Monday, October 30, 2017

Exegetical Work - The Spirit of God at Work & Contemplation

In BLT2163: Methods in Biblical Study - we spend most of the semester focused on "read, research, repeat" as a frame within which I present the various critical methodologies for engaging the Bible within the academic context.  I teach learners to read the Biblical text closely and carefully.  I introduce them to places (in libraries, commentaries, dictionaries, journals, articles, word-studies) to engage critical research, and then I tell them to repeat this process - over and over again.  (Here's a video of my method summarized!)

I make clear that *this* course is not focused on spiritual readings of the Bible nor contemplative discernment (in some ways) - and - I make clear that exegesis is not proclamation (preaching) even while our hermeneutics contributes to our homiletics.

About 2/3rds of the way through the semester, with the critical methods and "tasks" for reading and research in place, I begin to do more work in exploring the dynamics and "fun" of what good exegesis produces when we read Scripture well.

Today I spent time using the Ignatian method of contemplative prayer as an invitation for learners to "imagine themselves" in the setting of the Biblical passage they are exploring.  While not a "critical methodology," it does "expand" the way we can ponder "the world" of the story - and who/how/persons interact.  And this is critical to our discerning care! :-)

I shared with them a phrase I picked up from a Presbyterian pastor I engage from his podcasts, Kirk Winslow with Jesus@2AM.  He says something close to this which I share with my learners. 

"May the Spirit who was present at the writing of Scripture be present at its interpretation."

A great phrase.

For more on praying or reading with the "method" of Ignatius - do some research, though here is one simple frame copied from Felix Just, S.J., Ph.D.

Ignatian Contemplation – The Process:

This method is especially appropriate for scenes from the Gospels, but also possible with other biblical narratives.
  1. Begin: consider how God looks upon you and loves you; become aware of being in God’s presence;
    stand for a moment, bow if you wish, then be seated comfortably for your time of prayer
  2. Preparatory Prayer: offer to God all your will and actions, especially in this time of prayer;
    ask God for a specific grace that you need and desire right now (peace, consolation, hope, etc.).
  3. Contemplate the Biblical Story that you have selected:
    • Read the text slowly and carefully; recall what it is about; then let it come alive for you!
    • Place yourself inside the story, using your imagination; become one of the characters in the scene.
    • Participate in the dynamics of the scene, dialoguing & interacting with Jesus and other characters.
    • Observe what is going on around you in the scene: What do you see, hear, feel, smell, taste, touch?
    • Dialogue with the other characters: What do they say or ask you? What do you say or ask them in reply?
    • Notice what is going on inside you as you pray: joy, sorrow, peace, confusion, love, anger, etc.
    • If you get distracted or your mind wanders, gently return to the biblical text and re-enter the scene.
  4. Colloquy: enter into a short personal conversation with Jesus (or God the Father, or the Holy Spirit); speak heart-to-heart, as if conversing with a close friend.
  5. Closing Prayer: conclude by praying the Our Father, Hail Mary, or another familiar/favorite prayer;
    you might stand, kneel, bow, raise your hands, or adopt another posture to mark the end of your prayer.
Afterward, briefly review what you experienced during this time of prayer (maybe journal about what happened),
and look forward to your next prayerful encounter with God (when? where? which biblical text will you use?).

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Podcasts - Peace Talks Radio, Other Podcasts & Apps

I want to "promote" the Peace Talks Radio podcast.  

I engage it routinely - and it has great content.  It's "lesser known" than other podcasts and I want to "inspire others" to find it.  

Additionally, for those who might be interested, I'll share a few non-religious podcasts I listen to frequently (in no particular order):

  • Sincerely X
  • TED Talks Daily
  • Conflict & Resolution with Tammy Lenski
  • Quirks & Quarks
  • 99% Invisible
  • Stuff You Missed In History Class
  • TED Radio Hour
  • ON Being with Krista Tippett
  • Peace Corp Stories: The Unofficial Podcast
  • My Peace Corp Stories

Podcasts I find meaningful for religious connection (in no particular order):

  • Kingdom Roots with Scot McKnight
  • The Meeting House Audio (Canadian Brethren Church)
  • Word of Life Podcast (Zahnd)
  • College Church of the Nazarene (Nampa, ID)
  • Jacob's Well (since there are many with this name: )
  • Office of Rabbi Sacks
  • The Bible for Normal People
  • Jesus at 2AM: A Humorous, Intelligent . . .
  • Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene
  • Lake Shore Baptist Church
  • 60 Seconds of Solitude:  Mindfulness Meditation

I'm not big on being an "APP" user on my Apple Brand iPod . . . though, I do value the following:

Overdrive (for my library books) - I use this every.single.week and have been known to require family members in other States to get a library card in their local library and let me borrow their digital books! :-)

Breathr and Breathe have great mindfulness meditations.

Pocket.   (I'm new to this app, but a professional colleagues promises me I'll love it as I add content to it and use it to "read to me.")

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A Web Log, not a Book Review Site

Two students in one of my classes have recently engaged me with various bits of content from my blog.

Additionally they asked, “Dr. Michelson, Why don’t you post about all the books you talk about in class, the ones you share with us here in lecture and class work?”

I answered:  “Great Question!”

And then I offered a reply close to this.

First, a “blog” you may not know derives from a “web log” – an online journal, really. ‘Back in the day’ this was the way that persons gave information to family members or others about their daily events.  When I started this blog, it was very intentionally just for me to “log” books I’ve read.  I had (and have) no academic agenda on this web log.

Two, a main reason for logging the books I read is because fully 80% of them are library books.  Unlike books I buy within the field of Biblical Studies – the books I blog about (1) do not get annotated (as that would be vandalism!) and (2) I don’t maintain these books on my bookshelves (or, piled neatly around my reading chairs at the home and office!)  The books that make the blog are books I simply want to remember from what I have borrowed.  [And, it serves as a good “jog” to my memory when I think to myself, “I know I recently read about XYZ . . . what book was that in again?”]

Third, within the academic community, there has been a long standing accepted form of Book Review - published, peer-reviewed, in many reputable journals.  I intentionally do not want this blog to be that – as that form is precise, clear, and has a sustained intention and critique for scholars within the scholarly community.  While I benefit from and read books within Biblical Studies every month, I have no intention to mirror anything like the formal Book Review that on my blog.  In fact, I have in many cases avoided writing about books within Biblical studies on purpose, to avoid appearance of credentialed Book Review.

Finally, this web log also intends to capture personal bits and pieces, anecdotes, ideas and other detritus of my random thinking.  On some occasions I intentionally want to capture aspects of my life for our children into their future and perhaps for our grandchildren, one day.

Having noted these issues.  In the past couple of months I read two great books within Biblical Studies – that are not “within my area” as they are they cover New Testament books.  I’ve been shaped by and have been recommending to colleagues both:  Jonathan T. Pennington’s The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary and Beverly Gaventa’s When in Romans:  An Invitationto Linger with the Gospel according to Paul.  Delightful.  Each has impacted the way I think about the Gospel and our living today.