Science fiction writer Ray Bradbury wrote a book back in the 50’s called Fahrenheit 451. The movie by the same name came out in the 60’s.
The title presumably has to do with the temperature at which books burn. Youngsters, tired of school, may make sour jokes about burning books. But Fahrenheit 451 is no joke. Evil men such as Hitler did burn books.
These people in Bradbury’s novel face a society on the edge of nuclear destruction. It is a world in which books are banned.
But out in the woods, in their own little colony, are the “book people.” Each one of them sets out to memorize a book. Each one sort of becomes a book, reciting it over and over to another person who is their back-up. You could point to one person walking in the woods and say: “That man is Great Expectations,” or to another person and say: “There goes Treasure Island.” You can see what they were trying to do. Where better to hide the great books of the world – where no one could burn them – than inside one’s own heart and mind – and to pass it down from generation to generation?
Imagine sort of becoming a book! Maybe that’s not so strange. You’ve heard the expression: “You are what you eat.” In mysterious visions, the Lord once told the prophet Ezekiel in the Old Testament – and again the apostle John in the book of Revelation – to take and eat the little scroll – the word of God. It was bitter and sweet all at once, says the Bible – bitter like the law that shows our sin – sweet like the gospel which shows our Savior.
The ancient church fathers picked up on those visions and wrote the old prayer which says: “Blessed Lord, who hast caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning, grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn and inwardly digest them…”
Maybe we understand this picture better than we think. When someone is really excited about a subject, we might say: “He really eats that up!” Or we talk about enthusiastic readers devouring books. Jesus pictures faith itself in terms of eating in His famous sermon on the Bread of Life. The Bible talks this way to remind us that faith is not merely an intellectual thing, merely memorizing the Catechism. We ask the children learn Bible passages by heart, not just by head. Christ’s words are to be eaten up and gobbled down. They are to become a part of us. In this way, we become what we eat. Our more modern version of that old prayer says: “May we so hear them, read, learn and take them to heart.” This is how Psalm 119:11 says it: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Sunday School & Bible Study start up again today. Our Lutheran elementary school is back in session. Weekly word and sacrament continue at 8 & 10 each Sunday. For our own souls, for the souls of our children and grandchildren, for the eternity that is coming – let us take it to heart!