The Whirl Story Bible published by Sparkhouse in 2014 (which can be found at: https://www.augsburgfortress.org/store/product/19372/Whirl-Story-Bible-Lectionary-Edition) is a lectionary-based Bible that works with the Whirl Sunday School curriculum. The Story Bible spans both Old and New Testaments, though only covering the more familiar Scripture passages. Most of the stories are identified by where they fit within the 3-year cycle (A, B, or C), and all are given reference texts and color-coordinated by what season they come up (e.g. Advent—blue, Easter—yellow, Lent—purple). Each story, accompanied by cartoon pictures and a question or two for discussion, is a couple pages in length. The primary focus in this translation is not its inerrancy, but more appropriately readability and understanding for its young first-time audience. That being said, the publishers took a bold step forward, and in my opinion did a great job, in honoring the Bible’s contextuality by keeping to the stories’ unique ethnicities via its art (e.g. Jesus appears with a Middle Eastern skin tone, instead of the oft Caucasian inaccuracy). With the intentionality of its language, selection of its stories, and appeal of its art, the Whirl Story Bible my son enthusiastically claims as his own is less intimidating and more approachable than the Children’s Bibles I remember skimming through at a similar such age.
The other night, as my son lay in his bed—with his stuffed dinosaurs beside him, all carefully tucked under the Toy Story comforter—I opened his Bible to the next story in sequence, titled: “A Safe Home for Moses.” As I read through it, unhindered by verse numbers or clanky wording, I could feel the energy and excitement rising within me as the text flowed so easily. With particular words capitalized, I was able to more freely emphasize as though I was a master storyteller. In a pause between paragraphs, I watched as Aidan’s eyes jotted from picture to picture—connecting what he had just heard with the illustrations before him. Stunned by his laser-focus, I could just imagine the synapses firing with each sight and sound. The story was more than just a text of an historical event; in that moment, it was now becoming something captivating and meaningful for this three-year old. At the end of the story, I closed the Bible and placed it on his shelf beside the bed. “No, daddy. One more! Please” he pleaded. Neither wanting to stop myself, I assured him that “I’ll read another one tomorrow night. I love you. Goodnight.” I kissed his forehead and we said our prayers. From there, going and laying down in my bed, my mind stirred. I thought about the decisions the editors had made to include one part of the story but not another. I was filled with warm fuzzies at how the narrative portrayed such a gentleness regarding how baby Moses was handled between his mother, sister Miriam, and Pharaoh’s daughter. Yet, on the other hand, I felt conflicted that the turbulence of Moses’ transition/transportation from one family to another by means of the deadly Nile and the nuances with that were watered down to the point of near nonexistence. I found myself questioning myself on how my son or any other kid his age might hear and respond to these various parts of the story. Was he missing out on something? What did he take away from what he had heard? Choices had been made by the editorial board in writing out this story—choices with a multitude of consequences, choices I may continue to wrestle with in the future as Aidan hears the story differently in years to come.
From a pastoral standpoint, knowing that my confirmands and I will be covering this story in the upcoming weeks, I wondered how this particular reading might shape my approach to it with them—adding emphasis on particular parts, though not skipping other pieces of the narrative. I pondered what it would look like having the students compare and contrast this reading of the story with the one offered in their NRSV Lutheran Study Bibles—giving them the opportunity to offer criticism on what they consider most important in the shape of the narrative and what was helpful for communicating and understanding its many complexities. My mind also went to the possibility of reading this or another such story from this Bible with those in attendance at any given Children’s Sermon during a Sunday worship. For those who don’t have the same opportunity to read it at home, how might it be heard from pastor alongside friends, family, and fellow Sunday School classmates? How would the adults—parents and grandparents—hear and visualize this familiar story in its unique wording? Could such an experiment be an encouragement to others to sit down and read the Bible with their family and friends, sons and daughters, kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews?
Altogether, as I put these thoughts of mine to page I am thankful. I give thanks to God for a faith community which sees and supports the value of supplying its youth with vast biblical resources to learn and grow in their lifelong faith. I give thanks to God for the blessed calling and unique opportunity to share in this and other such meaningful faith milestones in the lives of our young ones. I give thanks to God for those in the church who take Christian education seriously so as to explore new and vibrant ways to share the biblical narratives of our faith. And as I await this evening when I’ll get to sit down beside Aidan’s bed and explore God’s Word again, I give thanks to God for the opportunity to read my son’s Bible with a three-year old whose excitement renews my own enthusiasm for Scripture and fills my heart with hope for both his and my own growing faith. Might such thankfulness lead you to open the pages of yours or another’s Bible and dive into the stories of faith waiting to be read.