letting the text have a voice

June 10, 2009

We read scripture in order to be refreshed in our memory and understanding of the story within which we ourselves are actors, to be reminded where it has come from and where it is going to, and hence what our own part within it ought to be. — NT Wright

Our Sunday gatherings for Austin Mustard Seed have had a number of different looks in the nine months we’ve been together. Sometimes, it’s been a matter of spending time talking and praying with each other after a particularly hard week. Some weeks have been very structured as I lead us through a more in-depth study of a Scripture text or theme. At times, we have just enjoyed getting acquainted with new faces that God has brought our way.

On Easter, we did something new for our community that has become a favorite Sunday rhythm for me. Rather than talk about the importance of the Easter holiday, or proofs for the Resurrection, or explain theological implications, we just…read the story. We opened a Bible to John 20, and passed it around the room. Adults and children alike read a few verses and passed it along.

Since Easter, we’ve used this same means of hearing Scripture more often than not. A shared reading, usually from the screen, followed by a time of discussion as we talk about how we are challenged, confused, encouraged, or troubled by what we read. Too often, Scripture is given a brief spotlight in a church gathering. Perhaps it gets an extended reading prior to a sermon, or maybe a few brief passages are raised in the course of a topical sermon. But I’m hungry to learn what it can look like when a community engages with the story of Scripture.

If it is part of the privilege and duty of each Christian to study scripture, and to read it devotionally, it is important that the wider church should be able to hear what individual readers are discovering in the text. Of course, not all private readings will come up with significant new insights; but many will. The church needs to facilitate, through small groups, and other means, this bring of particular viewpoints to the attention of the whole body, both so that the larger community may be enriched and so that maverick or clearly misleading readings can be gently and appropriately corrected. — NT Wright

This doesn’t, of course, mean less preparation for me. I still spend the same amount of time studying the text in advance, and usually have a few points of discussion in mind. I come prepared to engage questions about the text, or offer insights from the studies of those who have come before us. But the course of our group study is guided by how the Spirit in engaging the text with the hearts of those who are present.

I don’t know what this way of engaging the text can look like as our community continues to grow. But I know there is something with this that I hope we can always capture. I long to help shape a community to listens to the story of the Scriptures together, and learns from each other what it means to continue with God in the writing of that story.

Both of the quotes above were taken from The Last Word, by NT Wright. You should read it.

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