The word “study” undoubtedly has different connotations for many people; some will be positive, some less so. But within the context of faith, it introduces something that is critically important. When the Methodist Training College opened its’ doors for the first time in 1960, and the Rev Cyril Alcorn was looking for a College motto, he chose 2 Timothy 2:15 in the King James Version: “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. More recent versions begin with “Do your best” rather than “study”, but the intent is the same. If we are to be serious about our discipleship, then we need to be diligent and intentional in our approach.
But here we need to be clear that we are not talking about study for study’s sake; the fact that “study” is linked with “meditation” is important. These two dimensions go together absolutely; as Johnson wrote, “Bible study is an excellent way of setting oneself up for meditation, because through it you come to understand the main point of the Scripture”. To “hear the Word of God” is not merely to hear the spoken word of the Scripture, but rather to hear the word that God speaks from that Scripture through the Spirit to us. It provides direction and purpose to our meditation.
Most of us would have our favourite passages of Scripture, and that’s fine; but there is a danger in always turning to those passages; it means that we are not challenged or encouraged by less familiar or more daunting passages. The discipline of the Lectionary speaks into that space! There are different ways in which we might meditate, but one way or another, they all come back to hearing and understanding the word of God from the Scripture.
There are all sorts of background issues of meaning, and we can ask, quite legitimately, “What does the passage mean?” But beyond that, something extra happens when we ourselves enter the story. It is not just a matter of what something means in an academic sense, but rather what it means and says to me, to us. That is why the linking of study and meditation is so important for our spiritual journey, and it is, I believe, one of the driving principles of Godly Play that we might, in our own way, apply for ourselves. As we seek to “enter the story”, so we open ourselves to the Spirit of God who shapes us more and more in the divine image.
Rev. Dr. Clive W. Ayre