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One of the things I do in retirement is facilitate workshops on proclaiming the Scriptures.  In those, I provide people with tools to enter into the Scriptures, not as a study of history or paleontology, but as lived and present-day experience.  My aim is to help them enter the sacred texts as something they experience, and can then relate as first-person witnesses.  It has been my experience that when this happens, the texts come alive, touch people in a way that mere recitation does not.

A particular experience of my own helps to illuminate this.  One Sunday, I was rostered to proclaim the Old (i.e. ancient) Testament reading of the creation myth as outlined in Genesis 1.  I began to prepare in the usual way, reading the Scriptures aloud several times.  The first was to simply see, in my mind, the scene as it unfolded.  Then I repeated the reading, asking who was there? What was that person, those persons, doing?  Finally, I repeated the reading again, listening to the conversations, even entering into them myself if that happened.  There was no right or wrong, there was only the experience, my experience, which would then inform the way I told the story.

I began to read the story, based on what I had been taught, namely that Genesis 1 was written by the Priestly source, very much in the sense that there was an appropriate place and order for everything.  It could have been a Priest, it could have been an engineer writing the story.

Then suddenly, in my mind, something changed.  I was no longer watching an engineer or a cultic priest at work.  I was seeing and hearing an artist at work, musing his way through creation.  Each day was not a concrete, practical step in the building of a logical structure.  Instead, each day became the stroke of an artist's brush, here a stroke of red, there of yellow, there again of blue or grey or green, all binding together to create a masterpiece.  Each day, too, the artist looked at what he had done the day before, mused on it, and then, as in an 'Aha!' moment, decided what he should add next.

I was so struck by the difference in the way the story sounded as I recounted it that I decided to record both versions. (It's a large file, just over 14 minutes long and about 15MB, so may take a while to download.) The result, as you will hear, is the recounting of two different visions of creation, exactly the same words, yet two very different stories.

This, I believe, is what our Church faces today.  It's not just a question of what the words are of the story we tell.  It's a question of the way we understand and recount our experience of faith, our experience of God at work in our lives.

If you would like to express your opinion on this, or talk about your experience, email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In casae you missed the link, it's http://interchurchfamilies.org/images/Audio/genesis_1.m4a

Ray Temmerman

   

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