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Reading in Communion. Conversation about Biblical texts and how to embody them is more important than the “right interpretation” Biblical texts were written to change the way people think and act

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reading in communion
Reading in Communion
  • Conversation about Biblical texts and how to embody them is more important than the “right interpretation”
  • Biblical texts were written to change the way people think and act
  • We are interested in not only what texts mean, but what they do - or better, what they are trying to get hearers/readers to do
  • Reading Scripture together with a focus on discernment and practice
texts as windows mirrors
Texts as Windows & Mirrors
  • We project ourselves and our own view of the world onto texts, so what we see in initial readings is our own reflection
  • Texts as mirrors: meaning seems transparent because we know what we see and see what we know - our perceptions and experiences of reality are re-inscribed
  • Texts as windows to another reality: learning requires that we shift the field of vision from what we know to what we don’t know
the art of asking questions
The Art of Asking Questions
  • Curiosity versus insecurity: why aren’t people more curious?
  • Formulating our own questions: our study of Biblical texts should be guided by our questions, not those of the “experts”
  • Cultivating an ethos of trust and respect so that people can question, explore and challenge
world in front of the text
World in Front of the Text
  • The questioning begins with us: the social worlds that we inhabit and that have formed us
  • A first reading of a Biblical text provides the opportunity for critical self-awareness about our presuppositions & predilections
  • What in the text are we connecting with and why? What does that tell us about ourselves as cultural persons?
social location
Social Location
  • We think we know what a Biblical text is communicating largely because we adapt it to our reality
  • Cultivating self-awareness about our own social formation & location
  • Critical cultural awareness raises questions about the social worlds we inhabit and how we have been defined and deformed by them
gottwald s self inventory
Gottwald’s Self-Inventory
  • Gender, ethnicity, social class, education, political stance
  • Authoritative criteria, working theology, denomination, attitude toward Judaism, role of preaching, Biblical scholarship
  • Family influence, life crises, spirituality & divine guidance
the world of the text
The World of the Text
  • Biblical texts constitute narrative worlds and symbolic universes that are different from our own world
  • Biblical texts were produced in and therefore reflect ancient cultural contexts
  • With heightened self-awareness about our social location we explore the world of the text as strangers in a foreign land
  • Enter into dialogue with the text by asking questions and suspending assumptions
galatians 2 15 16
Galatians 2:15-16

“We ourselves are Jews by birth and not

Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person

is justified not by the works of the law but

through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have

come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we

might be justified by faith in Christ, and not

by doing the works of the law, because no

one will be justified by the works of the law.”

from the world of to the world behind text
From the World of to the World behind Text
  • Biblical texts were written in, by and for people who lived in the ancient world
  • The rhetorical strategies of Biblical texts correspond to the rhetorical situation
  • A working knowledge of the cultural, religious and political contexts of the audiences of Biblical texts shows how the texts reflect and challenge cultural codes and conventions
shifting the field of vision
Shifting the Field of Vision
  • Biblical texts are not as transparent as they appear
  • New information or insight shifts the field of vision allowing us to read the text anew
  • Questioning our assumptions about Biblical texts based on cross-cultural interpretation paves the way for questioning assumptions about our own social reality
return to the world in front of the text
Return to the World in Front of the Text
  • A better understanding of a text in its own literary and cultural contexts underscores the distance between worlds
  • This cultural distance allows us to interpret the text and our own lives in a new light
  • Discernment & practice: the significance and force of a Biblical text for us must be negotiated by reading in communion
biblical texts narrative identity
Biblical Texts & Narrative Identity
  • Narrative identities are not stable entities
  • An act of listening or reading is a possible provocation to be and act differently
  • Biblical texts distance and disorient us by drawing us into an alternative narrative world and invite us to contemplate our sense of belonging and reorient our being in the world
luke 5 1 11
Luke 5:1-11

Once while Jesus was standing beside the lake of Gennesaret, and the

crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he saw two

boats there at the shore of the lake; the fishermen had gone out of

them and were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the

one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little way from

the shore. Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the

deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered,

“Master, we haveworked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet

if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they

caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they

signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And

they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when

Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from

me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were

amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken; and so also were

James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then

Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching

people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left

everything and followed him.

world in front of the text15
World in Front of the Text
  • What in this call story do you connect with? How does it speak to you?
  • What does that tell you about your own interests and cultural context?
  • What questions does this text raise for you? What do you need to know to better understand the text?
transformation in the world of the text
Transformation in the World of the Text
  • Why does Simon Peter fall down at Jesus’ knees saying,go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man?
  • What happens to Peter that would cause him to leave everything and follow Jesus?
  • What was Peter’s inspiration and motivation for following Jesus?
  • How did following Jesus benefit him or improve the quality of his life?
explorations in the world of the text intratext intertext
Explorations in the World of the Text: Intratext & Intertext
  • The episode foreshadows the choosing of the twelve (6:12-16) of whom Peter will be the leader
  • Peter will be developed as a character throughout the Gospel and Acts
  • Call story that echoes Isaiah 6 and other similar call stories
isaiah 6 1 8
Isaiah 6:1-8

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,

high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were

in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered

their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they

flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;

the whole earth is full of his glory.”

The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called,

and the house filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! I am lost, for

I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips;

yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me, holding a live coal that had been

taken from the altar with a pair of tongs. The seraph touched my

mouth with it and said: “Now that this has touched your lips, your

guilt has departed and your sin is blotted out.” Then I heard the voice

of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And I

said, “Here am I; send me!”

the world behind the text
The World Behind the Text
  • The parables and metaphors, anecdotes and social network of Jesus are heavily influenced by the Sea of Galilee and its fish, fishing, fishermen, and fishing villages. Fishers were part of a state-regulated elite-profiting enterprise. The Galilean fishing economy was an embedded economy (not a market economy) characteristic of aristocratic empires in which most surplus went to brokers and ruling elite.
  • What are the implications of Jesus recruiting most of his network from fishing villages around the Sea of Galilee?
world in front of the text discernment practice
World in Front of the Text: Discernment & Practice
  • What is Jesus calling us to do and to be?
  • What would we need to “leave” or relinquish in order to live out our calling to new forms of life?
  • What would it look like for us to “put out into the deep” in our calling in terms of different practices and new forms of life?
  • What fears and anxieties would impede us from risking a new life?
  • What would abundance (“a net brimming with fish”) look like for us?