Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The Public Reading of Scripture

Sunday saw me up in the hills at the Moniack Mhor Writing Centre.  I had been lured there on the promise of writing poetry and exploring different poetry forms. The theme was “family” – not necessarily said with an Eastenders’ accent. I am a part of a family that expands often and shrinks occasionally. My own little branch is not really expanding apart from waist-wise.

The first prompt was to choose an object and use it as a prompt to describe a family member. Jewellery scored highly when describing mothers and grandmothers.  There were also pianos, fishing rods, teddy bears and false teeth.  For me there was a veritable mine of possibilities – but what to choose? I wish I had written about my brother’s urn resting on a shelf in a pub in Fuengirola in Spain. It might have made for a better poem than the one I did of my husband’s green dressing grown. I’m sure I have commented that I don’t do poems to order.  I’m never that creative on the day.

The second prompt caught my imagination.  This time it was about an activity we did as a child that we shared with an adult. Memories of playing endless games of rounders in the field at the back of the house came to mind. My mother was a child magnet. She was everyone favourite mother. The parents should have paid her for keeping their children occupied and entertained during long summer evenings. Two ever growing teams met to field or to bat. Children abandoned bikes, slides and climbing frames to join in.

I was never a sporty person. If awards could be given for trying hard I would have won a cupboard full of them. I just didn’t have the coordination.  The bat never met the ball.  There was no satisfying "thwack" as the ball sailed high and long.  No one had to chase after anything. I was rarely quick enough to drop the bat and make it to first base. As the looser I was told to join the fielders. I couldn’t catch balls either.  I wasn’t an asset to any side.

I wrote the poem, but was in the reading of it that it came to life. So much emotion was poured into such a few words! Did I really resent the other kids that joined the game?  Did I really feel that insecure that my mum might have preferred another, more athletic child, to me? I wasn’t the most secure child, nor indeed am I the most secure adult!

We commented about the reading of poetry. It was nice to hear different people reading poems. Among us there were different voices, different accents, different speeds of reading and a different imagining of what was happening in the poems and how they affected us. We bring our own baggage with us and can make connections, or not.

Reading out loud is a powerful thing when it’s done right.

“Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching.” 1 Timothy 4:13

I am reminded of Ezra’s public reading of God’s book of Law and the impact it had on people. It mattered who did the reading, I think.  It wasn’t like an actor delivering the well-rehearsed lines of a play. Ezra read words of life, words that he lived by, words that he knew were transformational, God’s own words spoken reverently. It mattered that every word was clearly spoken, nothing mumbled or fumbled.

Sometimes scripture doesn’t need to be picked apart. Sometimes in the picking apart we slip in our own truth, or we soften it, or dilute it, or tell it a hundred different ways in the hope that someone understands it. We talk to the brain and the reasoning in a person, when sometimes all we need to do is talk to the heart and the spirit.

“...the public reading of Scripture” – God’s word without the spin. And the Holy Spirit indwelling to explain it to our heart. I think we ought to have “a public reading of scripture” revival and see what happens to us all.

I’m up for it.  Are you with me?

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