Our congregation celebrated Confirmation Sunday a few weeks ago, and Pastor Mike asked me to say a few words to the confirmands before they received the gift of their Bibles. I stood before them and our congregation proudly holding my own burgundy, leather confirmation bible from so many years ago, and offered this:
I remember receiving this Bible in this room almost twenty-two years ago on my Confirmation Sunday. The name on it reads “Erika Carney” which is not my name anymore and the inscription inside says that it is given to my by North Seattle Covenant Church, which is not our church’s name anymore. The date written inside is June 1987. I was thirteen.
I remember how shiny and perfect it looked then. The edges of the pages were gold and shimmery. And I remember thinking it weighed a ton!
It became my Bible. The one I read and used and carried around with me to youth group and Hi-Tops rehearsals and Winter retreats and mission trips and CHIC.
It was also the Bible that sat on the nightstand beside my bed. And it was the one I committed to reading every night before going to bed.
It was the Bible that came with me to Cascades Camp where I worked as a Wrangler. One week I got roped into counseling and I can remember sitting in the grass, with my cabin of girls, and leading them in our afternoon Bible study from these pages.
It was the Bible that came with me to Venezuela and Mexico and South Africa. It was the Bible that came with me into the inner city of Chicago. I can remember standing in a lodge in Wisconsin where we had brought close to a hundred city kids for a weekend retreat, one of whom would later become my brother. And I stood in front of this crowd and read from these pages and told them that they could “choose life” and that Jesus loved them.
The first sermon I ever preached, in a little storefront church in Chicago, was preached from this book.
I don’t know when the shimmery gold rubbed away or when the spine came off, or when the cover and all of the edges became so cracked. I know that an elderly woman in another church where I served was so embarrassed by the condition of this Bible that she promptly went out and bought me a new one.
I used that new one for a while. And then I went to seminary, and you buy a LOT of books in Seminary. And I had to get a different translation to use for my classes. And of course I had to buy the Bible in its original languages of Greek and Hebrew. So for a few years, this Bible saw a bit less use.
I don’t remember exactly when it became “my Bible” again. Sometime before moving up here in December.
But it has again become my companion. And a few weeks ago I was sitting next to Howard Thompson during church and I looked down at the Bible he held in his lap. And my eyes were immediately drawn to the duct tape holding it together along the spine of the book. I don’t think I need to feel embarrassed here by my shabby Bible. In fact, I think I’m in pretty good company.
Two weeks ago, I went to the hospital to visit Dale Harper. This Bible came with me. Bob and Joy Drovdahl had also stopped in to see Dale, and when Dale saw the Bible in my hand he said with a smile: “Ah, she brought the good stuff.”
Today, each of you receives a Bible. It is shiny and perfect and its edges shimmer. And you too will think that it weighs a ton!
My hope and prayer for each of you is that this Bible you receive today is for you a companion as mine has been for me. As mine continues to be for me. Don’t let it stay too shiny; too perfect. It is not intended to be something pretty to be admired from a distance.
When I was handed this Bible twenty-two years ago, I had no idea the places it would go with me. I had no idea the life that was in store for me and where my journey with Jesus would lead me. I certainly had no idea, as a thirteen year old, that someday I would serve the church as a pastor and cling to the truth of these words with all of my life.
And as Dale reminded me the other night in a hospital room: may it be for each of you that when you see this Bible, you too might smile and remember: “This is the good stuff.”