I get the Bible texts for our Sunday chapel services from a list that churches all over the world use. As I was preparing for this Sunday, I created a file of the texts. I started reading to prepare for Sunday.
I got nowhere. I could not make sense of the combination of texts from Isaiah, Matthew, and 1 Corinthians. Asking God for clarity or direction or something didn’t work. All my creative thought leaps were ending up in mud.
So I went back to the calendar. I discovered that I had missed one sentence, one verse. I was looking at 1 Corinthians 1:10-13. I was supposed to include verse 17. And that sentence was the key.
It happens that the sentence was about the gospel, the good news that we don’t have to save ourselves. That we, in fact, cannot be good enough or kind enough or self-sacrificial enough to be friends with God.
Paul says, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” 1 Corinthians 1:17 ESV
It reminded me that sometimes the reason we can’t figure out what God is telling us that we aren’t reading the whole message. We’re skipping parts of the story. Our own notes are inaccurate.
In addition to praying, we probably need to go back and look at the assignment. In addition to working hard to make things make sense, we need to see what was actually said.
Now, I understand that even when we have all the words, when we’re looking at the whole text, understanding still is slow. Like cider, we need to add the ingredients to our mind and hearts and let it mull. We need to seek counsel. We need to quiet our hearts.
But getting the right text is a good start.
A couple years ago I compiled a reader for the church season called Lent which starts March 1. Lent For Non-Lent People is a guide to the 40 days before Easter. I just cleaned up some of the typos to get it ready for this year. A number of people have found it helpful. Perhaps it may help you, too.