For this week and the next two weeks, we’re going to preview my new Bible study, which is available now on Amazon.com. I will be using it this fall with the wonderful people who attend the adult forum hour at my church. If you’re looking for a similar offering for your church or Bible study group, I hope you will give P.E.A.C.H. an audition. Today comes the preface (which will be familiar if you were around this site in early May), and the following two Mondays will preview the first two sessions of the five week study.
The acronym P.E.A.C.H. began its life as a sermon I gave at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Mystic, Connecticut, on October 13, 2014. I remember having massive difficulty coming up with anything at all to say that week. My twins were less than three months old at the time, so I was barely functional on my best days. Add to that a set of readings I couldn’t make heads or tails of, and I was sunk.
So I went back to basics. I took the Gospel passage (Matthew 22:1-14) and I prayed with it. I read it as authentically as I could without prejudice or ornamentation. I read all around it in the Gospel trying to find something there, and I read commentary after commentary about it. At last an inkling of a sermon topic appeared, a charge from God about radical welcome. But there was still that pesky weird bit about the guy without a wedding robe.
I threw up my hands. For the first time in my life as an ordained priest, I wasn’t going to have anything to say. I resolved to blame my babies.
Then it hit me. Why not just tell the story of my struggle with the passage as the sermon. Write a sermon about writing sermons. I chuckled with glee. It was all so very meta.
In my sleep deprived state, I don’t recall when the acronym “P.E.A.C.H.” came to me, but I’m glad it did because it allowed me to say this: “For fruitful study, try P.E.A.C.H.,” a pun I’ll admit I thought was the height of clever. (Please remember I hadn’t slept since July.)
What you have here is an expansion of the original sermon into a five-week Bible study about studying the Bible. Each week, you will engage one of the letters of P.E.A.C.H.
- Begin with PRAYER as a way to move into a space of openness and generosity.
- ENCOUNTER the sacred text authentically and without ornament.
- Breathe in the ATMOSPHERE that surrounds the passage to deepen your engagement.
- Listen for the CHARGE God places on your heart.
- Practice HUMILITY in the face of the unresolved.
By the end of the course, I hope you will have integrated this memorable way to study sacred texts into your own practice. Ever since I developed it out of desperation in 2014, P.E.A.C.H. has blessed me with simple touchstones to remember as I engage the Bible.
So without further ado, please open your refrigerator, slide out the drawer, and choose a fuzzy, juicy item, because it’s time for some fruitful Bible study with P.E.A.C.H.
Next Monday we’ll preview the first session, “P” is for “Prayer.” The following Monday we’ll preview “E” is for “Encounter.” The final three sessions, Atmosphere, Charge, and Humility can be found in the Bible study book available for purchase on Amazon.com.