Tuesday, August 12, 2008

D.Min. Project 2008: Acts for Today

My family and I just spent a week camping in Itasca State Park – it was awesome! My friend Kris has inspired me to upload some pictures of the trip to this blog, so stay tuned – I’ll do that soon.

In the meantime, I am going to share with you my project for this year for the Doctor of Ministry in Biblical Preaching, the course I began in June. What’s cool about the D.Min. is that it is an eminently practical degree, focused on growing the pastor, and the congregation, together. So, my project will not be an abstract theological treatise (as important as such treatises are as secondary reflections on the faith), but a sermon and Bible study series on the book of Acts, along with a reflection by myself and the congregation on what difference it makes to focus Bible study and Sunday worship on an extended biblical narrative. My ultimate question is this: will this process help us see the Biblical narrative as a unified whole, and help us see our place in that narrative? Acts seems like a good place to start.

I also want to expand this project to include you! I also plan to blog this project. I want your input, your feedback. I want you to come along on this journey.

Here is part of my abstract, or summary plan, for the project:

Narrative Background for the Project

As a weekly lectionary preacher for the past two years, and an occasional (1-2 times per month) preacher for several years before that, I have experienced the weekly assigned scripture readings to be both blessing and curse. I resonate with what Dr. Karoline Lewis shared in class: “The Lectionary is a good servant but a bad master,” and what Dr. Rolf Jacobson has said, “Use the Lectionary, but don’t inhale.” I often feel as if we are jumping to different texts each week, without noticeable connection between the texts from week to week, with little sense of where the texts fit into the larger narratives of biblical books and the Bible as a whole. The major exception, for the most part, is the Synoptic Gospels during their respective lectionary years, especially during the season after Pentecost. For the rest of the lectionary readings, it is often difficult for me to step back and see the texts against the horizon of the canon of Scripture; that is likely even more difficult for church members encountering the texts for the first (and last) time during worship.

During the New Testament Narrative course with Dr. Matthew Skinner, being immersed in the extended narrative of the birth and growth of the early church in Acts opened my eyes to one specific limitation of the Lectionary: in the three year Lectionary cycle, we hear of Ascension, Pentecost, and a few scattered stories from Acts. The church never hears the full narrative of Acts over a period of time. I plan to craft a sermon series on Acts to preach this fall, and see what difference it makes to our congregation to hear the basic story of Acts over 13 weeks in preaching and Bible study. We will not read every single passage of Acts, but enough of the key stories so that, I hope, we will get a sense of the whole narrative, and begin to be able to see ourselves, our story within that larger story. In the future, I hope to introduce shorter sermon series on smaller narrative units in the Old and New Testaments (for example, the saga of Abraham & Sarah, a prophet such as Amos or Jeremiah, an epistle such as Galatians, an overview of the Revelation of John, etc.).

Acts for Today

September 7: Acts 1:1-14 – “You will be my Witnesses” (Sunday School Rally)

September 14: Acts 2:1-42 – Filled with the Holy Spirit

September 21: Acts 4:32-5:11 – Life (and Death) in Community

September 28: Acts 5:17-42 –“We must obey God rather than men.”

October 5: Acts 6:1-8 – Change for the sake of mission

October 12: Acts 6:8-7:2a, 51-8:3 – The scattered church

October 19: Acts 8:26-40 – “What is to prevent me from being baptized?”

October 26: Acts 9:1-25 – Meeting Jesus on the Damascus Road (Reformation)

November 2: Acts 10:1-48 – Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit

November 9: Acts 16:16-34 – “What must I do to be saved?”

November 16: Acts 17:16-34 – Paul and the Athenians

November 23: Acts 20: Paul’s Farewell (Christ the King)

November 30: Acts 28:16-31 – The End is Our Beginning[i] (Advent 1)

Well, that’s it for now. Time for me to get back to our vacation!

[i] NT Wright, quoted by Adam White.