Starting this Sunday, for my new sermon series (the Revised Common Lectionary gets pretty tedious) I’m going to preach the Bible.
“But wait!” you protest. “Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do every week? What else would you preach on?”
Well, yes. Obviously, my sermons are almost always biblically-based. But this week, I’m starting at the beginning and attempting to preach on the entire Bible (mostly, but probably not entirely, in the order presented).
I mentioned that I was thinking about this in a clergy group on Facebook. A few people suggested maybe I try the Narrative Lectionary. One person added the promotion, “it skips all the really boring and blatantly offensive stuff.”
And there, my friends (or random stranger who somehow stumbled across my blog), is the core of my intention with this sermon series: to stop skipping, avoiding, and hiding the crappy parts of the Bible.
“Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to address such things in a Bible study setting, where you can delve into such concepts as historical setting, social location, and cultural idiomatic phrasing?”
Perhaps. But here’s my issue with that. Ok, two issues:
One, I might get three people to faithfully attend a Bible study…mm, maybe four. Not the 20-35 people present on our average Sunday morning.
And two, it is a generally accepted premise in the Christian faith–even the progressive Christian faith!–that the Bible is a holy text. I was asked at ordination if I heard the word of God in scripture, and if I accepted the word of God as the rule of Christian faith and practice.
If it’s holy, it damn well better be preach-able. At least, that’s my stance.
I may not want to preach it. I may not have any idea how to preach it. There’s some tough shit in there. But I think if I’m going to be authentic in my faith and my call to preach, and in the way I approach the scriptures, then I’d better bring that to my congregation. Many in my church are not particularly Biblically literate. A Bible study that few attend won’t help that.
The only way to know what’s in the Bible, and what it means for our lives, is to read it.
And, look. If we’re going to argue with others about what the Bible says or doesn’t, and what it does or doesn’t mean, we better know what the hell we’re talking about. As my beloved seminary professor James Cone said, “They know their Bible! You better know your Bible!”
So, as a community of faith, we’re going to read it. All of it. No excluding lines that we don’t like or that make us uncomfortable or don’t make sense or just suck. Some weeks, I’ll be posting trigger warnings for the following Sunday in the bulletin. Some weeks, I’ll be getting creative with presentation and voices and elements of worship.
This week, for instance, for our reading of Genesis 1:1-2:3, the first creation story (uh, yeah, in case you missed it, there are two, and they’re different), I’m getting the children involved. They’ll split up the story into parts, and I’m hoping to add the elements of creation to the sanctuary as we work our way through the text and the service–start in the dark and then turn on the lights, pouring water, tree branches and stuffed animals…you get the idea.
I have no idea how long it will take me to get through this sermon series. Another person in the clergy group mentioned his predecessor took 10 years(!) to do something similar. Another said a friend was going to do a Bible book a week, which I realized would take more than a year itself. So…yeah. We’re looking at years.
But, oh. What we can experience and learn together in those years. Even if we get tired of it and fall off the plan, there will still be plenty of scripture that some people never knew about and would never have known otherwise. There will be enlightenment and frustration and curiosity and doubt. It may be terrible, and/or wonderful.
Want to join us? I’ll do my best to keep tabs on our progress here on the blog, including any particular liturgical elements which I create (which, let’s be honest, might be quite a few, given the lack of resources for many texts).
So we jump off: “In the beginning…”