Tag Archives: bible

Rachel Held Evans: ‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’

‘A Year of Biblical Womanhood’ was another book out of the borrowed pile, and another non-fiction one. After one of many chats about being both a woman and a Christian, a friend of mine suggested reading Rachel Held Evans for a perspective on the issue, so (eventually) off I went.

I enjoyed this book so much.The premise was fascinating – one woman living out the female-specific commands in the bible as literally as possible for a year. The writing was engaging and her actual experiences were at turns profound and hilarious.

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I appreciated Rachel’s methodology. Firstly, rather than tackling all commandments all at once for 365 days, she broke them down into twelve categories and lived them out month at a time: this sounded wise not just for her sanity, but also for helping me to process it all.

Secondly, she included many interviews and reflections from women who think quite differently to her: I didn’t personally agree with all of her interpretation as she reflected on ‘biblical womanhood’ – nor those of everyone she interviewed – but I liked the way these different voices made room for me to both disagree with her and stay engaged in her story.

Thirdly, between chapters she included twelve short devotions on women in the bible, which was a nice counterpoint to the laws and exhortations she was living out. I’m very glad she included these reflections, so we could hear the stories of women in the bible among the story of Rachel’s year.

The highest point was her month of living out Proverbs 31, celebrating ‘women of valour’. I think I will come back to that idea again and again. It is a marvelous thing to  celebrate the valour of other women.

The another high point for me was this succinct explanation of the care and thoughtfulness we need to put into interpreting the bible:

For those of us who count the Bible as sacred, interpretation is not a matter of whether to pick and choose but how to pick and choose. We are all selective. We all wrestle with how to interpret and apply the bible to our lives. We all go to the text looking for something and we all have the tendency to find it. So the question we have to ask ourselves is this: Are we reading with the prejudices of judgement and power, self-interest and greed?

If you are looking for Bible verses with which to support slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses to abolish slavery, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to oppress women, you will find them. If you are looking for verses with which to liberate and honor women, you will find them…

…This is why there are times when the most instructive question to bring to the text is not, what does the text say? but what am I looking for?

Yes! I think I fist-pumped when I read this. We are always – subconsciously or intentionally – wrestling with interpretation as we read the bible. We should always be pausing to ask ‘what am I looking for’?

And at this point I really wish Rachel had gone on to talk about coming to the bible first and foremost looking to know Jesus, and his sacrificial, redemptive, far-reaching, all powerful love. We should be concerned most of all about Jesus and his love for us, before we come with any other agendas about our gender, or whatever else we are hung up on. I am convinced that focusing on him, above our own personal agendas, goes some way to helping us avoid self-interested interpretations of the text.

Sadly Rachel didn’t quite land there. But even if she didn’t say it, this is the message I have taken away from her book: the attitude we bring to interpreting the bible absolutely shapes the way we read it, and so the best attitude I can have is one that is centred more on Jesus than on myself. I know in reality that reading the bible is not as simple as that, but examining my attitude like this is definitely a start!

Baptism Class

This is how Baptism Class went down today with my 12 year old pupil Josiah:

“OK, Josiah. John 1:1-18. You can read.”

Before the world began, there was the Word. Wait, what? What does it mean, the Word? Is that God?”

“Keep reading, Josiah.”

“The Word was with God. OK. The Word isn’t God.”

“Keep reading, Josiah.

“The Word was with God, and the Word was God. What??”

“Yep, the Word was with God and the Word was God. Keep reading.”

“He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through him. Wait, through God?”

“Well, through the Word.”

“How can a Word be a him? A word is a not a person.”

“Keep reading, Josiah!”

“Nothing was made without him. Him as in God, right?”

“Him as in the Word.”

“But how can a word be a person?!”

“Keep reading, Josiah!!”

“In him there was life. That life was light for the people of the world. The Light shines in the darkness. And the darkness has not overpowered the Light.There was a man named John who was sent by God. He came to tell people about the Light. Through him all people could hear about the Light and believe. John was not the Light, but he came to tell people about the Light. The true Light was coming into the world. The true Light gives light to all. The Word was in the word. Wait, in the world.

“You’re doing great.”

“The Word was in the world. The world was made through him, but the world did not know him. He came to the world that was his own. But his own people did not accept him. But some people did accept him. They believed in him. To them he gave the right to become children of God. They did not become his children in the human way. They were not born because of the desire or wish of some man. They were born of God.”

“Good job, keep going.”

“The Word became a man and lived among us. We saw his glory—the glory that belongs to the only Son of the Father. The Word was full of grace and truth. John told about him. Wait, him? The word is a him?”

“Yes, Josiah, the Word became a man and lived among us. Have you worked out who it is yet?”

