Tuesday, January 10, 2006

A Pearl From a Grain of Sand

In what some might see as a strange combination of enthusiasm and insanity, I have embarked upon the journey of Blogging Through the Bible in 90 Days . It's the reading equivalent of a speed-dating marathon.

To be sure, just praying the Daily Office involves a decent amount of Scripture reading, as does going to church on Sundays. But it's not the whole Bible. And even in my lay ministry classes, we haven't read the entire Old Testament. Dietrich Bonhoeffer recommended a systematic reading of the entire Bible, chapter by chapter, over and over again...but I found it difficult to sustain interest going at that slow pace. So when I read about the 90-day challenge, my overcaffienated self thought, Let's do it! So I am.

Meanwhile, the RevGalBlogPals have been discussing the discernment process, and specifically how we've dealt with roadblocks in that process. Elsewhere on my blog I've talked a bit about the positive ways in which I've felt called into a life of deeper spiritual practice and ministry to others...but I'm not sure if I've shared the negatives that provided the push to the positives' pull.

I used to be a regular participant on a Christian debate forum. This forum would regularly divide into us-vs.-them along a variety of lines, but particularly mainliners and socially progressive evangelicals squaring off against fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals. One of the perennial slams I'd hear leveled at me, over and over again, was that mainliners didn't read the Bible, didn't understand the Bible, didn't respect the Bible. (And for people who happened to be gay mainliners/socially progressive evangelicals...well, guess.)

This of course cheesed me off no end, because for the most part it was a load of crap. (Although it was amusing to frequently find some excitable but not particularly literate individual lecturing someone else who -- unbeknownst to the first person -- was a member of the clergy on "what the Bible says.") But part of those charges stung, because I knew that I could learn more -- more than what I knew as a reasonably engaged layperson. And it also troubled me that a lot of what I did know about the Bible I had learned as a college undergraduate, longer ago than I cared to admit.

So at some point -- well before I found myself enrolling in my lay ministry program -- I resolved to learn more about the Bible; to be bold in engaging my antagonists in discussions about it from a mainstream perspective. And that is indeed what I have been doing.

So in an ironic way I have to thank them for helping to irritate me right into a more serious study of Scripture. As I told one of them once, "Be careful what you pray for."


Lorna said...

thanks for sharing this.

do you have links to the posts about the positive stuff?

also were you assessed by committees to become a lay leaders - is it renewed annually by your church

I'm really interested in how it's done. Links to official Lutheran pages will do if you haven't explained it here
and glad that you are on the 90 day thing too.

It's actually fun
though I got stuck today after half of one chapter (more on stf)

Wash Lady said...

When someone says that "you don't know/respect/understand the Bible" - do you think their real meaning is that we don't "see/understand" the Bible the same way that they do?
I've had conversations with my oldest daughter's boyfriend that are very disturbing to me because of the way that he views the Word Of God. It's frightening.....
So what do you think those people really *mean* when they accuse us of not understanding the Bible?

Tom in Ontario said...

I'm a pastor and I think I "know" the Bible, "respect" the Bible, I don't know about "understand." I've never read it cover to cover. Every once in a while I'll come across some story that I've never heard before. For cryin' out loud, it's a big book(s) and I don't think you can read through it like a novel. If you do then you're not going to know or understand much about it.

I don't know about speed reading through it in 90 days. I've seen various schedules for getting through it in a year. Last year I led a Bible study that went through Matthew with daily readings over 13 weeks (Three Months with Matthew by Justo L. Gonzalez, Abingdon Press, 2002. ISBN 0-687-09455-0). That was a pretty steady pace to get through one Gospel in 91 days.

Have fun with your 90 day challenge.

Chris T. said...

Tom, I would recommend Luther's lectionary for getting through the Bible in a single year. You definitely get to know it and understand it better at the pace Luther sets.

90 days is quite a challenge, LC! I can see how compressing it into that time span would make it easier to get through, though. I read based on the lectionary I mentioned above, but I have always found it hard to be faithful for an entire year. I am tying my Scripture reading to regular prayer and my seminary studies, so I think I will probably get through the whole thing in 2006. 90 days probably doesn't offer a whole lot of time for reflection, but I'm sure it affords enough familiarity with the whole of Scripture to let you come back and reflect upon later readings of specific passages.

