This fall I’m feeling a little “off” the usual academic schedule. My online teaching at Wesley
(Poetry for Spiritual Formation – more on that soon) begins in October so I’m not starting the semester in step with everyone else. So when people ask me “are you teaching this fall,” the answer is, well, yes – but not in the usual academic way, with a course starting next week and running through December. Rather, I have several really interesting teaching “gigs” that intersect with each other, as well as some writing projects. I thought maybe picking up this blog again, after quite awhile “off”, might help me see the connections among these various interesting gigs and so I’ll try to post on some of the different topics I’m teaching
Starting with this week when I’ll be meeting up again with the Pathfinders Young AdultsBible study in Northern Virginia. We also call ourselves a “progressive Christian young adults group”. After a summer reading through my colleagueStephen Cook’s book on Deuteronomy, I’m looking forward to struggling through parts of it with this group of curious, critical, committed young adults that I’ve been working with and loving for 7 years now – especially as this will be my last semester with them.
So – Deuteronomy: Steve’s book has taught me to pay attention to this as a book of the Bible that explores how to live life as the people of God, whose identity and purpose is defined by a covenant. A covenant with a God who loves humankind and desires our thriving.
It comes from an intensely tribal, patriarchal, culture, in a violent time in human history ( has there ever been a non-violent time in human history?) So reading it for the “plain sense” of Scripture can get us into some very dark places, where we can be using Scripture to justify imperialism and oppressions and power trips of all kinds – and it has certainly been used this way.
But read in its context, this book can come to life as an invitation to live another way – to ask what it takes to form a society where people are respected, the poor and marginalized are cared for, wealth is managed with an eye to fairness and abundance is shared and celebrated. It is also a society where people desire to live as God would have them live, guided by the ten commandments – so most of the book is an extensive gloss on those commandments. Some of the particulars get a little crazy – dietary laws and descriptions of sexual “abominations” – but as I read through the larger lens of “how to be the people of God.” Faithfulness to God, fairness to fellow human beings, family, neighbor – and especially avoiding “covetousness” – the wanting of what is not ours that leads to violence and domination.
We will definitely be looking at the parts of this book that make us ask “really? This is God saying this? It sure seems awful?” - but we will also be looking through the “people of God” lens, to see what we can learn by trying to read these rich speeches of Moses in our own cultural context . When we do I think we will see how “counter-cultural” the life of God’s people has always been in Scripture.
Reading this troubling and challenging book of the Bible over the summer, I found that sometimes I got to the core of what it was saying to me by writing a poem. Here’s the poem that came out of reading the first 8 chapters of Deuteronomy: a place I will begin with this fall teaching:
I keep forgetting how
It is all a love story
A God in love with a people
Wooing and cajoling them
Can’t you see, the Moses-story says
This is the Way
Follow here. It is the path of life
There is a way that human life can be
Can’t you see?
We are still a stubborn people
Still beloved. Still free
Singleness of heart
Of soul, of mind and strength
Of each of us in all: being
God’s people – not erased
In our particularity
But drawn together ,one
In the one who loves
Sees as one
The beauty in each one
Draws us together
Without loss of each-ness
Into one beloved One. (c)Kathleen Henderson Staudt 2016