If you’re only going to read one book this summer …

The weather’s meant to be good! Almost all of us will take some time off for a holiday, we’ll read all sorts of books, stories, magazines – my challenge to you, each and everyone of you, and to your friends and families (and also to myself) is to read the New Testament this summer!

It’s about 250 pages. Most of it’s an easy read. It’s only the middle of the book of Revelation where one needs some background and interpretation to understand what’s going on – so maybe skip chapters 7 to18 and get to the end (you can always go back and look at them some time afterwards with the help of a commentary).

Why not read it as a novel? It’s the right sort of length. It’s true certainly, that we could read a few verses and think about them and discuss them for hours, but first, or for once, why not just read it through quickly. Get the gist of it; get in to it; get excited about what’s happening, what’s going to happen.

Why don’t people want to read the Bible ? We read all sort of books. We talk about them to each other. We get interested in fictional characters. We like historical novels. Why not get interested in the characters of the New Testament – in Jesus, in Judas, in Peter and Paul. Why not get interested in their lives, in their inter-relationships, in their world-view!

The New Testament is split into 27 sections or books. The 1st four books are the Gospels, each featuring the main character of the book – Jesus – like four portraits: each slightly different, but of the same person and events. We then have the Acts of the Apostles. It’s the 2nd part of Luke’s Gospel and gives an account of the early Church. The first 8 chapters are about a number of people, but from chapter 9 it becomes predominantly about Paul, and from chapter 16 it becomes an eye witness account (with Luke from then on referring to we rather than they).

We then have the letters of Paul and then the letters of a few other of the early Christians (including Peter and John) sent to churches or in a few cases individuals. Then at the very end of the New Testament we have the book of Revelation. This is the account of a vision, or visions, and is very different in style to the rest of the New Testament, but having said that, the first 6 chapters and last 4 are straightforward to read (although the content is profound).

So… ! if we just think of the New Testament as being just like any other book it’s clearly a good read and I for one, would certainly recommend it. It’s both a challenging book and a comforting book. It’s about real people in a period of history and there’s lots of action and conflict, love and tragedy, and numerous one-liners to quote!

However, if this were not enough, for us as Christians the New Testament is Oh, so much more! It’s about God and truth and ultimate reality, revealed to us by Jesus Christ – He who came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all. Further, it gives us an introduction and God-given interpretation and commentary on the writings of the Old Testament.

We sometimes hear that the Bible is out-of-date and not relevant anymore, but this is demonstrably untrue. Jesus Christ and the New Testament still challenge us today, just like in the past. If you doubt it, just read the 30 pages or so of Matthew’s Gospel – or, even just the 6 or 7 pages of Matthew chapters 5-7 (the Sermon on the Mount); Matthew 23 (Jesus’s vitriolic attack on hypocrites); and Matthew 25 (two illustrations and a prophecy).

The New Testament doesn’t just challenge us though; it does much more. There’s drama, wise teaching and much to inspire and comfort us.

Let’s read it this summer! If you find the language difficult, just go into Wesley Owen or the Christian Book Shop at Pratts Bottom and buy a new one – choose one you like.

And let’s talk about it! What’s our favourite part? What did we find most relevant? Which bit challenged us most? What inspired us? What was comforting? What’s our favourite verse? What did we find difficult? What would we like to look into further? I didn’t like this part! Why did this bit happen? Where’s the sequel? What happens next?

If we all read the New Testament over the Summer, I guarantee we’ll have a lively and rewarding Autumn! If you don’t, the question you will have to ask yourself is why didn’t you? Think now seriously for a moment – what excuse or reason can you give !

For those of you going away before the school holidays, enjoy your holiday. And let’s all of us enjoy the promised good weather and the good humour which often goes with it. But let’s also this summer make sure that we take that book away with us (or read it first at home before we go away) – that marvellous read, the book everyone will be talking about! – the New Testament!

And my prayer is that God will speak to you, bless you, and be with you.
With my best wishes for the Summer