I am a bit surprised by the nay-sayers, though. Reading through Scripture in its entirety should be part of every Christian's life on some kind of regular schedule. Otherwise, we have a tendency both to avoid or forget about passages that challenge our own theology, and to miss out on some great resources. I finished Isaiah at the end of December and was really floored—I'd never read it before.

(P.S. I'm back in the blogosphere and glad to find you're still around. Progressive Protestant is a thing of the past, but I am enjoying blogging in my new place from a new perspective.)

LutheranChik said...

Well, one interesting outcome of this experiment has been my outing as a rabble-rouser in this group. Since I've shared my own "theology of suspicion"/God's-preferential-option-for-the-poor perspective on some of the more misogynist and classist stories in Genesis, I see I'm getting other 90-Days participants all defensive. I knew they'd be sorry I showed up.;-)

LutheranChik said...

Lorna: I wasn't able to read through my whole blog, but I'll direct you here for a post on one of the fingers pointing me in the lay ministry direction.

I think I'd been going to my current church for about a year when my pastor -- someone I got to know about 20 years ago when I was an undergraduate involved in a campus parish and he was a campus pastor -- casually mentioned lay ministry and said, "You know, you might want to think about that sometime." He knew about my career as a church burnout/dropout, and my reluctance to get overly involved in churchy things at that point, so he didn't belabor it. And it seemed that, maybe once or twice a year, he'd mention it again...never in a pushy way; just in passing. It was just enough to get me thinking about it seriously without scaring me away.

LutheranChik said...

Lorna, here's how my particular program works: When I finally told my pastor, "I'd like to hear more about this lay ministry thing," he had me contact our program coordinator. She sent me a lengthy application, which had the usual sorts of academic application/resume questions, but also asked for a substantial "faith biography." I completed this, then gave the whole thing to my pastor, who had to add a letter of recommendation; he sent the whole thing back to the coordinator, and she in turn shared it with a synodical board -- pastors and other lay ministers. I was accepted, as all newbies are, provisionally. Applicants have to demonstrate that they're willing to attend the trainings and do the coursework; we've also all been assigned leadership tasks for our retreat weekends; and we're all in mentor groups led by a commissioned lay minister who's graduated from the program. The evaluations are pretty subtle, but you know they're going on...and, anyhow, after about three quarters into the first year I was accepted as a candidate. So now I have two years to go. If/when I finish, I'll be commissioned by my congregation (even if the scope of my ministry extends beyond that), and my pastor will be my supervisor. Now, if I chose, I could segue into the Synodically Authorized Minister program; this is a position under the authority of the bishop, commissioned by the synod. SAMs have to go through my program first, or concurrently with their own program; but they are really almost like para-pastors; they have to go through the same screenings as seminary candidates, they have a chaplaincy requirement, and they get much more training in pastoral-ministry-type things, as well as more one-on-one mentoring. And indeed a lot of SAMs decide somewhere along the line to go to seminary and get an MDiv. Frankly, at this stage of the game I don't feel a particular call to this step...two more years and who knows.

Quotidian Grace said...

Good luck with the 90 Day challenge. I hope you will find, as I did, new insights and inspiration to continue reading and studying the Bible.

One result of our 90 Days challenge at my church this last fall is a new interest in studying and understanding the OT prophets, so I set up 2 new classes (Amos/Hosea and Daniel) for that purpose. It will be interesting to see where this leads our congregation.

LutheranChik said...

Ooh, the prophets are cool. Our prof in residence at our last retreat was actually a NT prof at Capitol University in Columbus -- usually we get our teaching talent from next door at Trinity Sem, but the scheduled prof couldn't make it, so this one stepped in (actually I understand that there's a bit of friendly rivalry amongst the professors for landing these gigs, which is kind of neat to know -- thanks for liking us!)...he was great. Awesome. He was waving his arms around and bursting into spontaneous Hebrew and emphasizing, "This is poetry, people...poetry! When you're up there Sunday morning lectoring, do you read it like it's poetry?" He inspired me to go back to my hotel room that night and read the whole book of Hosea, and lots of Isaiah.

phlox said...

I agree with what you said before about the C2C Debate board...your own spiritual health is more important.