Eat this Book!

Published 12:20 pm Saturday, February 13, 2016

by Andrew Book

This week marks the beginning of the season of life in the church that we call Lent. Lent is a 40-day time of preparation for Easter in which we are invited to fasting, reflecting and living life intentionally in ways that are geared toward pointing our hearts to God.

Traditionally, we “give up” something like sweets or meat, but what we “give up” only matters if it is accompanied by using the space created by stepping away from those treats to focus our attention on God. I hope you will consider giving up something for Lent (Giving up social media, a TV show, a game on your phone, or something similar are good options because giving up those things frees up time to focus on God). As you consider what to give up, create space to add something back into your life which will help you redirect your energy toward pursuing God.

When we gather for worship at Courtland United Methodist Church during the season of Lent, we will be focusing our worship times around the theme, “Eat this Book.” The book we are referring to is the Bible, and the idea of “eating” the Bible is one that is rooted in Scripture itself. The prophets Ezekiel and Jeremiah were both instructed by God to “eat” the words of Scripture. The Apostle John received a similar command in the book of Revelation. These three were all exemplary people of faith. The call of God on their life to “eat” Scripture has nothing to do with chewing on paper, but everything to do with challenging us to rethink how we approach reading the Bible.

Most Christians would say that reading the Bible is “important.” We understand that the Bible is the “Word of God,” and claim (sometimes very loudly) that the Bible is Truth with a capital “T.” We go to extreme lengths to argue that the Bible matters, but at the same time we often don’t know what to do with the words of Scripture when we read them. This is where the idea of “eating” gives us a good picture for God wants to happen when we sit down with the Bible. God wants these words to enter every part of our body.

God wants us to take the words of Scripture inside our souls as well as our mind, and God wants us to incorporate Scripture into the fabric of our being in the same way as the food we eat is processed and transformed into the tissue of our muscles and bones. Scripture can be as central to who we are as physical food is to our bodies, but that only happens when we are intentional about “eating” Scripture and not just reading it.

There are many ways to “read” Scripture, but not all of them will feed our souls. I long for each of us to get to a place where we can sit down with the Bible and feast on the Word of God in a way that shapes us and becomes a part of who we are. There are tools we can use to help us eat Scripture, and those tools show us ways of reading which are not always our first inclination for what we do when we read the Bible!

The place we must all start is both simple (in concept) and difficult to do. We need to open our ears and our hearts to come to Scripture with the willingness to learn what God wants to speak to us. We often come to Scripture with questions we want it to answer or ideas we want Scripture to confirm. We can easily get so focused on what we think Scripture should be telling us that we miss what God actually wants to say! So, as you enter the season of Lent, begin the process of setting aside what you want Scripture to be, to say, or to confirm and say to God, “here I am to listen.”

Jesus, after he taught, often declared, “let the one who has ears to hear listen” because he recognized that we can hear (or read) words without actually listening to them. It can be hard work to open ourselves to listen, but it is rewarding work — it is the work of eating Scripture — and it has the power to change you into a person who has the Word of God knit into your very soul.

During Lent, the congregation at Courtland United Methodist Church will be reading through the Gospel of John and I would like to invite you to join us. There will be a daily reading plan accompanying my column in the paper each Sunday with some suggestions for how you can best open your ears to listen to what God is saying. If you can read each day’s passage slowly and gently with no agenda other than simply listening to God, you will be able to get Scripture inside you. If you do not have a church home, consider joining us for worship Sundays at 11 (22416 Main St., Courtland) as we unpack the idea of eating Scripture, beginning this week with answering the basic question: “Why We Read.” Whether you join us in worship or read along with us in John, I look forward to joining you in the journey of Lent, and I look forward to how the word of God will transform us!!

Reading Plan for the Book of John

• Sunday, Feb. 14 – John 1:1-18
• Monday, Feb. 15 – John 1:19-51
• Tuesday, Feb. 16 – John 2
• Wednesday, Feb. 17 – John 3
• Thursday, Feb. 18 – John 4:1-26
• Friday, Feb. 19 – John 4:27-54
• Saturday, Feb. 20 – John 5:1-30
• Sunday, Feb. 21 – John 5:31-47
• Monday, Feb. 22 – John 6:1-25
• Tuesday, Feb. 23 – John 6:26-71
• Wednesday, Feb. 24 – John 7:1-24
• Thursday, Feb. 25 – John 7:25-52
• Friday, Feb. 26 – John 8:1-30
• Saturday, Feb. 27 – John 8:31-59
• Sunday, Feb. 28 – John 9
• Monday, Feb. 29 – John 10
• Tuesday, March 1 – John 11:1-37
• Wednesday, March 2 – John 11:38-57
• Thursday, March 3 – John 12
• Friday, March 4 – John 13
• Saturday, March 5 – John 14
• Sunday, March 6 – John 15
• Sunday, March 7 – John 16
• Tuesday, March 8 – John 17
• Wednesday, March 9 – John 18
• Thursday, March 10 – John 19
• Friday, March 11 – John 20
• Saturday, March 12 – John 21
• Sunday, March 13 – Luke 19
• Monday, March 14 – Luke 20
• Tuesday, March 15 – Luke 21
• Wednesday, March 16 – Luke 22:1-6
• Thursday, March 17 – Luke 22:7-71
• Friday, March 18 – Luke 23
• Saturday, March 19 – No reading. Be still.

Eat this Book!
Tips for reading:
• Before you read, set aside any “goals” you have for reading and open yourself to what God might want to say to you. Offer this simple prayer: “Lord, here I am to listen. Speak to me your words of life!”
• Plan time in your day to read. The readings are not long, so 10-15 minutes is sufficient, but 20 minutes will give you more time to reflect and chew on the words you read.
• As you read, do not rush. It is better to sit with a single verse of scripture for five minutes (if that is all the time you have!) than to rush to “finish” the reading.
• Handle the scripture gently. Don’t force it to mean something you want it to say. Instead, simply listen.
• As you read the passage, make a note of any verses that stand out to you. Come back and re-read these verses a few times. “Chew on” these passages by meditating on what they mean and savor what they are saying!
• Pray the text. Read it to God and lift to God in prayer those people and situations that come to mind as you read.
• Live the text. As you meditate on scripture, ask “how does this shape my life?” Consider what actions God is inviting you to take in response to these words.
May God fill you and change you as you eat this book!

ANDREW BOOK is the pastor of Courtland United Methodist Church. You may contact him at