God Has Spoken to God’s People: Engaging with the Broad Story of Scripture

Open your ears, O Faithful People…

“Creation, Covenant, Shekinah, Kingdom” from the St. John’s Bible

This morning, Christian Formation ministers from around the diocese met by phone to talk about Scripture.  Below, you’ll find a reprise of our conversation for folks who weren’t able to join in the call.

We wondered,

How can we nurture a love for Scripture in members of our parish?

How can we encourage children, youth, adults to enjoy Scripture, to engage God’s word with delight?

How can we encourage a spirit of respect for the Word of God in our midst?

How can we be patient with Scripture when we don’t understand it?  

 The Big Picture:

Several months ago when we discussed objectives for Christian Formation,  we mentioned two foundational objectives relating to the big story of scripture:

  • Children and youth will articulate the biblical narrative with particular focus on the identity of God, self, and neighbor.
  • Children and youth will understand the motions of Christian life together as the enactment of the faith and of the biblical narrative.

[We’ll talk more on connecting scripture to experience during our next phone call.]

Today, we talked about how we might engage children, youth, and adults in the story of Scripture.  But, before we proceed, a word from St. Augustine:

Whoever, therefore, thinks that he understands the divine Scriptures or any part of them so that it does not build the double love of God and of our neighbor does not understand it at all.  Whoever finds a lesson there useful to the building of charity, even though he has not said what the author may be shown to have intended in that place, has not been deceived, nor is he lying in any way…” (Augustine, On Christian Doctrine)

We heard, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest Scripture in order to grow in love for God and neighbor.  Scripture leads us into God’s kingdom.

How might we begin to tell and cherish the broad story of Scripture in our communities of faith?

“Pentecost” from the St. John’s Bible

The Duke Youth Academy uses the 7 “C’S” as touchstones for teaching the “Bible’s basic plotline:”

Creation • Crisis • Covenant • Christ •Church • Calling • Coming Reign of God

 The seven C’s are one way to return again and again to the broad Scriptural story, and to offer children a context for the individual stories of scripture.

We shared ideas about how we might these touchstones in parish ministry:

  •   Work one of the “C’s” into the learning objectives for each Sunday School session with older children or youth.  Each week, invite youth to take time to reflect on how the relates to its “C” theme.
  •    Make a Bible timeline to display in a multi-use space in the parish.  Use biblical art to illuminate stories along the timeline.  A few resources for art & the biblical story:  Vanderbilt’s Art and the Christian Tradition database, Christopher Brewer’s Art That Tells the Story, Textweek – Art Index
  •        Invite children and youth to make art for each “C” and display it around the church building.
  •        Assign a month and a newsletter spot (or blog spot) each month to exploring a “C” theme. Which biblical stories find themselves side-by-side under each theme?  For example, “Where – in addition to Genesis 1-2 do themes of ‘Creation’ appear in Scripture?”
  •       Photocopy and distribute “table cards” for each C theme with a scripture on each card, and a few questions for families to reflect on over a meal.  (These “God’s Big Story” cards are one take on this.)
  •    Organize a “Passport to the Bible” workshop or “Walk through the Bible Day” each year:  Take a day and set up a station for each of the seven C’s with dramatic storytelling and activities relating to that theme.

 Other resources for telling the broad Scriptural story:

Godly Play and Catechesis of the Good Shepherd

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Jago (for young children)

Echo the Story  an Augsburg-Fortress curriculum (for older children and young teens)

Ideas for parishes and families from the Mennonite Year of the Bible Network

A caveat:  Today, we noted several times that there are pitfalls to painting the Scriptural story with an overly-broad brush, and it is important to balance our telling of the larger biblical narrative with faithful reading of the whole Bible in its (sometimes overwhelming) detail.  Telling the broad Scriptural story is one part of growing to learn and love Scripture, but certainly not the whole.

During our conversation this morning, we repeatedly wondered how we can invite and encourage adults (parents, godparents, grandparents) who may be unfamiliar with or intimidated by Scripture to engage with it at home.  And that is a topic for my next post.  Stay tuned!



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