Ben Myers recently presented two excellent sessions at the annual Synod meeting on the Uniting Church SA on living into the Scriptures. His first session drew on the "Festal Orations" of Gregory of Nazianzus, a 4th century theologian and preacher. Gregory's remarkable sermons retell the Gospel narratives in the first person, with the hearer being imported into the story, reliving it in the here-and-now. One of Ben's observations was that four gospels are required to provide the fullness of the biblical world that might in a sense, encompass our world, our place, our time.
His second session drew on Athanasius' fourth century exposition of the Psalms. In this instance, Ben invited us to reflect on how we sing our way into faith, and on the Psalms as a canon for the whole of human experience.
This notion of being a people shaped by the Word has long been a theme in Christian education. In his excellent book, "A Pilgrim People" (now available on Kindle), John Westerhoff says "Our identity is dependent on having a story that tells us who we are; our understanding of life's meaning and purpose is dependent on having a story that tells us what the world is like and where we are going... The church is a story-formed community." In this particular book, Westerhoff traces the liturgical seasons of the Church Year as the narrative arc of Christian faith and identity.
In a different sense, Walter Brueggemann, in "The Creative Word", describes how the canon of the Old Testament by its nature is educative in terms of both substance and process: "how the biblical material reaches its present form (canonical process) and the present form that it has reached (canonical shape) are important theological matters that tell us about the intent of the biblical community." Bruggemann then examines the role of narrative, prophetic poetry and wisdom literature as three strands or modes of biblical education. The narrative of the Torah states the community ethos, the prophets disclose the pathos of God and Israel, and the wisdom literature frames the logos, or the sense of order and meaning in life.
Samuel Wells (with reference to Tom Wright) sees the Christian life as improvisation on/within God's story, a narrative theo-drama in five parts. ("Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics") "It is not the church's role to make the story end well. The church lies within the story, rather than at the end of it." He quotes Gerard Loughlin as saying "When a person enters the scriptural story he or she does so by entering the Church's performance of that story; he or she is baptised into a biblical and ecclesial drama." ("Telling God's Story")
In his book "Biblical Perspectives on Evangelism", Brueggemann describes evangelism as "doing the text again." There is a wealth of insights here about education as learning to live into and live out of the biblical narrative, and about learning to acquire a scriptural imagination (see an excellent collection of essays in Duke Divinity School magazine here.) How do we teach in ways such that the biblical narratives form and frame our imaginations? How might we craft learning experiences that derive from "doing the text again" with our own faithful improvisations?
I'll let you know if/when Ben's sessions go online. Ben's excellent blog is here.