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.
As a child, I don’t remember ever touching a Bible. We didn’t have one in our home, and we didn’t go to church. The first Bible I purchased was for a religion class in college. I never opened it. You might imagine that I remember nothing about that course. My past 10 years as an Episcopalian have called me to a new set of practices.
Our Book of Common Prayer, as Father Jonah reminded us in a sermon this summer, calls us to do more than touch the Bible or pick it up from time to time as we need reassurance. We are to “read, mark, learn and inwardly digest” the holy Scriptures, to make them part of our very being. That can be overwhelming for adults. How can we awake the yearning already present in our children’s hearts to know God and seek God through the Bible?
We will begin our time in the Atrium this year with a procession Level I catechist Debra Eidson, Level III catechist Molly Reingruber and I learned in our catechesis training this summer. We will “enthrone” the Bible, helping the children see that the Word of God is at the center of our work together and that God is present with us. We will gather the materials we use to beautify our prayer table – a green cloth for the season after Pentecost, the Bible, a statue of the Good Shepherd, a cross, a candle and other items – and we will walk into the Atrium reverently and joyfully praising the Bible as a gift from God. We will prepare our prayer table and place the Bible on a wooden stand to lift it to a place of honor and as a sign of our thanks and praise. We will read from Scripture and sing.
The children will be invited to return to the prayer table when they want to talk to or listen to God or participate in the prayer service that marks each week we spend together. In Level II, for 6- to 9-year-olds, the children will plan the weekly prayer service.
How can you enthrone the Bible in your home?
- Include a Bible reading in bedtime stories.
- Read from the Bible before bedtime prayers.
- Select a Bible passage to read before saying grace at mealtime.
- Discuss the lectionary readings when you share a meal after church on Sunday.
- Make a prayer card with one of your favorite passages. Look it up in the Bible with your child. Encourage him or her to make a prayer card for your family’s prayer table, dining table or bulletin board.
In our catechist training, we are taught, and then reminded, that we are not “teachers.” There is only one teacher – the Holy Spirit. What a gift that is. We don’t need to know the answer to every question a child asks about a Scripture passage.
That message extends to us as parents, too. Our work is to prepare an environment that allows the child to learn from God and to humbly listen to the words of Scripture together.
We can pose open-ended questions: What did you hear? What is Jesus trying to tell us about the Kingdom of God? What did the people think the Messiah might be like? In that conversation, we are reading, marking, learning and inwardly digesting.
And our children are, too, thanks be to God.