell me they would read the Bible more but too often when they read they don’t understand it. My response is usually two-fold. First, keep reading. Don’t worry about not getting the meaning of every verse, chapter or even book. Just keep reading. Holy Scripture works on us in ways we understand, and ways we don’t. So if I could pull it off, I’d do my best William Shatner and say: Just. Keep. Reading.
The second thing I say is: If you want to understand the Bible better, don’t just read, study the Bible. Read the footnotes. Buy a book explaining what the various books mean, many of which are sold in our St. Nicholas Bookstore. And, yes, when your priest offers a Bible Study, go! Our Wednesday Family Nights begin with Dinner provided at 6 PM and Bible Studies for Adults and Teens at 7 PM. We’ll even have something for the kids younger than teens.
Let’s not keep His message to us locked in a box that we either don’t open, or open so rarely as to not understand and know He who in the Holy Scriptures is speaking to us. We hope we’ll see you tonight or in upcoming weeks, when we gathe
r together, open our Bibles, and hear God speak. He speaks to our dreams, He speaks to our fears, and He speaks to our minds, and He speaks to our hearts. Let’s just be sure we’re listening.