“Ummmm…”

“Keep reading.”

“He said, “This is the One I was talking about. I said, ‘The One who comes after me is greater than I am. He was living before me.’” The Word was full of grace and truth. From him we all received more and more blessings. The law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Oh!! The Jesus! The Word is Jesus!”

“Yes! Good job. Nearly there, keep reading.”

“No man has ever seen God. But God the only Son is very close to the Father. And the Son has shown us what God is like.”

“Yay!”

“So did God kind of put the Word into Mary’s womb?”

“You can read the beginning of Luke in your own time.”

And that is John 1:1-18 with commentary from a year 6 kid (International Children’s Bible). He asks very good questions!

 

10 “Memory Verse” Songs for Grown Ups

Now half a year into my steep learning curve of children’s ministry, I have rediscovered something significant (and obvious): songs help us remember scripture. 

Growing up outside the church I missed learning all the ‘classic’ kids memory verse songs, so it took me a while to discover them as an adult. I’m getting familiar with them, and learning how to integrate them seamlessly into lessons. But it’s clear that I should be using them more.

Discovering them has made me remember just how important music is for memorising scripture. I may have missed out on Colin Buchannan and all the rest of it, but as an adult I have been exposed to some incredible ‘memory-verse’ music for grown ups. Here are 10 (well… eleven) of my favourite songs with lyrics taken straight from the bible, which have helped me to remember very important passages of scripture: Continue reading

Skipping church

I am sick tonight, skipping church, scouring the internet for some sermon-y input to learn from while I sit at home, cold, by myself. My church family is considering the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 13 tonight, so I went looking for something similar and found this beautiful tiny sermon excerpt from N.T. Wright:

Love is not our duty. It is our destiny!
Love is the language they speak in the new creation, and we get to learn it here!
Oh, it’s difficult. There are lots of irregular verbs.
There is vocabulary that is very difficult to get into your head, or get your tongue around.
But learn it, and one day you will be singing it.

But then, after searching a little broader I left 1 Corinthians behind and stumbled upon this most incredible sermon: Loving this world and longing for the next.

I felt God cut me to the core – not just touching on questions I have been asking recently, but going further, peeling back layers so I could see into my heart. He sent me a brother, months after the words were spoken, to articulate with crystal clarity all the deep questions I didn’t realise I was asking. To expose in my heart the unhelpful inconsistencies that I’ve been entertaining. Such great timing, so incredibly helpful. Thank you Lord!

2013 in review: the Bible version

You’d think that with a job in student ministry I should be disciplined enough to get my personal bible reading in order. Sadly, no, it’s still a struggle to spend time alone in God’s word every day. Thankfully, however, God has still been teaching me great things this year through the many other contexts where I’ve spent time considering scripture: at church, with friends, in bible studies, conferences and even (sometimes) in the quiet of my own home. There have been many recurring themes coming out in my learning throughout the year, especially as I read the same book in many contexts (at one point I was being taught from the book of James simultaneously by three different people!). I’d love to end 2013 by remembering the ways that the scriptures have challenged me during the year.

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Read more…

Hosanna!

Palm Sunday has arrived again! It’s the day for remembering Jesus triumphant entrance into his capital; it’s the day that points forward, through the events of Easter, to the time when Jesus will return triumphantly again to bring justice and peace.

Last year I collected some readings and songs for Palm Sunday, this year I’m extending the list to include other passages and songs that have kept encouraging me to delight in our saviour over the past year:

Readings from the Old Testament
(prophecies of the coming King and LORD)
Psalm 24
Zechariah 9:9-17

Readings from the New Testament
(Jesus arrives at Jerusalem)
Matthew 21:1-10
Mark 11:1-10
Luke 19:29-40
(A promise of Jesus’ return, echoing the language of his triumphant entry)
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

Music for Palm Sunday
In terms of musical style my offering here are not very revolutionary – I’ve posted music from all of these artists here before! But I really love these songs for celebrating Palm Sunday. I hope you enjoy them too!
Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates by Sufjan Stevens
Lift up your heads by Michael Morrow
Lo, he comes with clouds descending by the Welcome Wagon

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

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Notes
All bible passages links take you to the English Standard Version.
Sufjan’s link takes you to a fan-made youtube clip with strange accompanying visuals. I suggest watching it with your eyes closed.
Michael Morrow’s link takes to their webpage where you can hear an excerpt of this song. I suggest buying it from itunes if you like it!
The Welcome Wagon link takes you to their website where you can buy their whole album for $8. I can’t find any streamed versions of this song. But paying $8 for the mp3s of this album is definitely the best musical bargain in history, their album is amazing!.

If you like any of this music I suggest buying it rather than streaming it to support these lovely musicians.