Benediction: Reading the Gospels

Sand by Dea Jenkins

Benediction means “good word.” Usually this part of the magazine shares an inspiring story of our commitment to turn words into action. Last September 11, 2019, that action was a unique communal reading of the Good Word itself.

We had just released the first collection in a video series, Introductions to the Books of the Bible, for which we have happily partnered with the Grace and Mercy Foundation as part of the Communal Reading of Scripture project. People from the Fuller community read through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—with four video introductions by Tommy Givens, Marianne Meye Thompson, Joel Green, and Ahmi Lee. We live streamed 36 readers in 8 languages from cities around the world—including Dahl Estrada in Tagalog from Manila, online student Anthony Yau in Cantonese from Hong Kong at midnight, and David Frere as he sat up in bed in Belgium, reading in French. Even after nine hours straight, it was invigorating.

While we were reading, a city of Pasadena sidewalk worker came in to tell us that there was “nothing more important we could be doing on 9-11 than reading the Gospels.” Dean Ted Cosse said that even though he read through his part the night before, there was something unexpectedly moving about reading it aloud, together, in a long stream of students and alumni and coworkers. And though we anticipated that friends and family might tune in, we didn’t expect 8,000 other people to join throughout the day, or for Bible Gateway and RELEVANT magazine to mention it to their Twitter followers, or for more than 2,000 others to watch after it was over. One of those was preaching professor Ahmi Lee, who told me that she clicked through just to see how it turned out and found herself strangely moved to tears.

So. By May of 2020 we will release all the Introductions to the Books of the Bible videos, and to celebrate that, we’re going to read the entire Bible. Live. Uninterrupted. 90 hours. There are strategic reasons for that and then there’s the real reason. Strategically, it is an elegant way to promote Fuller faculty and attract prospective students. It will appeal to donors, and trustees, and alumni, and students, and staff, and others who might wonder if Fuller is committed to the Bible. We are.

But the real reason is closer to the mystery that moved Ahmi Lee (and me) to tears. The Gospels reading reminded us in a visceral way why we’re here. It was the same thing that prompted FULLER studio editor Patrick Duff’s four-year-old, Declan, to say to his mother, after Ted Cosse finished reading John 14, “That’s all true, isn’t it?” Yes, Declan, it is.