A little while ago a few bibliobloggers ran some posts wherein they listed their favourite verses from the bible. This got my wheels turning as I really hadn't thought about that idea since highschool. Back then, I had several favourite verses that I felt God had given especially to me (for example, Ps 27.10 — “my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me up” — meant quite a lot to me). Since then, my favourite passages have changed a little. Certainly some of my current favourites resonate with my own experiences, but others resonate with me because I think they capture broader aspects of the biblical narrative and the character of God. So here they are (in no particular order):
1. Ro 8.
To me, this chapter says it all: liberation through the victory won by Jesus and the indwelling of his Spirit, which transforms us into child-heirs of God; the groanings of creation, the saints, and the Spirit; the hopeful anticipation of what is to come; and the glory of God's unquenchable and ever-present love for us, even in the midst of suffering.
2. Phil 2.5-11, Mt 5.3-12; & Ro 12.9-21.
PHIL: Michael Gorman refers to this passage as 'Paul's master story' and the narrative centre of Paul's theology and I'm inclined to agree with him (cf. Cruciformity: Paul's Narrative Spirituality of the Cross). This passages summarises the cruciform nature of God's love and God's power and, IMHO, provides the narrative outline of how we are to live as disciples of Christ and God's restored humanity.
MT: I think that this passage best captures the 'identity markers' of those who are in Christ. These characteristics should be the 'badges of membership' of those within the Church. I try to pray through this passage everyday — Lord, make us poor in Spirit so that we can have the kingdom of heaven; Lord, make us mourn, so that we can be comforted; Lord, make us meek so that we can inherit the earth; and so on and so forth.
RO: This passage continues the theme of 'identity markers' or 'badges of membership' that are definitive of those in Christ. The theme of (victorious) suffering love, which is especially evidenced in forgiveness, empathy, and solidarity, is especially strong.
3. Lk 4.14-21 & Is 58.6-8.
LK: I've frequently referred to this passage of Jesus' 'manifesto' and I think that it is here, in the very first words that Jesus speaks in his public ministry, that Jesus summarises what he is all about: good news for the poor, healing, liberation, release — all of these things are elements of the end of exile, which means, of course, the forgiveness of sins. This passage reveals the total interrelatedness of the spiritual and the material and I think sets the agenda for how we go about proclaiming (in word and deed) the gospel today.
IS: This passage is one of many in the prophetic tradition that provide the foundation for the mission and ministry of Jesus in particular, and the people of God in general. Again, the connection between the spiritual and material is emphasised and a good many other passages in Is and the other prophets emphasise that those who separate the two create disasters for others and are heading for disaster themselves (cf. Is 1-2).
4. Is 63.15-64.12 & Mk 15.34.
IS: This passage is one of the most heart-rending laments found in the bible. It is a desperate cry from an utterly godforsaken place. It is this passage that comes to my mind more frequently than any other when I bring God the prayers of the people with whom I journey. I still remember the first time I stumbled across it. I had only just begun working at a drop-in for street-involved youth in Toronto, and I remembering crying (hard!) when I ran across this passage in my devotions. Here is a voice, a voice within Scripture itself, that expresses the hope of the hopeless, and the longing for God to return to the groaning places of the world and make us all new. God is the only alternative that we have, and if God does not 'tear the heavens and come down' then we are irrevocably lost.
MK: This passage connects to the passage from Is. Here we discover the revelation of God with the godforsaken. Here is a God who has come down, and he has come so far down that he is even found with us in hell. From this point on, this passage tells us, the love of God reaches for us, finds us, journeys alongside of us, and leads us out of hell itself.
5. Gal 5.1 & Acts 2.42-47; 4.32-35.
GAL: Freedom is a major theme in the New Testament, and it is worth remembering the emphasis on freedom as we live in a society where we feel like we are anything but free. We free trapped under overwhelming powers political-economic powers, and find ourselves enslaved through structures of consumption, accumulation, credit, and debt. Thus, if we have been set free and are to remain free, we must remember Paul's injunction to refuse other yokes.
ACTS: The model of the Church in Acts, a model that was continued by the majority of the Church for the next few hundred years (and by a minority of the Church until this day) is, IMHO, the model of how we are to live together in freedom refusing other yokes of slavery. Again, we are reminded of the interconnectedness of the spiritual and the material, and we are reminded that 'freedom from' sin and death is also 'freedom for' service and life.
6. Rev 21.1-5
This passage, IMHO, summarises what we are all longing for. The day when God comes to make his dwelling among us, the day when God makes all things new, the day when God wipes every tear from our ears, heals all of our wounds, and puts an end to death and mourning. Maranatha, come quickly, Lord Jesus!