For various reasons, the practice of bringing your Bible to church is slipping away from many. Because of a number of factors—the fact that many of you have six little kids, the fact that eight psalters are quite enough to haul around, the fact that the text of the sermon is on the outline—has led to some thinking that it is not necessary to bring a Bible to church at all. And, on a practical, physical level, it might not be necessary—but here are some other considerations.
Bringing your Bible to church is an important liturgical act. By it, you are making the statement that we want to be a congregation of Bereans, searching the Scriptures to see if these things are so. This remains the case even if some of you, as I did, grew up seeing a great deal of emptiness in the ritual. As a small boy, I was drilled in Sunday School on finding my way around in the Bible, for which I am exceedingly grateful. But the Bible drills were overseen by people who didn’t know what a covenant was, who didn’t believe that God decreed all things, and who thought that Jesus drank grape juice. Just carrying your Bible around can be as hollow as just carrying around a prayer book. But don’t over-react. If you are steeped in Scripture, and you bring your Bible, it is an important symbolic and liturgical act. The Bible is central to our faith.
Second, the church is our mother, as Paul says in Galatians. Now you should know to honor your mother, but one of the ways to honor her is to grow up into individual maturity. A two-year-old who defies his mother is not honoring her. A forty-year-old with no job, living in the basement, is not honoring her either. “Your mother cuts your meat for you” is a taunt or not, depending on the circumstances. If all you know about the sermon is what comes off the outline, you are being fed, but you are being fed in a high chair. But if the message makes you think of other connections, and you have your Bible open on your lap, and you go to check them, then you are growing up into a mature interaction with the teaching of the church.
And last, realize that each generation has the capacity to step a little farther in the direction you set. Someone who has read the Bible fifty times can easily follow along without bringing it. But the next generation might not have that background knowledge to draw on, and yet continues the practice of not honoring the Scriptures by bringing them. The generation after that will likely be even farther away, which is not what we want at all.