This past weekend the first ever 99 county Bible Reading Marathon took place here in Iowa. The event was issued by our very own Governor Terry Banstand and headed by Ginny Calligiuri (you can see the details of the event here http://bciowa.org/99-county-bible-reading-marathon/). Of the many reasons for such an event at “such a time as this” the primacy of Christian thought as the foundation for true religious freedom is central. I had only just heard of the event the Thursday preceding the events start time, and so had very little time to organize the event along with Harvest Christian Fellowship, but it is undeniable that the event was a tremendous success! With the cooperation of several Churches right here in Vinton, the Bible was read from cover-to-cover in 83 hours of unbroken succession, right on the courthouse lawn. The spirits of the readers were jovial, even as their tongues twisted headlong into the many chapters of difficult ancient Hebrew names transliterated into English (mingled with bursts of laughter at times I am told). Excitement mounted as we neared the very last book of Holy Writ, detailing the overthrow of death and sin as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords descended upon the earth, ushering in finality and resolution to all evil, injustice, disaster and rebellion! A handful of saints cheered with an “AMEN!!” after the final word faded from the lips of a beloved saint.
As I reflected on this weekend, I was reminded of the quote from Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come”. How could it be that an event like this one, that champions an ancient text containing savage tongue-twisters, difficult ideas, that assault our cultural intuition, that challenge the minuscule attention-allotment of the overloaded amused and starve our plump egos by robbing the core values of the human condition from our predilections; how could an even like this ever draw people together from radically different backgrounds? I can say with confidence that it was not the event. Perhaps the field of dreams was incorrect. Perhaps it was never about the place, but it was always about the people. The place only reflected the eternal desire of baseball legends to exist in the world that accommodated their talent and natural inclination. WhatI believe drew people to the marathon was not the event in itself, but the people came because of the eternal desires born of the Spirit that share the same eternal hope. This event was about the people of God, boldly proclaiming the conviction of shared hope; spiritual truth, rooted in the very nature of God, explained to finite people, in a way that broken people understand.
We joke about the ancient names and long-winded genealogies, but the genealogies teach an important lesson. The Hebrew tongue torturers share the same unbroken chain of death that shackle all humanity. Death is unashamed to step in uninvited into the infant’s door, the elder’s door, the youthful, the rich, the poor, the hungry and the gluttonous. Death defies all the eternal hopes of humanity. Our eternal hopes and dreams are birthday wishes, secretly hidden behind a vail of knowing. We know birthday wishes do not come true, but the ignorant cleave to the platitudes of the wise, because it feels good for a moment to have relief from the biting truth. We all will hear the knock of death at our door, and until death tramples on our dreams, we deal with the relentless degradation of the human condition. The lives recorded in Scripture pay homage to the modern man. There lives are so dysfunctional. So depressing, heartbreaking, agonizing, guilt ridden, so———- human. Yet, in the midst of the unbroken chain of death, the heart cry of our Creator is “Victory!”. From Paradise Lost and Paradise to Prison our marvelous God promises relief and hope; not of the birthday wish kind. Not of the kind promising paradise, but the kind of hope that entered into our very humanity, experienced the agony of pain, suffering and loneliness. The kind of hope that salted the ground with tears when death came knocking at a friends door, and perspired under the weight death’s gavel. Yet ours is a living hope, “because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him”. Jesus overcame death. Jesus broke the chain.
This is what brings people together. Jesus rose form the dead and put death under His feet, shattering Hell by the weight of His glory. This is a sure hope. A shared hope. An eternal hope. A hope declared by a faithful handful of people, reading the words of life, in an unbroken chain from Genesis to Revelation. Jesus said “I am the Alpha and the Omega . . . Who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” We have declared Him from beginning to end “To the Glory of God the Father”!