This sermon was written and delivered by Vanessa Hewitt.
I was blessed as a kid to have some amazing adults who poured into the lives of the kids in our church. One of those was our pastor’s wife, Libby. As a pastor’s wife, a mother of four kids ranging in age from 2 to 22, a fifth grade teacher, and sometimes choir director, you would think she would have had enough on her plate. Even with all this, Libby took the time to be our Junior Bible quizzing coach.
For those unfamiliar with Bible Quizzing, here is the gist. Each year, a book of the Bible (occasionally multiple books if they are shorter letters in the New Testament) is selected and assigned for study by the quizzers. At competitions questions are asked and the quizzers are expected to answer them. It involves reading the book repeatedly with the goal of memorizing key verses, facts, stories, characters, etc. in the book. There were weekly practice sessions and study sessions. If you are a competitive knowledge geek like me, this is your “sport”.
I took up quizzing in third grade and quickly became the local team captain. That year I also became the district team captain and the only person from our district team to make the “honorary” state team –junior quizzers didn’t go past regionals. In fourth and fifth grade I was captain for the local team, won district and captained the district team for regional competition, and placed first at regionals for the honorary state team. I was really good at it.
Why does any of this matter? Honestly, it doesn’t, except that it was the method of reading the Bible I learned first. I read it for knowledge, the intellectual challenge, and the thrill of competition. And of course I loved making Libby and my parents proud.
Do I regret my quizzing time – not at all. Because of quizzing, I have a great working knowledge of where things are found in the Bible, who the main characters are, why they matter, and the themes of their stories. I have favorite verses memorized, and I am more likely to question those who claim to have authoritative knowledge than many of my peers who did not quiz. Plus, I have an awesome set of Minnie Mouse glasses I won from Libby.
As I moved beyond my Bible quizzing years, I began to see Bible reading, could and should be done on multiple levels. It is GOOD to know the characters. It is good to understand the cultural and historical context. It is good to follow the story arcs. It is good to take the warnings AND the promises to heart. And it is KEY to allow the Holy Spirit to speak to you through and sometimes in spite of all of this so you are transformed in the process.
Let’s look at one of my favorite books – both as a quizzer and as a Jesus follower. This book is unique. It is a historical narrative, a collection of short articles on key figures, a sequel to my favorite gospel, a history book, and its main character — the Holy Spirit — is often overlooked. For my LAB kids, as Shrek would say, it is like an onion – it has layers.