For the past 500 years lay persons have been encouraged to search the scripture for guidance and hope.
ELAINE A. HEATH
Circuit Rider Magazine
We rode along in the 1976 Ford pickup making small talk, eating wheat crackers and trying not to cry. The daily trip was two hours to the hospital in Springfield, Missouri, where my father was critically ill. This day it was my turn to drive. Throughout my childhood, both parents were hostile toward the church, having had unpleasant encounters with religious folk. Nonetheless, in their late sixties Jesus won them over. They were both new Christians when I got the call that Dad was sick. Within hours I was on my way.
Mom needed help with Dad in the hospital, and there was work that had to be done around their small farm. As we talked about the challenges that would face them if Dad survived, we got onto the subject of God’s help in times of need. I was driving and Mom was in the passenger seat. Mom asked if there was a passage of scripture that could help. I was still a beginner myself, having just started leading “the group for special ladies.” I pointed to the Bible in my tote bag. It was huge, a black, leather-bound Thompson Chain Reference New International Version with an impressive zippered case. “You can look up words like comfort and help in the back,” I said. “We’ll find something.” All of a sudden Mom looked at me, stricken, the Bible in one hand, her cigarette in the other. “Do you reckon God minds if I smoke while I read the Bible?” she asked. She was serious.
In John Wesley’s terms, Mom wanted to “search the scriptures,” one of the means of grace. We hoped that God might provide guidance and comfort at a time of great uncertainty. In her simple question, Mom raised powerful theological issues: What are the conditions under which a person can “search the scriptures” and encounter therein the living God? What might be obstacles to seeing and hearing God through scripture when we do read the Bible? How does one go about reading the Bible so that scriptures come to mind helpfully when we need them?
Read the rest of the story of how Elaine’s mom grew in God’s Word.