During Lent and Eastertide, I encourage you to be part of the Good Book Club, a special venture of The Episcopal Church to read the Gospel according to Saint Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Learn more at www.GoodBookClub.org. Together, these two books make up about 25% of the New Testament, and they tell the story of Jesus and birth of the early Church.
At Christ Church, the Good Book Club will be a cafeteria offering: there are several selections to choose from. Some people will want to do more and dig deeper. Some have less time or interest and cannot participate as much. Pick what works for you.
The heart of the Good Book Club is the attached reading list. Put the paper reading list in your Bible or go to http://www.goodbookclub.org/readings/ to download a PDF copy or look at the bottom of the page. That page also has digital links to each day’s reading in an on-line Bible browser. Most days’ readings are relatively short – about 30 verses – and you can read them in about fifteen minutes or less. We’ll start with Luke 1:1-56 on Sunday, 11 February, and end with Acts 27:13-28:44 on Sunday, 20 May, the Feast of Pentecost. This pattern of daily reading is what links all of the Good Book Club offerings together. Start here.
(Do you need a Bible? I’m giving away copies of several different translations on a table in the Parish Hall. Take a look, find a translation that you like, and help yourself. If this is your first attempt to read the Bible methodically and systematically, I encourage you to use a translation other than the King James Version. The KJV is beautiful but it is not particularly accessible to a modern reader. You will be absorbed into the reading more quickly and understand what you are reading more easily if you use a more contemporary translation, such as the NRSV (the translation we use each Sunday in church) or the NIV.)
I offer these tips from the Bible Reading Challenge, a program from the Center for Biblical Studies:
- Because the Bible is not a newspaper, it is best to read it with a reverent spirit. We advocate a devotional approach to reading the Bible, rather than reading it as a purely intellectual or academic exercise. We encourage you to begin each session by putting yourself in the presence of God as you start to read. (I like using the prayer at the end of this handout each time I read. Christopher+)
- We like the ancient monastic practice of lectio divina, where you read the text, meditate on a portion of it, then offer a prayer to God and listen in silence for God to respond. We therefore encourage all readers to read the Bible prayerfully.
- We encourage you to read in the morning . . . so that your prayerful reading will spiritually enliven the rest of your day. If you cannot read in the morning, read when you can later in the day, especially if you can carve out a regular time for your reading.
Want more? Dig a little deeper, and add one or more of these to your daily reading.
Forward Day by Day, those little devotional booklets available in the church narthex (entryway), will follow the same reading pattern as the Good Book Club from 11 February to 20 May. Each day’s page lists that day’s Good Book Club verses to read, quotes one or two verses, adds a brief reflection, and gives you a “Moving Forward” pointer, a suggestion on how to apply what you have just read and thought about.
Forward Day by Day offers these same daily devotionals as a free daily e-mail subscription. Find the link at http://www.goodbookclub.org/resources/. (This subscription is free during the Good Book Club. To continue to receive the e-mails after the Good Book Club ends, there’s a $10 annual fee.)
The Center for Biblical Studies offers two books, A Journey with Luke and A Journey through Acts. For each day of the program, these books include the full Bible reading (so no need to look it up in your Bible), a reflection (somewhat longer than those in Forward Day by Day, and written by a variety of authors), two or three questions for reflection, a brief prayer, and space for jotting down your own thoughts. There books will be useful if you want the Good Book Club (including Bible verses) in one handy volume, and could be used as a family or couples devotion each day or shared with a friend or accountability partner. Each book is $15 in paper on Amazon or from Forward Movement, or $9.99 for Amazon Kindle.
Adult forum on Sundays. Each Sunday, beginning on 18 February and ending on 20 May, I’ll offer a Bible study class in the Parish Hall beginning about 11:30, after the 10 a.m. worship service ends. Each week we’ll dig into part of the readings for the past week or in the upcoming week, using materials prepared by a Biblical scholar for the Good Book Club. I’ll have some prepared remarks, we’ll share some reading, and there will be time for discussion. Please join us. You’ll get the most out of each session if you have read each day (or caught up on Saturday), but you can still enjoy each session even if you didn’t read that week. (We’ll take a break from this teaching series on Palm Sunday (25 March), Easter Sunday (1 April), and for our annual meeting (15 April).)
Friday nights, 16 February – 23 March. After our Friday evening Stations of the Cross (6 pm) and simple bread and soup suppers (6:30-7:15 pm), we will gather in the Parish Hall to watch a portion of Luke or Acts from the Visual Bible (a movie dramatization based on the Scriptures, word for word), and close with a brief discussion and prayer.
Our Thursday Bible Fellowship plans to do a study on Luke (beginning on 22 February), following roughly the same schedule and pattern as the Good Book Club, but drawing on other resources and commentaries. Join the group each Thursday morning at 10:30 a.m. in the Parish Hall.
The United Thank Offering has joined with the Good Book Club and produced Mission of Gratitude, their own weekly meditations, questions for discussion, and gratitude journal. Mission of Gratitude is based on the Good Book Club Bible readings, but it takes the reflections and applications in a different direction. Download free at
https://www.episcopalchurch.org/library/document/mission-gratitude-united-thank-offering-and-good-book-club-weekly-meditations. Mission of Gratitude is a great resource for personal study, journaling, or family or small group devotions.
What if none of these options work with your schedule or sound good to you? Please let me know. I’m happy to set up a group that could meet at another time – perhaps over breakfast or lunch one day each week, or on a weekday evening. We could work with the same materials as Sunday morning or one of the devotional booklets listed above.
You can do the Good Book Club alone, but you will have more fun and you are more likely to stick with it if you partner with someone else, for accountability, mutual encouragement, and sharing the joy of discovery. Plan now to participate in one of the group offerings. Ask your spouse or a friend to read along with you, and spend a few minutes each day talking about the reflection questions. This is a perfect opportunity to invite a neighbor, a friend at work or school, or someone you commute with to join you on this pilgrimage (and they don’t have to be part of Christ Church!). Your reading companions are very welcome to join us on Friday evenings or at the Sunday morning forums, or for any other part of the program. Cell phones, social media, and other technology tools make it easy to share with a friend or family member who lives far away. Buddy up!
No matter what you do to participate in the Good Book Club, I want to encourage you, support you, and pray for you. Please give me a call or text me (540-471-7445) or send me an e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let me know your plans.
Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:
Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace
and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior
Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.