IVP - Online Pulpit - The Lectionary: Giving the Narrative of Scripture Another Chance

November 11, 2011

The Lectionary: Giving the Narrative of Scripture Another Chance

By Todd Hunter

Having a sister and brother that are both almost a decade older than me, I’ve been hearing, since the 1960s, about the New Age. Of course I also heard a lot of hand-wringing preaching against it in the 70s and 80s. More recently, I’ve been hearing the related notion that “I am spiritual but not religious”.

I am not angry with these movements. I am actually glad to see that the spiritual side of humanity still gets some airtime in our culture. These movements, for all their errors when viewed against orthodox Christianity, have kept alive the notion that a purely secular worldview does not make sense of reality and is not fulfilling.

For all the energy and spiritual promise attached to these two sister movements, I think we could all easily recognize that there does not seem to be a tidal wave of goodness, a revival of righteousness or resurgence of morals happening in any sector of human living—including the church.

Why might this be the case? I don’t think it’s because the people creating designer religions are insincere. I don’t believe it is because they don’t work at their chosen approach to spirituality. I believe transformation is not happening for one crucial reason: these movements have, for the most part, cut them selves off from the text, the story, the only revelation that has the power to pull into alignment all the various aspects of our lives.

Seeking spiritually without the Bible leaves us like a musician without a score, an actor without a plot or lines of dialogue, like an athlete with no lines on the field to confirm what is inbounds or out. The Scriptures are the primary source material for spiritual formation in the way of Jesus. Our sacred text shows us what such formation looks like and the wider story in which it occurs—for instance, that God is main character, not us. This one insight would be enough to completely rearrange the thinking of the “spiritual but not religious” crowd.

When I began to give church another chance, one of the most cherished gifts given to me was the weekly reading of God’s story: Old Testament, a psalm, an epistle and a Gospel. Reading the Bible with the lectionary tells the whole story, the main plot lines of the Bible.

This was a big deal to me. I think it would be to others too if they could experience it. Here’s why: hearing the Bible as the overarching story that was supposed to make sense of the little story of my life broke the power of spirituality that was becoming too self-referential. Without the Bible all our spiritual work is about us. With the Bible it becomes about God, about others—and us only within that context.

The Bible has a special quality to it. It is alive and powerful. It reads us as much as we read it. It is not merely understandable. It is livable. Approaching the Bible in a read-to-be-lived manner, we find the source material missing from so many contemporary spiritualities. We find the only story with the authority, clout and ability to remake our heart, tame our unruly will, heal our misshapen soul, educate our mistaken mind and then place us into our various roles in society as spiritual in the Way of Jesus.

hunterOP.jpgBishop Todd D. Hunter (D.Min., George Fox University) leads Churches for the Sake of Others, a church-planting initiative of the Anglican Mission in the Americas. He is also a teacher, writer and consultant for his ministry, Society for Kingdom Living, which helps pastors and lay leaders reach a generation that has been disenfranchised from the church. He is the author of Giving Church Another Chance, The Accidental Anglican and Christianity Beyond Belief.

Posted by Nate Baker-Lutz at November 11, 2011 9:07 AM Bookmark and Share

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