I have just enjoyed one of the most remarkable and rewarding months of my life.
With the help of some long-suffering friends and wonderful work colleagues, who have joined me on and off over various days, I have read through the Bible across the month of April at every mainland parish in the Sydney Diocese, a few of our retirement villages and two of our theological colleges.
It has been satisfying to accomplish the challenge but that’s not why it has been one of the most sensational seasons of my life. Rather, it has been the people we have met and who have joined us to share in reading chapters of the Bible at each location.
It’s hard to narrow down the number of encounters, stories and incidents into a top ten or top five. I have met so many wonderful brothers and sisters in Christ who have encouraged me with their participation in reading God’s word, their perseverance in the faith and the warmth of their hospitality.
But here’s a random selection:
Bible Reading Location 42
With friends Ron and Marc we were visiting the parishes at the southern end of the Diocese on April 7. We had a thirty-minute drive from Huskisson to Sussex Inlet but five km from the Sussex turnoff we came to an abrupt halt on the highway. It was dusk and I could see brakelights and taillights stretching before me for a great distance. Minutes ticked by and we heard on the local news that a major accident ahead had closed the highway in both directions for hours. Injured motorists were being airlifted out. We would never make it on time, so figuring we were geographically inside the parish boundaries we rang ahead and contacted a parishioner, retired clergyman Phillip Oliver, and the four of us read the Bible on speakerphone and prayed. The closest we came to not reading in every parish and the Flawless Bible Tour extreme challenge falling over!
Bible Reading Location 133
On April 16 I arrived at 7am at Campsie Anglican. Ten local parishioners arrived including the Mandarin speaking pastor, Stephen Tan. Seven of the ten were Mandarin speaking with little or no English. We had scheduled to read Hosea Chapters 1 to 8. After I read Chapter One in English, Stephen read in Mandarin. Then I tried to explain why God had told Hosea to marry a prostitute and Stephen explained it in Mandarin. We were then out of time and I realised I had to be more flexible in the amount of Bible to read at each hour.
Bible Reading Location 171
The foul weather struck in the week of April 20 to 27. On Tuesday 26 the schedule was to read from Berowra to St Ives, 13 parishes from 7am to 7pm. Fallen trees, closed roads and torrential rain had to be navigated throughout the day. Daniel Willis and I arrived at Berowra a few minutes before 7am in howling wind and rain. I thought nobody would show in this weather (I would have stayed in bed if I could have) but ten eager Bible readers were there, shaming my secret thoughts and encouraging my heart!
Bible Reading Location 212
Later that week the weather eased temporarily (the calm before the Anzac Day storm – thankfully a rest day!) Ron and I were working our way through the parishes in the St George area. At 11am we arrived at Oatley Anglican to a sumptuous morning tea, again with about ten locals. After our Bible readings I spoke about Anglican Aid’s Chappo and Hope Partnership to raise funds for bursaries to train young men and women at Bible colleges and schools across Africa. A senior saint, Doreen, shared with us that she lived in the same street as John Chapman from the 1930’s. When he was a Teachers College student (somewhere between 1948 and 1951) she recalls him walking home each evening from Oatley Railway Station past her house to his. He would be singing, in full voice, some Gilbert and Sullivan, or a range of hymns. Doreen remembers that as she heard the words of those great old hymns about God’s glory, Jesus death and resurrection and the call to trust and obey, she was awakened to her need to be right with God!
Every word of God is flawless. The gospel of God is the power of God to rescue from the awful reality of hell to the awesome reality of heaven.
Read it. Revere it. Revel in it. Rejoice. In Colossians 3:16 we read:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God.