News: December '11
Recommendations for Christmas and Epiphany from an Angel and a King
The Gospel scriptures for the seasons of Advent and Christmas are full of accounts of an angel coming to people and first of all saying, “Don’t be afraid”:
“Don’t be afraid, Joseph, to take Mary as your wife”
“Don’t be afraid, Mary, the Lord is with you”
“Don’t be afraid, Shepherds, I bring you good news”
This year I’m telling the annunciation and birth stories on different occasions. Internalizing the message “Don’t be afraid” is good for my soul and an ever-present need. The angel whispers this message in our ear as well as to Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds. It is a primary way in which the spiritual discipline of learning biblical stories by heart can enable us to embody Jesus’ way of peace in the world.
Advent is also a season in which we hear from the prophets. A contemporary prophet whose life and teaching embody the spirit of Jesus in powerful and amazing ways is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This year I am enjoying weekly small group conversations inspired by reading a collection of Dr. King’s sermons entitled Strength to Love.
In his sermon “Antidotes for Fear” Dr. King echoes the message of the angel and specifies ways in which we can master fear:
1. We must unflinchingly face our fears and honestly ask ourselves why we are afraid
2. We can master fear through courage
3. Fear is mastered through love
4. Fear is mastered through faith
I hope you will have an opportunity to tell a biblical story this season. I encourage you to learn by heart one of the “Fear not” stories and also to put Strength to Love on your Christmas list. Recruit a small group or a friend to learn Dr. King’s sermon texts by heart and take your time to read through the book together. It would be an appropriate response to the angel’s message “Do not be afraid” and a meaningful way to start the new year.
Grace and peace,
Reflections on SBL 2011
SBL this year was fantastic, amazing, a kind of triumph! It's the only way to describe it. Every day there was a new joy or victory or network connection. Friday we had a great meeting organized by David Rhoads of the folks who are working on performance criticism and oral/literate/digital culture research. Some thirty or so came and what a group! And at that meeting someone distributed a list of 21 groups in SBL and AAR that are working on some aspect of what we initiated in the Bible in Ancient and Modern Media group in 1983.
Then on Saturday in the John group's discussion of Tom Thatcher and Anthony LeDonne's coedited book on John in its ancient media context, I was delighted that there was a lot of discussion of my article on audience address in John. Sunday was the meeting of the BAAM elders and plans for next year: exciting developments! Tom and Holly are doing a great job together and Holly has gotten a major grant to bring a leading ancient/modern music/story group to SBL next year. And then at the discussion of Ann Wire's book on Mark composed in performance I actually heard the representatives of the old paradigm of Mark as the writing editor of a book for readers on the defensive: first time! Great book coming at the question of Mark's composition from a different perspective: fascinating!
Monday began with breakfast of the Rhoads consultation with maybe 45 in attendance, several from South Africa, Australia, Europe. Great discussion with major plans for the future. And many of those present were young! Then in the afternoon I got to tell an extended story-Mark's passion and resurrection narrative-- for the first time at SBL. Sadly but also a sign of the breadth of our reach, the session of the Performance Criticism group was scheduled at the same time as the Mark session on Mark as Story: Retrospect and Prospect in which I also had a major article on audience address in Mark. I actually know almost nothing about what happened at that session but the session on Mark's PRN was thrilling for me. Even though many of those Mark scholars who would have been there had to be at the Mark as Story session, there were forty or fifty at the Performance session.
I was really nervous beforehand and I had to get the room changed because they put us in a small room. But the hotel staff was wonderfully cooperative and we were in the same room as our first consultation: perfect space. The story was truly compelling in the telling and the five responses were all insightful, celebrative, and constructive. Jin Han was a great chair. And Amelia was there and got a lot of the session on tape. What a joy that was to have her there! The session was a coming full circle from the response to my dissertation on the same story 37 years ago. Remarkable. I told Dennis it had been about forty years and he said, "That sounds like a significant number of years to me." I hadn't made the connection before but there has been a lot of wandering in the wilderness in these years. It also made me grateful for the courage of my committee in approving my dissertation. In the scholarly climate of 1972-74 when we negotiated all this, it was a courageous decision even if one of my committee asked me not to publish it. And all of this was a glimpse of a world of new possibilities.
Then Monday night was the dinner of the NBS Seminar! It was a fitting climax to these marvelous days. During the dinner I was aware that the Seminar has been a significant group in the formation of the critical mass that made this energy burst happen. Many of you were part of some of those events. So this gush is not even close to objective or critical as an evaluation--it was a fabulous week! I think we saw the signs that the paradigm shift in biblical scholarship has really begun to happen. Thanks from my heart to all of you who have helped make this possible. So with Naomi and Elizabeth and the shepherd who lost a sheep and Zechariah and the list goes on: Rejoice with me! And we have only begun! Think what the next forty years may yield. I can't wait to hear the stories. Is it appropriate to call this the activity of the spirit of God? It feels like that to me.
We have nearly completed all the story pages for every Gospel story in the three-year lectionary cycle. These pages are accessed either by clicking on the "Narratives" tab (listed by Gospel text reference) or "Lections" tab (listed by date).
SO! We invite you to choose your favorite story, or one you have learned and told, or one you would like to learn this year. And then, when you've made your choice, go to our Sponsor-a-Story page, make a donation ($20/story would asssure that we meet our goal) and write the bibical text reference in the Comments section of the page.
We'll put your name on the story page, and be very grateful for your support!
Here is the link for Sponsor-a-Story: