Lectionary Reading Blog for 11 September: 16th Sunday after Trinity

LiturgyandSpiritualityThe parable of the lost sheep has always had more questions for me than answers.

Was it normal for a shepherd to leave ninety-nine sheep in the wilderness and go looking for one? Was it normal to be so happy with finding one sheep as to throw a party? Did Jesus really think that the Pharisees were righteous and did not need repentance? Is it really the case that most people do not need to repent?

It is clear that the parable has a surprise element but current readers will miss what the surprise is if they do not know a little bit about first century shepherds. Ernest van Eck in Parables of Jesus the Galilean (2012, 117-139) explains that shepherds were very disreputable in Jesus’ time. They were seen as bandits and agitators and were deemed unclean.

Their status was very different from the nomadic times of the sheep owners that we find in the Hebrew Bible. Van Eck also explains that they earned very little and if they lost a sheep they had to replace it which would cost them a month or more in wages. So this is a story of somebody on the margins of society taking a huge risk (while acting surprisingly honourable) to be able to sustain his family. Does God (and the church and we) take similar risks to go after the lost?

11 September 2016
Luke 15:1-10

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

Book Launch with Martyn Whittock – Christ: The First 2000 Years

9780745970455webHow has Christ been seen for the last two millenia? How was Jesus seen in the New Testament, and how did that view develop and change?

Author Martyn Whittock gave a spirited talk recently on his new book Christ: The First 2000 Years  which is an interesting and well-written introduction to Christology through art, via the Crusades, the Middle Ages and on into our present time.

The talk was followed by an interesting question and answer session.

The book was described by the Bishop of Salisbury as “informative and insightful; an excellent summary both of what we know today and its significance for he world around us”.

‘Christ: the First 2000 Years’ is ‘Book of the Month’ for September and just £6.50 (+ postage) from our online shop.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 4 September: 15th Sunday after Trinity

LiturgyandSpiritualityClearly, in today’s reading, Jesus is getting far too popular and needs to scare some people away. A problem many churches would be envious of.

I imagine most pastors today would frown upon the scare tactic Jesus uses.

Jesus asks whether we have counted the cost of discipleship and whether we are willing to pay the price? The price he mentions does not make fully sense. I had understood that disciples were asked to love not to hate. Of course the Greek verb miseo that is translated as hate – is for comparison. This word asks you to choose one value (in this case discipleship) over another value (in this case family). So compared to discipleship your family should be as nothing.

In Jesus’ time these words will have been even harsher than in our own. In my own life a lot of my discipleship is lived out in relationship with my family. The discipleship and the family then do not seem at odds as in Jesus’ saying. What puzzles me is that the family members of the beginning of the passage are hardly comparable with the possessions at the end of the passage. We had already understood that Luke was not keen on disciples having many possessions. However hard it is to give up my possessions I will find it a lot easier then hating my children.

4 September 2016
Luke 14: 25-33

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

Lectionary Reading Blog for 28 August: 14th Sunday after Trinity

LiturgyandSpiritualityJesus does not only eat (and converse) with the marginalised he also eats (and speaks) with leaders.

They did take notice of him; he was being invited to the dinner parties of the rich.

The stories Jesus tells in this context are clearly recognisable and applicable for those in the centre of society. They are stories for people who are being invited to dinner parties, for people with enough self-confidence to take the best seat. They are stories for people with the means to give a banquet. Are they stories for people like us?

Jesus tries to convince his audience that true humility (enough confidence in who you are so that you can always honour whoever you meet) and true hospitality (inviting in new people –not always the same old crowd who already belong) pay off.

Humility interestingly pays off before the resurrection; true hospitality will also pay off but later. Jesus does not really mention the virtues themselves he describes them in stories. What stories do we have about these virtues in our culture and churches? In a way these two virtues belong together for true hospitality you need true humility. You need to respect and honour others whoever they are to invite them into relationship.

Jesus is being an advocate for the poor and marginalised, because a society (and a world) in which the rich and powerful are humble and hospitable is a better place for everybody. I wonder what this means for us, individually, as church and as a nation: to be humble and hospitable?

28 August 2016
Luke 14:1, 7-14

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

Paint Me This Way

Transforming Lives Through Portrait Therapy

Friday 11 November 2016 to Saturday 7 January 2017

(please note that Sarum College will shut at 4pm on Saturday December 24 and re-open Tuesday, 3 January)

Artist, art therapist and researcher Dr Susan Carr presents more than 30 painted portraits co-designed with patients living with life-threatening and chronic illnesses. For Susan, portraiture is a way of knowing and being when severe illness disrupts a person’s sense of identity.

Carr’s PhD research explored this collaborative and inclusive art therapy for people living with life-threatening and chronic illnesses whose experience disrupts their sense of self-identity – those who say things like “I don’t know who I am anymore” … “I’m not the person I used to be before I was ill,” and “I look in the mirror and I say ‘Who’s that?!’ …”

Through her artistic practice or ‘third hand’, Carr created creates portraits for patients which they co-design, which allows those who are unwell or unwilling to make art themselves to engage in the creative design process.

Contact us   |   Exhibitions at Sarum College

Lectionary Reading Blog for 21 August: 13th Sunday after Trinity

LiturgyandSpiritualityIn this passage Jesus has a typical rabbinical discussion with the leader of the synagogue.

It seems as if the leader of the synagogue is trying to keep order in the synagogue without taking Jesus on, talking with the crowd rather than with Jesus.

