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Summary: A sermon for Bible Sunday

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly.”

When I was 14, I took my Religious Studies O Level a year early. That meant I was the last year to do O Level before it became GCSE. It was on Mark’s Gospel and it was a great exam. A third of the marks were for interpretation and two thirds of the marks, 66%, was for retelling the stories. My school worked out that if they made us all learn Mark’s Gospel off by heart, we only needed four more percent to get an A grade. So when I was roughly you guys age [point to the teens] I learnt a large chunk of the bible off by heart. I have never regretted it.

The great fourth century preacher St John Chrysostom says “The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should enclose them in books but that we should engrave them on our hearts”

“The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should shut them in books but that we should engrave them on our hearts”

Many of you will know and love the hymn “Tell out my soul the glory of the Lord”. That’s a version of Mary’s song in Luke Chapter one (Luke 1:46-55). There are many things that are special about that song. It’s the very first praise song in the New Testament - which means for those of you who love praise and worship, Mary is your patron saint. But there’s another thing that is special about it. Although when Mary sings it, it is spontaneous, it is full of Scripture, full of bible. It’s just bursting with quotes and allusions to the Old Testament. How come? Because as a bible-believing Christian Mary had learnt large chunks of the Old Testament off by heart. The words of the Scriptures have become so much a part of her that when she bursts into spontaneous song, without her even having to think about it, those bible words just flow off her lips.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all knew our bibles that well?

“Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly”

“The Holy Scriptures were not given to us that we should shut them in books but that we should engrave them on our hearts”

Now I don’t know about you, but I like a nice glass of wine with my meal. Some Christians like the 12th century Dominican Humbert of Romans, have compared the bible to wine. Humbert says - “Some wines are weak and have no effect on you, but the word of God is strong wine … and it gets you drunk”

“Some wines are weak and have no effect on you, but the word of God is strong wine … and it gets you drunk” The bible is powerful life changing stuff.

For much of the twentieth century the communists banned the bible in Eastern Europe. Even though the Quran says that the bible is one of God’s Holy Books, in many Muslim Countries the bible is banned. Yet, however hard you try it is very hard to ban the bible

Our reading from Nehemiah comes when for three generations the Babylonians had the Israelites in exile and sought to suppress their faith. After 70 years Cyrus the Persian conquered the Babylonians and let the Israelites go home. And here in Nehemiah 8:1-12 they get their bible back- you hear the emotional effect it had on them, first they burst into tears, then they burst into rejoicing because of God’s word.

It’s very hard to ban the bible. As Jesus says “Heaven and earth may pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt 24:35)

Communists tried to ban the bible. Communism fell. The bible is still there.

The bible is powerful life changing stuff.It was said that when the Christian missionaries in Nanking, Japan, gave New Testaments to the Japanese soldiers, one Japanese official came to the missionaries and said, “Please don’t give our men anymore New Testaments, for when they read this book, it takes the fight out of them.” {illustration on this site by Steve Shepperd}

Read the bible and it will change you.

So how should we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly? There are many things we can do, but here are three.

1)read it daily.

Get a bible with nowt taken out - with all the books including the ones some Christians call the apocrypha. Back in AD90 at the council of Jamnia the Pharisees cut certain books out of Old Testament and for historical reasons at the Reformation certain denominations accidentally adopted the Pharisees shorter Old Testament rather than the bible that Jesus and Paul knew. So make sure you get a bible with nowt taken out - with all the books including the Apocrypha.

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