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Worship Materials: Bible Sunday

From the Festive Worship collection

THEME            The death of words and the birth of images


  1. Without an overview of the Bible it is very easy to gain an erroneous impression of what the Bible is all about.
  2. Look behind the words to the people.
  3. If all of the Bible is a word from God for us today, then we should reintroduce slavery, sanction genocide as practiced by the Israelites on the Canaanites, support the killing of live animals in religious ceremonies and exalt the victim mentality as a sound psychological practice.
  4. The major theme of the Bible is the experience of love; forgiving love, transforming love, love made flesh in human beings.
  5. Behind the words of scripture there is always the Word made flesh.
  6. It is not how much of the Bible you know but how much of it you understand that really matters.
  7. If the Bible is the final word of God does it mean that God has not spoken for 2000 years?
  8. It is important to understand the Bible with your head but even more important to experience it with your heart.
  9. What the Bible meant to its writers may not necessarily be what the Spirit is now saying to the Church through these words.
  10. To make sense of the Bible today it is necessary to view it in relation to the world view out of which it arose and to contrast this with our current worldview.
  11. When viewed from the differing perspectives of ancient world views and modern world views the Bible at times seems particularly irrelevant. The constant factor however is human beings, their glory, their failures and their developing understanding of God.
  12. To say that every passage from the Bible is what the Spirit is saying to the Church is at best a misguided statement, at worst a deliberately misleading approach to scripture if it is intended to be taken literally.
  13. To move from reading the Bible to praying the Bible is an important step in the Christian spiritual journey.
  14. Deeper than the historicity lies the meaning of the myth.
  15. The value of Biblical Readings in services of worship would be greatly increased if each passage had an explanatory introduction, possibly including how that passage relates to other portions of the Bible especially to the life of Christ.
  16. Behind the words the stories; Behind the stories the images; Behind the images the mystery.
  17. God is present in all things but supremely in the mystery.
  18. The symbol stands at the point of intersection of the known and of the mystery.
  19. When the words break the truth emerges.
  20. Words can never capture mystery – they can only point to it.
  21. Christian hymnody speaks of at least four books which we should read in order to encounter God: 1. The book of sacred stories (The Bible and the stories of the pilgrims) 2. The book of nature. 3. The book of the continuing Presence of God. 4. The book of the Inner Christ.
  22. Without the symbolic image we are the prisoner of the literal interpretation of the words. It is only imagination and silence that can free us from the tyranny of words.
  23. An empowering way to read the stories of the Bible is to ask in what ways do I embody all of the characters in this particular story.
  24. The wonder of the Bible is that it is about ordinary people, not perfect ones.
  25. Sermons become alive when the words evoke images and the images access life, the life we all share, exemplified in the life of Christ.
  26. Within the history of Western Civilization there is probably no person who has been more widely misunderstood and misrepresented than Jesus of Nazareth.
  27. It has been said that we see in other people what we want to find in them and that Jesus is no exception.
  28. To fully receive the word of God we must not only hear it in our own tongue but also within the context of our own culture.



  1. O God when the words of scripture clutter our brains, help us to turn to the stories and when the stories fail to touch our hearts, help us to move beyond the analysis of the surface to the interplay of the known and the unknown, through the medium of the symbol.


    Awaken my imagination and devotion, O God, so that as I read the words of scripture the people, events and teachings may spring to life and enable me to meet you face to face.


    Holy Spirit, as I reflect on these words, give me the understanding to translate them into the setting of today’s world and the courage to live them out in the circumstances of my own life.


  1. O God, the mystery beyond all words, as we read the Scriptures help us to discriminate between what reflects your wisdom and what simply records the inadequate under­standings and destructive behavior of human beings.



