September 13 – Whatever Happened to My Third Grade Bible?

Bible.3rdIf you can still find a used book store in our digital age, you will still find them there, Bibles once given to a new reader in hopes that he or she might allow the words to seep deeply into heart and mind as life unfolded and joys and challenges came. But there they are on the back shelf of a used book store. There’s often a presentation page with the name of some unknown person and then on the “presented by” line the name of a church or maybe just “Love, Mom and Dad.” I am sad when I see those Bibles, no longer used or wanted by the person whose name appears on the presentation page.

Publishers still call them award Bibles, from the time when they were given as an award for perfect Sunday School attendance or memorizing the books of the Bible in order.

For as long as anyone can remember, we at LPC have given Bibles with colorful kid-friendly covers to our new readers and more serious study Bibles to our Confirmation students. They are gifts, not rewards, given in hope and with a prayer that their words will accomplish the purposes for which God has sent them. This month we will be giving Bibles to children and youth at LPC. If there are any used book stores in 2033, some of the Bibles we give this month are likely to end up on their back shelves.

The Bible, even with a colorful kid-friendly cover, is hard for a new reader to use and comprehend. Study Bibles, a thousand pages long with helpful comments and maps and charts, have a hard time finding a place in the too-cluttered, peer-directed, 140-character-tweet world of a high school freshman. Still, against all the odds, we have no intention of not giving Bibles to our children and youth.

I was given a Bible by my mom and dad on Christmas of my third grade year. It was black with “Holy Bible” in gold letters on the spine and cover. I tried reading it a few times, but to no avail. I learned Bible stories in Sunday School, but not how to connect them to the thick black book I had been given as a third grader. It’s not the fault of my parents or Sunday School teachers that I did not make the connection. Few third graders – or ninth graders for that matter – can. But they can begin, and that is part of what Sunday School, Confirmation classes, and raising children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord is all about.

I took my third grade Bible with me to college, though it was through the paperback pages of a little “Good News for Modern Man” New Testament that I began to make connections between the Word of God, the confusing world of a college freshman and learning the art of glorifying and enjoying God forever. I am still trying to figure out how to make connections between the Word God has sent out via my iPad app, the confusing world of 2013 and learning the art of glorifying and enjoying God forever.

By the time I was a senior in college my Good News for Modern Man was falling apart, held together by Scotch Tape and a rubber band, and I had graduated to an RSV Study Bible. My third grade Bible was on the bookshelf, a thankful reminder of my mom’s and dad’s love for me when I was nine years old.

During the spring semester of my senior year, one of my dorm mates went into some sort of personal crisis – I was never clear about the details. We were acquaintances more than anything else, and my Christian faith had never been a topic of conversation. But late one night he came to my room and asked to borrow a Bible; no, he said he needed a Bible, he had to have a Bible. My Good News for Modern Man was too fragile to give and I used my study Bible all the time.  So I gave him my third grade Bible, the black Bible with gold letters on the spine and cover.

A couple days after I had given my dorm mate my Bible, his parents came and took him home. He didn’t finish the semester and I never saw him again. I don’t know what happened to him. And I don’t know what happened to my Bible.

There may be a used bookstore somewhere in California with a shelf full of used award Bibles off in some corner. And maybe one of those Bibles, a black Bible with gold letters on the spine and cover, has a presentation page with my name on it and the words, “Love, Mom and Dad, Christmas, 1960.” Or maybe somewhere in California or elsewhere there is a brother in Christ who went through a personal crisis while he was in college and borrowed a Bible he never returned, but in it discovered the Word of God that never returns empty.

At LPC we’re giving Bibles to children and youth again this September. We don’t know what will come of the books themselves. But we know this, that as parents and teachers and the family of faith at LPC encourages those children and youth to open their Bibles and begin to make connections between the Word they find there and the lives they live with all their joys and challenges, that Word will begin to accomplish its purpose. They will begin to learn the art of glorifying and enjoying God forever.