Ustream technical difficulties

Sorry about the lack of a Ustream broadcast last week. We were having technical difficulties, and we decided to just go ahead with the class without trying to resolve the problem. We actually didn’t think that anyone was “tuning in” anyway, so it didn’t seem worth delaying the class to get it working. It wasn’t until later that I was contacted by a “remote viewer” to ask what had happened.

So this week we’re going to try again. I will try to monitor the Ustream session to make sure it’s working, and to try to get those people out in cyberspace involved in our local discussion.

Hopefully, if everything is working correctly, then you should be able to join the Ustream channel here:

http://www.ustream.tv/channel/apc-the-story-our-story-god-s-story

See you tonight!

Meet and Greet

downloadThe conversation has started. We have had two IRL (In real life) conversations/classes at the Allentown Presbyterian Church. The gathering last night was live streamed and about 8 of us were available through the chat function. In addition, there is a facebook group for all who are reading the book with us. AND there is a twitter presence using the hashtag #apcthestory which you can follow on twitter or in the feed on the right margin of the blog pages.

If you’re following on this blog, however, we thought it would be good to share a few introductions. So here are some questions for you:

  1. What is your name?
  2. Where are you from?
  3. What is your experience with the Bible?
  4. What do you hope to gain from this community?
  5. What is your favorite flavor of ice cream?
  6. What is something about you that some might be surprised to know?

I will answer in the first comment on this post.

Follow along live!

We intent to broadcast our Monday evening classes via Ustream. So, even if you can’t be present in the room with us, you can still participate live. We’ll have somebody monitoring the Ustream chat, so you can even ask questions or make comments.

The URL for the live stream is http://www.ustream.tv/channel/apc-the-story-our-story-god-s-story

This is our first attempt at this, so I expect there will be some technical glitches along the way. Please be patient with us.

What “The Story” ISN’T

“The Story” is an attempt to make the Bible more accessible to a wider audience. Most people are afraid that reading the Bible is an impossible challenge for “real” people — only theologians and pastors can (or even should) attempt such a herculean task. While I certainly don’t believe that, there are certainly very real obstacles to the average person succeeding. Among them (as I see it)

  • There is a lot of discontinuity. The story line is broken up into chapters which jump back and forth chronologically.
  • Some passages, especially early in the Old Testament, are very repetitive lists of information, which are difficult to work through
  • The “wisdom literature” chapters, while some of the most beautiful poetry, don’t do anything to move the story forward, and can get the reader bogged down
  • And, of course, it’s very long

“The Story” tries to work around these issues

  • The content is arranged chronologically, so that the reader encounters events in the order in which they happen
  • Those portions of the text which don’t move the story forward are skipped completely. That includes the wisdom literature
  • The content is reduced to 31 chapters, each of a “readable” length to make sure that the reader doesn’t feel they’re getting in too deep

From what I’ve seen so far, the editors of “The Story” have succeeded in their goal of making the Bible more accessible. However, I think it’s important to be aware of the cost of that accessibility. I have only read the first chapter thus far, but I’m already aware of what I feel are significant omissions. For instance, in the story of Noah, there is no mention of what happens after Noah and his family leave the ark, when Noah gets drunk and passes out. While I understand why this may have been left out, I think it’s important to realize that there may be significant nuances that we lose in the “Reader’s Digest” condensed version.

That’s not to say I don’t find value in reading “The Story.” I do. I only wanted to make sure that we understand the limitations of what we’re doing.

My hope is that, as we move through this time together, our discussions can and will bring in some of those nuances that the editors of “The Story” had to leave out.

God’s Story/Your Story

Community of JesusI attended the daily prayer service at the Church of the Transfiguration at Community of Jesus in Cape Cod this summer.  The members of the Benedictine community sang the order of the day using Gregorian Chant amidst the worship space that had been designed to tell “the story.”  Outside the Church, the gathering space before the large wooden doors represents the time before “the fall;” it is creation in all of its fullness.  Inside we walk through a nave that is surrounded by mosaic murals and paintings representing the stories of scripture.  The focal point above the chancel is the triumphant kingdom, the realm of the glorified Christ.  We heard from our docent, the next day, that each piece of glass in the mosaic, each bird represented in the tree of life, each stone and each brush stroke also has a story.  And on top of that, each person sitting there, or whoever sat there, or will ever sit here has a story … we are all interconnected.

The book, The Story, is meant to highlight the “upper story” of God in Christ, the meta-narrative, the over-arching story of salvation in the Judeo-Christian heritage.  The parts of the Bible that were chosen to be a part of this particular narrative were chosen so that the larger story could be told in an accessible format, similar to a novel.  Even the novel, you know, has stories within stories … each one adding something important to the overall theme, story-arch, purpose, of the book.

While most of the words are taken directly from the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, you will notice there are spaces between some paragraphs.  The spaces are there to let us know that some of the original text (often quite a bit of the original text) has been removed in order to keep the story moving.  At other times, you’ll notice some text in italics; these are sentences added by the editors to help the reader fill in the major storyline as the chapters move forward.

Every time scripture is redacted or a particular “lectionary” (readings) are chosen, there is bias.  In fact, one can argue, the very fact that these particular ancient texts have been included in the sacred writings  we know as the Bible and others have been excluded from the canon, is an interpretation.  The canonization process is considered by the Christian Church to have been inspired by the Holy Spirit even as the writing of the texts themselves were.  The redaction of the texts in this publication of The Story, while no doubt influenced by the Spirit, is still the work of human beings and influenced by their own theological priorities and perspectives.

So don’t make the mistake of thinking The Story IS the Bible.  It is not.  It is, however, a trailer, a “Reader’s Digest” version, a teaser, a beginning … As we read the The Story, together, we can grab the bigness of the story in way we miss by reading one verse at a time.  We will have opportunity, here and in other groups, to question, reflect, and delve deeper both in the upper stories, the lower stories and in our stories.

Just as the Church of the Transfiguration is literally an artistic story within story, so it is with the Christian story.  Beneath the over-arching story of the deliverance of the people of Israel, for instance, is the story of Joseph, the story of Moses, the story of the exodus, etc.  Beneath the meta-narrative of the history of salvation is the story of creation, the story of exile, the story of Jesus’ birth, life and resurrection, the story of the early church.  And beneath and within and around all of those stories is the story of you and me.

Our story is both formed and informed by the larger stories of our family, our friends, our heritage, our nation, our people … but as Christians, our story is ultimately formed, informed, and transformed by work of God … in the lives of God’s people, in the life and resurrection of Jesus, and in our own lives.

I’m looking forward to reading The Story with you.  This week we’ll begin with “Chapter 1: The Beginning of Life as We Know It.”  Look for our initial reflection on Chapter 1, which will be published on this blog Monday morning, September 16.  In the meantime, here are some questions to consider:

  • What do you think of this concept of upper story and lower story?
  • What questions or comments do you have about our journey together?
  • What questions do you start out with as you anticipate reading the Bible in this way over the next few months?