So, here we are at the end of 2019. Which means, for those of us reading the Bible through in a year, we're just coming to the end of Zechariah with Malachi still to go, end of Revelation, finish off the Psalms and Proverbs, before then going back to the beginning on January 1st - Genesis, Matthew, and the beginning of Psalms and Proverbs. I've kept this going for some years now, to the point where leaving the house without reading the Bible is on a par with leaving the house without brushing my teeth, it's just not something I would do. My big regret is that it has taken me so many years to get there. But I'm there now, so I suppose that's the thing I need to hold on to.
Some mornings the words come bouncing off the page. So, when I got to Psalm 131 at the end of November, on the third anniversary of reading it when in Dar es Salaam unable to work whilst waiting for the work permit to come through, it was like meeting up again with an old friend. But I have to be honest, there are other times when reading the Bible in the morning feels like an act of the will, I don't really want to do it, the words are not connecting into sentences let alone paragraphs or thoughts. But I persevere, having learnt not to expect necessarily to find fresh inspiration every day but working towards a solid understanding of the Bible even if it doesn't always feel like that.
Meanwhile, I was playing the organ at church this morning at what is often the quietest Sunday of the church year, between Christmas and New Year. I am even aware of churches which didn't meet at all today. There weren't many people gathered for a service following the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, including two chanted psalms - without, alas, the usual culprits there who can give a clear lead for the singing so that was a bit muted to be honest. The service was quite short, little more than half an hour. But following the liturgy meant that we had a time of confession, we praised God through hymns and psalms, we heard the Bible read and explained, there was a time of prayer.
The small amount of experience I have in churches which do not follow a set liturgy in the way that the Anglican church does lead me to two conclusions. Firstly, that often time there is, in fact, a set format for the conduct of services which is not acknowledged but, to my mind at least, undoubtedly there. The other is that, when churches do deviate from set patterns of worship, it is the exception rather than the rule that what they end up with is better than a set liturgy - which is, after all, the result of a considerable amount of thought and prayer going back centuries.
So, I'm glad I'm an Anglican. This morning's service was roughly equivalent to the mornings when I don't particularly want to read the Bible but nevertheless get on and do so. Yes, there is a price to pay for being part of a large, diverse, long established organisation in terms of achieving a common vision and getting things done in a timely manner. I wouldn't want to use words originating in 1662 every week - which indeed we don't - but appreciate doing so occasionally, speaking to me of the connection we have with Christians down the centuries - and, indeed, across the world. I really like the idea that, even if the sermon doesn't connect, we have read the Bible, prayed and worshipped our Almighty God. Hebrews 13:15 invites us to offer up to God a 'sacrifice of praise' - which, as I understand it, means continuing to praise God, worship Him, follow Him, even when we don't much feel like it. And set routines can really help in achieving this, certainly they help me!
I'm very aware that not all of my readers will agree with what I'm saying here, as always, very interested to hear what you have to say, either by comment or private message. In any eventuality, my thanks for reading and very best wishes for a peaceful, prosperous and purposeful 2020.