“These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
We had our fair share of arguments in the Erlandson household growing up. I remember there were a lot in particular with my twin brother, Danny. These were particularly galling because he would usually win the argument, even if he was wrong and he knew it. There are a lot of examples I could choose from, for example, which one of us first came up with the name Upton Sinclair Lewis Carroll, stringing together 3 interconnecting literary names.
Let the record show that I successfully defended my copyright of this name by demonstrating that I had used it in a novel I wrote in 11th grade, before Danny’s supposed invention of it. (I also invented Elton John Denver Pyle, as well as co-inventing Harold Lloyd George Scott Fitzgerald and Jasper John Henry James Joyce Kilmer).
Another argument was over the name of the person who played Edith on All in the Family: Jean Stapleton or Maureen Stapleton. This was a particularly memorable argument because it was made in the balcony of 1st Presbyterian Church of Babylon during a church service, and the wager was for a silver dollar. I lost the bet (it was Jean Stapleton). I’m not sure if I ever paid up on the bet or not.
We Erlandsons were an argumentative and inquisitive lot, even, especially when it came to games. Certain relatives of mine would change the rules or let them slide to level the playing feel and make everyone feel good. When my Mom played Monopoly as a kid, her siblings and she would race endlessly around Go, accumulating money but not ever obtaining bankrupting monopolies, apparently not realizing that trades could be made. We Erlandsons were revolted by the idea that you should put money on Free Parking and give it to people just for landing there. We knew hyperinflation when we saw it!
Are you a real Monopoly player? Then, of course you’ll know the rule which states quite clearly that, “The owner may not collect rent if he/she fails to ask for it before the second player following throws the dice.” One day, one of our relatives explained to us the possibilities inherent in the game, including jointly owning monopoly sets, the concept of “landing rights,” etc. It was like reading and living Dr. Seuss’ On Beyond Zebra!
I remember the day my brother came home with a book about Monopoly strategy and probability. I still remember that Illinois Ave. is the most landed on property in the game. Why? Because you are perfectly set up to land on it coming out of Jail and because there is a Chance card that says “Go to Illinois Ave.” I learned that the orange set has the highest ROI (return on investment).
By now I hope you’re enjoying my little tangent about the game of Monopoly and how cutthroat the Erlandsons are at playing board games. But I did have a point (even if I was having so much fun reminiscing I almost forgot it!) My point is this: each of us goes to great lengths to enquire or examine the minutiae of things that we care about. It might be board games, it might be video games, or Star Wars trivia, or the intricacies of golf, or how to decorate just right, or how to eek out a few more dollars.We obsess over the things we truly care about.
Here comes the hard part. You knew it was coming. I’ve warned you that I’m a former teacher, and here’s today’s pop quiz: What are the things in life whose details you zealously care about? Be honest: don’t censure your answers.
Now that you’ve got a short list, I want you to make a little comparison: compared to how much attention you care about the intricacies of the things on your list, how much do you care about the details of the Word of God?
The Bereans were more fair-minded than most Christians today, or most Christians in most ages. They received the Word of God with all readiness. This means that their hearts were open to hear God speak and were willing to obey what they heard, once they understood. They were like a parched ground soaking in the rain, or a hungry human devouring a loaf of bread. They searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul had told them was really true. It’s not that they didn’t trust Paul: it’s that they cared so much about such wonderful things that they had to make sure they were true!
Think of the Word of God like you think of food, and you can’t go very wrong. What are your favorite foods? When you eat them, how do you eat them? How do they make you feel? The Word of God is your daily bread, as Jesus Christ comes in it. We are to take the Word of God, place it on our tongues, roll it over, savoring the flavors and attempting to refine our palette as we explore the new sensations.
We are to engage our tongue and teeth and become one with the food as it goes into our bodies and becomes a part of us. Can’t you feel the nourishment and strength that comes from such a hearty engagement with the Word of God?
What I’ve described is very close to what we experience in reading the Bible, if we read it using the ancient method of lectio divina, which I described in my introduction to my Give Us This Day devotions. Our reading is not just a scavenger hunt for random facts so we can win the next game of Bible Trivia. It’s not to be just a study so we know the organization and literary and historical details better. We are to read in such a way that we are not merely informed by the Word of God but formed and even transformed. We are to read slowly, prayerfully, and meditatively.
As an ad for Godfather’s pizza used to say: “Try it – you’ll like it!”
Prayer: Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience, and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace, and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ.
Point for Meditation:
1. Go back and examine your list of things that you care about. Reflect more on the effort you put into the things you’re passionate about. How can you learn from this to be more passionate about the Word of God?
2. Explore different ways of engaging God’s Word. Try something different!
Resolution: I resolve to hungrily and passionately seek Jesus Christ through the Word of God the next time I hear or read it.
© 2014 Fr. Charles Erlandson