A Worthwhile Read

for the week of April 30, 2001
by Rubel Shelly

James Bracy wrote his wife a love letter, and she received it a few days ago. Nothing unusual about that, you say? What if I add the fact that it was written 46 years ago? As you might expect, there's more to this story . . .

When Mr. Bracy was stationed in California with the Army in 1955, he wrote Sallie Bracy at her parents' home in Virginia. He put the then-required six cents of postage on his letter and dropped it off at the post office. And that's where his letter stayed until it was found just last month by a construction crew in the process of dismantling the old building. It apparently fell between two walls in the mail room and lay there undiscovered for all these years.

Was Mrs. Bracy disinterested because so much time had passed? Hardly! If anything, she said, it means more to her now than when he wrote it so long ago. Would that more of us felt that way about heaven's "love letter" to us.

During National Bible Week in 1998, Jay Leno did one of his occasional on-the-street interviews. "Can you name one of the Ten Commandments?" he asked. "God helps those who help themselves?" offered someone. "Freedom of speech?" guessed another.

"Name one of the apostles," Leno challenged his audience. They couldn't come up with even one. Then he asked if they could name the Beatles, and with one voice they shouted, "George, Paul, John, and Ringo!" Recent surveys indicate that this sort of biblical illiteracy isn't uncommon in America. One survey has 12% saying Noah was married to Joan of Arc. Another revealed that only 42% of those quizzed could identify who preached the Sermon on the Mount.

Is it because the Bible is such an ancient document? Is it because we have a mistaken notion of what we'd find there? Are we just too busy?

Sallie Bracy cherishes her husband's four-page letter from 46 years ago. It is more precious than any other in her scrapbook because of the unusual and circuitous route by which it reached her. I feel something similar to that about my Bible. Yes, it was first written a long time ago. But it has survived all these centuries against the determined efforts of many to destroy it. Then, when I finally pick it up to read, I discover it tells a love story that involves you and me.

If time with Holy Scripture isn't part of your routine, may I suggest you begin with the Gospel of John? I think you'll be thrilled by what you find there.

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