My husband went up to Starbucks today and brought me back a latte while I was filming this morning – so sweet of him. So while I was working and sipping, I needed a place to set down my hot drink. Generally I set many of my things on the piano which is covered in the sanctuary. There was a Bible sitting on that piano cover and I thought to myself, “That will provide a sturdy base on which to set my drink.” Then I paused. There was a memory that flashed into a mind.
Many years ago when I was still in seminary, I traveled with four other students to the Middle East for a summer of mission work and ecumenical connections with the Christians in the Middle East. We spend eight weeks in Egypt and two weeks in the holy land under the sponsorship of the Middle East Council of Churches. While in Egypt, we visited with Coptic Orthodox youth at their young adult gatherings. We were also invited to the Middle East Council of Churches Youth Leadership conference at a camp on the Mediterranean Sea near Alexandria. Many of our new friends were in attendance. It was a memory from this conference that flashed through my mind.
We were in the midst of listening to one of the speakers. Some of the young adults were translating for the Americans as the talk was in Arabic. I had my Bible with me for the talk, but it was pointless to look up references while trying to stay focused on my translator, so I put my Bible on the ground under my seat. At this point my translator stopped and pointed at my Bible. Several other Egyptian youth frowned at me and began gently reprimanding me. I should not put my Bible on the ground, they said. My Bible contained the word of God and should be treated with the utmost respect. I quickly brought the Bible into my lap feeling a little embarrassed at the incident.
As I began to think about what had happened it occurred to me that my Egyptian friends had a much higher value for their Bibles in part because they had only recently acquired Bibles. They were Arabic readers and whereas Arabic translations of the Bible had been available for centuries, these were not written in common Arabic, nor readily available in print. Additionally the Coptic Orthodox only allow the Bible to be read in Coptic – ancient Egyptian. Consequently there were no Bibles in the home. In the 1970s some new translations into Arabic were made available, one gospel at a time. Then in 1979 The New Bible Society Translation was published by an ecumenical team of scholars approved by the Coptic Orthodox, Coptic Catholic and Coptic Evangelical (Presbyterian) churches. The new Bibles used modern Arabic, was very readable and was widely available in print! Our new Egyptian friends in 1982 were just discovering what it was to read the Bible. They were thrilled and treasured their new Bibles. No wonder they were stunned at the cavalier way I treated mine.
How do you treat your Bible? Does it gather dust on a shelf or do you honor it with your attention. Surely you don’t use it for a coaster for a hot drink. I did not today as I paused remembering my Egyptian friends. I found another place to set my latte while I worked, and I am giving thanks for those friends of years ago who have reminded me of just how precious is the Word of God which is available to us in English so we may read it!
p.s. I do apologize for not publishing daily devotional the last two days. I got overwhelmed with work and a personal matter. This sometimes happens…
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