How to Read Half the Bible for Lent (and Still Take Days Off)

Two years ago for Lent, I decided to read a book of the Bible every day. It was more manageable than it sounds, mostly because you don’t realize how many short books there are until you start reading them. I more or less kept to my reading plan, which included Sundays off, as Catholics do in their Lent observations (the theory being that “each Sunday is like a mini-resurrection celebration”). I worked my way through two-thirds of the books of the Bible…. which left me with 23 very long unread books.

This year, I’m picking up where I left off. Coincidentally, these unread books fit well with the Year B lectionary theme, which is all about covenanting. It’s a good time to dwell in the Abrahamic promise; the covenants the Israelites developed in the wilderness; the failed covenant of kingship; and the somewhat obtuse covenant expounded in Hebrews. Continue reading

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The Bible: 40 Books in 40 Days

At the beginning of Lent, I set out to read 40 books of the Bible in 40 days. It was actually 42 books (because I’m an overachiever, I added Ezra and Amos) in 46 days (because I’m a pragmatist and because Lent is longer than you think it is).

It sounds impressive, I suppose, to read 42 books (roughly 63% of the Bible) in a month and a half. And I can be an obsessively disciplined person–but having completed it, in retrospect, it doesn’t seem that impressive. I don’t think people realize how many short books are in the Bible. At least a quarter of them–probably more–took under 10 minutes to read. I read with my morning tea; on train rides into Chicago; in the car, roadtripping to Michigan (that was difficult). Having a travel-sized Bible helps. Three or four times with the gospels I took advantage of my job and read the Bible at church, and that helped, too. But I skipped over some shorter books (Nehemiah, 2 Corinthians, the aforementioned Ezra and Amos) in favor of the gospels, so it’s certainly do-able if you want the shortest of the short books. All that to say… it’s a do-able Lenten practice that I encourage others to pick up. Continue reading

Is God anti-cucumber?

This week, I preached on Numbers 11:1-10, notable because it contains the only reference to cucumbers in the Bible. And God is pretty harsh on the cucumbers. Is God come down as anti-produce? Why is God getting so judgy about the Israelites wanting more vitamin C in their diet?

This is the whole passage:

Now when the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, the Lord heard it and his anger was kindled. Then the fire of the Lord burned against them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. But the people cried out to Moses; and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire abated. So that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the Lord burned against them. The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.”
Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it. Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased.

This translation is linguistically conservative, avoiding the colorful language and connotations of the Hebrew. So I’ve made my own translation to try to capture the subtitles: Continue reading