(Editor's Note: Beginning Jan. 3, a quick link to the Bishop's scriptural reading web page is on the top left corner of the home page (www.flumc2.org): Bishop's Weekly Scripture Reading 2014.)
According to the Book of Discipline (2012), "The role of the bishop is to faithfully practice, model and lead the spiritual disciplines of our faith and to call and inspire the clergy and laity within the Church to practice the Christian disciplines in their individual lives through the tradition of personal holiness"(403.a).
As we enter into a new calendar year, I invite you to join me in this particular spiritual practice.
1. We will read a chapter of Luke, and then Acts, through the 2014 year, one chapter per week. There are 24 chapters in Luke and 28 chapters in Acts; this will take us through 52 weeks of the year. This will also allow us to spend more time, and to go in greater depth, with the scriptures. In the fall our cabinet met with Luke Timothy Johnson, a noted biblical scholar at Emory University. He remarked that the books of Luke and Acts were never intended to be read separately. He further stated that the life of Jesus and the life of the church cannot be understood apart from each other. While many in our culture wish to separate Jesus from the church ("They like Jesus, but not the church!"), this is not an option for those who take the Bible seriously. Luke faithfully reported on the life and ministry of Jesus, and how this life and ministry continued in the early church. We can read Luke and Acts within the framework of how the life and ministry of Jesus is among us to this day, and as a blueprint for what it means to make disciples for the transformation of the world.
If you undertake this spiritual practice, I invite you to begin with Luke 1 on January 5, Luke 2 on January 12, Luke 3 on January 19, and onward. We will note on our conference website the chapter being read each week. You might invite your persons attending worship on January 5 to consider this new beginning.
2. I want to ask you to invite one person to experience this spiritual practice with you. This person might be someone in your church or a friend in your community. We have talked a great deal about relationships across the generations and across racial divisions; you might seek out someone who has a different life experience than yours. If you read the scripture with another person, you might meet every week, or every other week, to talk about what God is saying to you through this exercise. Some of us are in covenant groups, Sunday School classes, life groups, or ongoing Bible Studies. You may certainly use this plan in those existing relationships. Some of you already have a spiritual plan for the coming year, and if so that is wonderful. This is intended for those who are seeking a more disciplined method (we are called "Methodists") for growing in our relationships with Christ and each other. And if this sparks your imagination in some way, feel free to adapt it as the Holy Spirit leads you.
Note: I will likely read the chapter each week in the NRSV, the Message and the CEB. Many churches also use the NIV and the NLT, and all of these translations are wonderful. There are a number of commentaries on Luke and Acts and I will leave those resources to you, if you wish a deeper background. I plan to journal once or twice a week. Additional resources will be placed on the conference website, and the annual conference themes will be taken from Luke and Acts.
I am trying to keep this simple. The renewal of the church has always arisen from a fresh and disciplined engagement with the scriptures. I pray that God will use our devotional lives in 2014 to bless the church, each other and the communities of Florida.