Question the Bible. Don’t Worry, It Can Handle It.

As part of my work with sparkhouse, I was involved with the launch of lectionary-based website several years ago. The brainchild of the irascible Rev. Russell Rathbun, it’s called The Hardest Question, and we’ve posted two lectionary posts every week for three years, covering the entire cycle of the Revised Common Lectionary. It’s been great, hosting the thoughts of commentators like Phyllis Tickle, Lauren Winner, Nadia Bolz-Weber, and many, many more. This week, the posts are by Mike Stavlund. The site itself has been the indefatigable work of David Schoenknecht.

With the end of the lectionary cycle, THQ is coming to an end. But, happily, Russell Rathbun’s midrashic zestiness is not. He has launched a new site, Question the Text. So far, it’s looking awesome.

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Are You an Acts 2 Church?

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times: some erstwhile young church planter says to me, “I’m really looking to plant an Acts 2 church.”  Usually, they’re moving to Seattle-the-most-unchurched-city-in-America-actually-closer-to-Europe-than-to-anywhere-in-the-U.S.  My retort is always the same: “Yeah, that lasted about five verses; then God started killing the liars.”

Well, that wonderful little passage at the end of Acts 2 comes up in the lectionary this week.  Russell Rathbun, curator of The Hardest Question, a lectionary blog, has a great post on this passage, in which he questions our assumptions about the Utopian Church:

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How Long Can We Keep Preaching Christ's Coming?

Over at The Hardest Question, a lectionary preaching blog curated by the mischievous, Russell Rathbun, is asking what I think is an important and difficult question.

This Sunday marks the beginning of Year A in the The Revised Common Lectionary.  So here we go again.  We get texts from Isaiah and the Gospels, about John the Baptist and the Second Coming.  And once again we’ve got to preach the immanent advent of the Christ.  “He’s Coming!” we preach, pray, and sing.

But is he?

I’m not really saying that my own personal belief in Jesus’ second coming is in doubt.  Anyone who knows my commitment the theological programme of Jürgen Moltmann can guess that my belief in a concrete eschaton is pretty, well, concrete.  What I am asking is, How long will people believe us? We preach the advent of Christ every Advent, and I just wonder how long until the parishioners start thinking that we’re the Preachers Who Cried Wolf.

I think it’ll be an interesting conversation at THQ, and I encourage you to tune in.

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A New Preaching Website

I’ve been part of the development of a new website for lectionary preachers (and others who care about the text).  The site is the brainchild of one of my favorite preachers (and authors), the Reverend Russell Rathbun of House of Mercy.  Two of each week’s lectionary texts will be investigated by Russell, who curates the site, and guest contributors.

In recent years, Russell has been attracted to the midrash way of approaching, exegeting, and proclaiming the text.  Specifically, he’s been studying the work of Aviviah Gottlieb Zornberg and been applying that to his own preaching.

The Hardest Question is the result of Russell’s thinking in this regard, and it is a project in partnership with sparkhouse, a new publishing and design firm in Minneapolis.  About THQ, Russell says,

“Questioning the text is important, because the Bible is the witness to the Living Word of God. We are called into relationship with God through Jesus the Christ, The Word. Relationships, at there their best, are dynamic, growing, deepening, revelatory, generative and transforming. A primary way we pursue relationship with the Living Word through the study of scripture, so it must be taken seriously, approached with a robust confidence and a passionate vulnerability.

We ask the Text the hardest questions because we can. It does not break, it is not offended and does not judge our desire for understanding. The ancient rabbis say that when we study the Bible we release God’s mercy into the world. It is important to question the text, because the world needs as much of God’s mercy as possible.”

Last week’s posts were by Bruce Reyes-Chow, and this week’s are by Fuller Seminary preaching prof Mark Labberton.  Upcoming posts will come from Nadia Bolz-Weber and Phyllis Tickle, and regular contributions will come from Russell.  Plus, every Thursday at 10:30am CDT, Russell hosts a live videocast on UStream.

So, if you’re a preacher who uses the lectionary texts, bookmark THQ as a great, new resource.  And as you’re sitting in your study on Thursday morning fighting writer’s block, tune in to the videocast for a little inspiration.

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