“We’ve got to get a smaller Bible.” That’s what I think many weeks at the beginning of the worship service when, after the hour has been chimed and I have said, “Let us stand for the worship of God,” one of our children brings a Bible the few steps from the narthex to the Communion Table, where I receive it just before it drops through their hands.

We never end up downsizing the Bible, of course, though to do so would not lessen the importance of its content or its centrality in our worship and our beliefs. We use a big edition and we place it on the Communion Table to indicate that the Holy Scriptures are the guide by which we order our worship and direct our lives. There is a cross above it (actually two in our sanctuary) to remind us that we are followers of the one who gave his life for us and who calls us to take up our own crosses and follow him. But how we do that is contained in the books that make up the Bible.

I like the metaphor of a child struggling to carry the Book. It reminds me of us.

We’re all children before the revelation of God. There is so much that we will never understand and so much that has to be taken with childlike faith, but it is all to be embraced as tightly as our children hold on to the big red copy that we place at the center of our worship.

And our struggle should be just as significant. Because so much of it is hard to hear and harder to apply, we will always want to make it smaller — to limit its application to us — and to put it down, preferably somewhere that we don’t have to focus on it. It makes it easier to think that we are being good Christians if we don’t have the clear words of the biblical texts to remind us of how far we have to go.

And there is something to be said for the fact that I open it up and place it before us. Every year the Bible outsells every other book, but I’m not seeing a great deal of evidence that its principles are being applied in our culture. Our worship is a weekly attempt to stand against that trend, to say that, though we will always interpret it imperfectly and apply it inadequately, the message of God’s love for the world must be opened and heard and respected and followed. That is the essence of our worship.

Just one more thing. I’m pretty sure the children who bring in the Bible know it is a book. Even at their tender age, they understand that it doesn’t, in itself, have magic powers. They certainly don’t see it as something before which they are to bow and worship. That is reserved for the One to whom the Bible points. But, as they learn its stories, especially the stories of Jesus, and as they begin to apply its principles to the tough job of living in the world, it can be a faithful and trusted companion that leads them to the Truth.

This week I suggest you pay close attention to this opening ritual and see it as more than just a way to get the service started. It is a sacred act that brings all of us into focus on the importance of all that we are about to do.