Ready Freddy - Salvation Army

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Ready Freddy - Salvation Army

Integrity

Growing Saints

Using Scriptures to nourish your soul

Major BARBARA SAMPSON, former writer of The Salvation

Army’s best-selling book of daily Bible readings and comments,

Words of Life, encourages adopting an imaginative approach to

reading God’s Word

I

remember as a child being given my

first Bible. It was small and squat with

a black cover and tiny printing in the

King James Version.

My ordered mind told me that there

was only one way to read it and that was

from the beginning, chapter by chapter,

right to the end. There was plenty of

colour in the early stories but eventually I

came to Leviticus where I limped my way

through laws and lists. I danced through

the descriptions of Deuteronomy and then

crashed in Chronicles.

Still I read on, trying to cover three

chapters a day – that sounded like a holy

number. If I missed a day, I’d skim through

a double portion the next day. If I missed

several days, I’d feel a kind of despair

about this Bible-reading thing.

Somehow I knew that it needed to

be regular, like medicine, in order to do

my soul good. The prospect of missing

the daily dose was fearsome. Who

knows what thunderbolts might fall on a

neglectful little girl?

Along the way I found some friends.

Promises in the heart of Isaiah (“I have

called you … I will take hold of your

hand … I will keep you and make you

…” Isaiah 42:6), and words of Jesus in the

storm-tossed boat (“It is I; don’t be afraid”

John 6:20), spoke reassurance to me at a

time when my dad left me by dying much

too early, and my childhood world was

suddenly not “happy ever after”.

Seeking God’s direction for my life I

was inspired by the Psalms (“I will instruct

you and teach you in the way you should

go” Psalm 32:8) and the reassurance of

Jeremiah (“I know the plans I have for

you …” Jeremiah 29:11).

Liberating discovery

For years, these and other promises kept

me going. They were road-markers on my

journey that kept me on the straight and

narrow. But daily Bible reading was more

like checking up on familiar friends, rather

than exploring new territory. For seven

years of public ministry I dug deeper to

prepare sermons, food for other people,

but my own personal Bible reading was

a very thin diet, surface and unsatisfying.

And that’s how it seemed to be for ages.

Then I discovered St Ignatius and his

imaginative approach to Bible reading.

“Put yourself in the picture,” he says.

“Imagine you are the person Jesus is

talking to. What does he say to you? What

do you see, hear, taste, touch, smell? How

do you respond? Let this be your prayer.”

Suddenly a world of colour and contrast,

taste and texture, sound and sense opened

up to me.

I’m Zacchaeus, invited down from

my leafy hiding place to take Jesus home

for lunch. Lord, help me to have an open,

Zacchaeus’ heart that welcomes you into

the privacy of my heart’s home.

I’m standing in the home of Simon

– the one who used to be a leper – when

a woman dashes forward and pours

expensive perfume on Jesus’ head. I

hear the reaction of those around me,

the disapproving tut-tuts. “Who does

she think he is? How outrageous! How

wasteful!” But I think, “How amazing,

how brave to offer such an unashamed

display of love.” I envy her spontaneity

and unselfconsciousness. Lord, help me to

love you like that.

I’m Peter’s mother-in-law, steamed up

with annoyance about my impetuous sonin-law

who invites a crowd home for lunch

without even warning me. But I calm

down when his friend Jesus lays a cooling

hand on my forehead and the world stops

spinning. Lord, you know the things that

steam me up. Please lay your hand on me

as I seek your calm.

“Put yourself in the

picture ... imagine

you are the person

Jesus is talking to.

What does he say

to you? What do

you see, hear, taste,

touch, smell? How

do you respond? Let

this be your prayer.”

I’m Thomas after the death of my

dearest friend, my face turned to the wall.

I’ll believe what the others are banging

on the door to tell me, when I see it for

myself. God, you know the things I find

hard to face. Help me to walk towards

them rather than turning away.

I’m next in line after Peter for footwashing.

In anticipating Jesus’ gentle

hands and the cold water on my grimy

feet, I feel a whole range of emotions –

shame, hurt, embarrassment. I should

have washed your feet, Lord, yet how I

long for you to wash mine.

I’m a guest, led every day to a table

prepared for me. Who are the enemies that

sit just back in the shadows? How can I

welcome them to the table?

Scriptural nourishment

What is spread out before me? Who leads

the conversation – Jesus or me? What do

we talk about?

This is one way the Bible nourishes me

now. It touches my every sense, my whole

being in fact.

It asks questions I cannot avoid. It

exposes me in a way I cannot escape. It

takes me deeper, to a meeting place

with God.

In contemplation I gaze at him. In

this way of using the Scriptures to pray,

he gazes at me, gently, probingly, and

asks me the same question he asked of

Bartimaeus, “Barbara, what is it you want

me to do for you?”

Major Barbara Sampson

is Team Leader for the

Officer Support Unit, New

Zealand, Fiji and Tonga

Territory.

St. Ignatius inspires a

“community of the broken”

Every Sunday my husband and

I gather with a group of other

worshippers at a Salvation Army

centre not far from where we live.

It is not a corps but a community

ministry out of which a small

group of worshippers has evolved.

Numbers range from a dozen to 20,

depending on a host of factors –

weather, wellness, willingness.

The beauty of this “corps that

is not a corps” is that there are no

traditions, no set ways of “doing”

worship. There is a lovely openness

and spontaneity among this

“community of the broken”. Their

prayers are gut prayers, real and

ready. Their testimonies of black

to white, lost to found, darkness to

light, are told in stark, unpolished

language. The cup of tea after the

morning service is a time of sharing

and communion in the richest,

widest sense of that word.

Sermons for such a group need

to be real and related to everyday

life. There is no point talking

eschatology or predestination, not

yet anyway. What is needed are the

gospel stories that we can step into

and engage with. Once again St

Ignatius comes to our aid.

We read a story – everyone has

a copy – and bring our questions

to it. What do we see and hear?

What can we smell, touch, taste in

this story? Then we listen to the

questions that the story asks of us.

For example, on a recent Palm

Sunday we read the story of Jesus

riding into Jerusalem (see Mark

11:1-11). We wondered:

* How did Jesus pre-arrange the

transport?

* How did he know what the

reaction would be of people who

saw the disciples untying the colt?

Did he have a saddle?

* How did the colt carry Jesus

peacefully when it had never been

ridden before?

* How did this praising Palm

Sunday crowd turn into an angry

mob baying for murder within just

a few days?

Having wandered round in the

story using all our senses we then

listened to the questions that the

story asks of us:

* Where do we stand in the crowd?

* What cry is on our heart –

“hosanna” or “crucify”?

* What is our response and our

prayer?

Once again I discover, thanks

to Ignatius, that I/we cannot read

a story in this way of using all the

senses and come away unchanged,

unchallenged.

- Major Barbara Sampson

6

pipeline 10/2010 7

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