Sowing limits what we harvest. (BL)

We need a cross. (BL)

What can the prophet Jesus teach us. (BL)

Behind the world of images. (BL)

In the world of nature’s weaving. (BL)

How liberated are those. (BL)  (Chant Paraphrase of the Beatitudes)

God of Sky and God of Earth. (BL)  (Modern Lord’s Prayer)

My spirit shall rejoice. (BL)  (Paraphrase of the Magnificat)

How happy are those. (BL)  (Hymn Paraphrase of the Beatitudes)


Of the multitude of words.

Come let us dwell in that place.


The Way of Life, Reflections on the Words of Jesus.(STS1)

God is beyond all words. (STS1)

As we give we shall receive. (STS1)

O God of Earth and God of Sky. (STS1)

What is the pattern. (Modern Ten Commandments (STS1)

The last shall be first. (STS2) (Sayings of Jesus)

Singing the Sacred Vol 1 2011, Vol 2 2014 World Library Publications



If you want to be happy. (SYSJ)

Which code can assist us? (Modern Ten Commandments) (SYSJ)

Great life-force, God of all nurture. (Modern Lord’s Prayer) (SYSJ)




To our poverty you bring your word of hope,

To our wealth you bring your word of warning,

To our loneliness your word of belonging,

To our pride your word of judgement,

To our strength your servant Way,

To our weakness you bring your power.



Perhaps the most fundamental distinction in the understanding, of language is between language used as sign i.e. pointing directly to a surface reality and language as a metaphor, symbol, myth, pointing to something deeper than the surface. Without this awareness all language whether written or spoken can become very confusing. It is only this second use of language that is capable of conveying something of the depth of spirituality.



While the preacher assiduously labored

to catch both God

and congregation in his word cage

Christ crept into the aisle as a small child

making a cross with kneelers.



Within the words of Scripture

I find the Inner Word,

The Christ,

The one who is the key,

The one who is the scales

In which I weigh

All other words.

Some words are rich with meaning

Others, like fools gold,

Sparkle but are devoid of real value.

Some are history viewed through the mythic mind-

Some are songs to a vengeful God‑

Some are stories of oppression

Cast in the simplicity of victor and vanquished.

But all can be measured

Against the Way of Christ.

All have lessons

Of what to do and what not to do,

Of what to believe in and what not to believe,

All reveal our inner selves

So we see

The oppressed and the oppressor,

The wise one and the fool,

The solemn and the clown,

The lover and the betrayer.

For we are the devout and lusty David,

The Pharisee and the Publican,

The Mary and the Martha,

The mystic John and the intellectual Paul,

We are the Judas and the Good Samaritan,

The fruitless fig tree and the tree of life.

We are the dying and the rising,

The lover and the beloved.

We are part of the mystery beyond all names

Made in the image of God.

So for me in the sacred book

There is the wonder of life and death

The wisdom of the simple and the complex.

And everywhere, when I allow myself,

I can see the ever-loving, ever-radiant Christ

In the faces of the many.



How shall the tree live without roots?

How shall the words live unless they are immersed in the soil of

their deeper meaning?

Help me O God to journey into the depths,

To look behind a Hebrew centered view of History,

To look behind the pre-scientific mind,

To look beyond the God of armies,

The God of Sacrifice,

The God of Ransom,

The God of the ‘chosen’ exclusive few

And to see the inclusive Christ

in whom male and female,

oppressed and oppressor,

rich and poor,

learned and simple,

pious and profane are one.

To see not just the individualized branches

and leaves of the ethical, political and ideological

diversity of human beings

But also the one soil in which we are all rooted

and grounded;

The common human experiences

and the sense of amazement and awe

which in a multitude of ways

these experiences generate.

So let us look behind the history to the stories

and in the sharing of stories find our diverse oneness.



  1. If the way to wisdom lies less in the surface meaning of words than in a dynamic interaction with their depth through the medium of symbol, what effect should this have on the way I read the Bible?
  2. In what way could I involve my intuition, my dreaming, my playfulness and my creativity in my reading of the Bible?

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Text and image © William Livingstone Wallace but available for free use.



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