This is remarkable as the healing was Jesus’ initiative not the woman’s. She has not asked for it. Jesus again taking the initiative does want the debate with the leader of the synagogue. A doctor was allowed to treat emergencies on the Sabbath but not a chronic disease such as this. Jesus compares what he does not with the work of a doctor but with setting your animals free so they can drink: this was allowed on the Sabbath. Jesus does not change the law of the Sabbath he just interprets the situation differently.

Shame seems a very strong word to use for losing a discussion and it is strange that the one leader has turned into “all his opponents”. As if this is just one example of many arguments over the law that Jesus tended to win. The crowd was of course more interested in what Jesus was doing than in what he was saying. That is the same today: the good news of the gospel is not found in the minutia of the law but in its transforming power.

21 August 2016
Luke 13: 10-17

PS: This leader could have been a woman as Brumbach (2007, 9) claims: “Inscriptions discovered in ancient synagogues (…) testify to women having served in various leadership capacities (…). These inscriptions include heads of synagogues…”

(http://www.messianicjudaism.me/yinon/files/Women-Rabbis-MJRC-Revision.pdf. Accessed 04/08/16. This is supported by research done by Brooten (1982): Women Leaders in the Ancient Synagogue: Inscriptional Evidence and Background Issues.)

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College

Bookshop Bestsellers: July 2016

  1. Short Stories by Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine, Harperone £14.50
  2. Body: Biblical Spirituality for the Whole Person by Paula Gooder, SPCK £9.99
  3. A Drink of Deadly Wine by Kate Charles, SPCK £9.99
  4. Being Disciples by Rowan Williams, SPCK £8.99
  5. Growing Leaders by James Lawrence, BRF £8.99
  6. Meeting God in Paul by Rowan Williams, SPCK £8.99
  7. Our Last Awakening by Janet Morley, SPCK £9.99
  8. Church Book and Desk Diary 2017, Canterbury Press Norwich £19.99
  9. Mindfulness and Christian Spirituality by Tim Stead, SPCK £9.99
  10. Pattern in the Psalms, SPCK £9.99

Book of the Month: August 2016

9780061561030‘Short stories by Jesus: the Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi’ by Amy-Jill Levine

I was lucky enough to hear Amy -Jill Levine speak recently and found her funny and engaging.  In fact she was able to keep her audience spell-bound over several 90 minutes sessions, without referring to notes. Given that the audience were Anglican priests and her subject was a familiar one, the parables, that’s no mean feat.

One could think that if would be difficult to find much that’s new to say about the parables.  That’s where Amy-Jill’s book is so important.  It is not only full of new insights, but challenges some accepted assumptions which are often quoted in different sources (for instance that shepherds were despised) and asks where the evidence is for these assertions.

The author is Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies at Vanderbilt Divinity School in Nashville.  Her book is thoroughly researched and evidenced, and asks two main questions:

“How do we hear the parables through an imagined set of first century Jewish ears, and then how do we translate them so that they can be heard still speaking?”

Amy-Jill acknowledges that “The texts must speak to each generation and each individual anew, or they cease to be either scripture or literature and become only markings on a page” but equally that our understanding can be greatly enhanced by having an understanding of how the parables would have been heard by a first century Jewish audience – one with a thorough grounding in what we call (and she as a Jew is happy for us to call) the Old Testament.

Later commentators often see Christ himself in some parables – but Amy-Jill reminds us that the first hearers had no idea that Jesus would be worshipped by future generations as the Son of God – or even that he would be crucified.  Moreover, parables are not allegories.  We do not need to try and find a meaning for every element.  Sometimes a shepherd is just a shepherd and a coin is just a coin.

What we should find in the parables, she suggests, is something surprising, perhaps shocking, perhaps amusing.  Nice little stories they are not – if we think they are, we have missed the point.

Her book is surprising, shocking and amusing.  It can enable us to add a layer of meaning to the familiar stories- and also to open our eyes to anti -Semitic interpretations, however unwitting.

It is an enjoyable and important book, for lay people as well as the clergy.

Reviewed by Jenny Monds

Special price of £12.50 in the shop (posted out for free) or buy online for £10.50 + postage until 31st August 2016. RRP £14.50.

Lectionary Reading Blog for 14 August: 12th Sunday after Trinity

LiturgyandSpiritualityWe are reading the latter part of a discourse Jesus started in Luke 12:1.

It is from the start an apocalyptic speech about judgement. And our section starts with the fire that is traditionally a metaphor for judgement.

How do we read these passages in a ‘present time’ (v.56) in which both judgement and suffering are not in fashion? I thought Jesus came to bring ‘peace on earth’ (Luke 2: 14) and ‘good news for the poor’ (Luke 4:18)? I thought with Jesus there was an end to suffering ‘the lame walk, the lepers are cleanse, the deaf hear’ (Luke 7:22)?

The problem is that for these things (peace, equality, healing) to really happen there needs to be such a deep rooted and pervasive transformation of both our understanding of God and our behaviour that in this transformation itself is the seed for the rejection and division.

Reading chapter 12 this becomes clear. The demand of the kingdom is so great as to be shocking. Not everybody will like this. It is bound to run into opposition. Jesus’ vision and ministry are so radical that judgement and suffering are inherent in it. The fire of judgement and the water of baptism of v. 49-50 are later echoed in the predictions of rain and the heat (v. 54-55). Let us try -rather than predict the weather- to judge the time we live in, in the light of Jesus’ vision.

14 August 2016
Luke 12: 49-56

This weekly blog on one of the lectionary readings is by Anne Claar Thomasson-Rosingh, Programme Leader for Lifelong Learning at Sarum College.

Lectionary Blog  |  Ministry at Sarum College