Observation: Scrutinizing the Obvious
When I was a kid, an usher at the church taught me how to shake hands. He made a game of it with us, me and my Sunday School buddies. We’d shake hands and he’d tell us how we did. Sometimes we had to try two or three times before we got a passing grade and he’d hand us our paper airplane supplies, commonly called service bulletin. Not that we can shake hands right now, but this is a convenient illustration. To learn how to do something takes purpose and practice. You also have to break it down into its parts, parts that normally go by quickly and are difficult to notice. Bible study, like handshakes, is a learned skill. It has a purpose and parts. The purpose is to know, trust, love, and obey God. The parts in this teaching exercise are: Context, Observation, Meaning, Meditation, and Activation. They make the acronym COMMA.
Having shared a brief introduction to the method and to the first step, Context, it is time to cover Observation. Observation calls us into one of the more difficult parts of this unified method. In this step, we have to pay attention to what is right in front of us. We must scrutinize the obvious. Some say this is the definition of genius. Another simply says, “Genius is patience.” Observation doesn’t require genius. But it does require patient scrutiny. The patient practice of observation is simply reading the Scripture passage and re-reading it, and then repeating the re-reading as long as it takes to see what’s there. It isn’t hard, but it’s very difficult. And the difficulty is rewarded by the living activity of the living Word. When we love something or someone, we pay attention to what or whom we love. We notice things. And part of how we can express and enact our love of Jesus is careful attention to the inspired Word that reveals him to our hearts and minds. In this process, we’ll find that we are the object of his care and concern. And the Spirit who inspired the Scripture will guide us into a vision and practice of the truth he inspired and the truth he is. Next up is Meaning. As I unpack the Meaning step I’ll share an Observation or two from some reading and re-reading 1 Peter. Until then, read and re-read the Scripture with patient scrutiny.