Saturday, February 05, 2005

becoming wise interpreters

I had a fantastic conversation with Joey this week. I was asking some questions about how our community might better read and be read by scripture. Upon Joey’s recommendation I had read this book and really found it helpful. You can find it at the LTS library – if Joey or I don’t have it checked out. I don’t want to try and unpack “the whole tamale” here (is that what you people say…us Aussies would say “the full bottle” or “I’ll give you the cork tip”…I’m still learning the language) but one of the most thought-provoking ideas is that we need to approach the scriptures so that we might become wise interpreters. This is quite different from mining the biblical text to see what it meant and then (confidently) pronounce what it means now. (there's more) The former requires deep involvement in the mission of God by way of Christian community. The latter requires expertise, especially in historical studies. The difference might appear subtle but it is critical if we are to avoid treating scripture like an artifact thereby setting it at a distance from our immediate context. Wise readings are only possible in the grounded, practicing, (dare I say, missional) contexts of Christian community. Fowl suggests that becoming wise interpreters of scripture requires “nothing less than the transformation of our lives and of the common life of the Christian communities in which we find ourselves” (a quote from this book, p.408). Please don’t hear me dismissing rigorous biblical scholarship. But it seems clear that such scholarship does not (trans)form the world on its own. Much more information is not what we most need when we come to scripture.

And then I reflected on our various experiments at fellowship gatherings. We have tried all sorts of methods to find our way into the scriptural narrative. I realized we have created a space for a conversation in which the scriptural voice chimes in to encourage, confuse, correct, judge/mock, celebrate, and inspire our life together. The poetry, imagery, stories, and demands have opened up so many wonderful new practices, ideas, and dreams for us. We still have a long way to go but by God’s grace we have wandered into a “strategy for interpretation” that seems to match some of our core beliefs; that we are in mission with God, we are all called to priestly duties, and we are guided by a living voice that is Spirit breathed scripture.

Last Thursday Lisa and Clinton lead us in a ritual of reflection and candle lighting. We were encouraged to share about our encounters with God’s glory from a distance, through someone else, and up close – face to face! (our readings are from here ). We shared our encounters and lit candles, placing them on a simply crafted landscape to signify their relative proximity to “Glory”. The scriptures gave us a script/voice, setting the tone and pace with pithy narratives. These narratives helped us interpret our lives and in the process of this conversation we came face to face with one another and with the Creator of life. We are also reminded about the ongoing potential to encounter "Glory" in the space outside the walls of our gathering place. This may well be another miracle in our midst.

ps: the picture of Glory was lifted from Billy's post here.

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