Performative Bible Studies

CaptureThe Bible is a treasure chest of words and stories that are bristling and living.  Each of them teems with energy, sparking out with flashes and flames.  But our wont is to treat it like a locked cupboard that only certain custodians have the key for.

Rather, let us agree that the Bible itself teaches that it is meant to be unleashed.  It is ready to leap into action and overturn lives and perspectives on life.  Every time we read it, we should let “serendipity” have its reign, ordering our time and thoughts. In many ways, the Bible should be unpredictable in its meaning and consequences, not trapped in traditions and archaeology.  Let us unharness its potential. Let tradition and archaeology come to our aid in the process.

It is our encounter with its divine compiler and organizer who uses what seem like hidebound and mind-numbing chronicles, memorized and passed down, to incarnate within us again and again.  But such miraculous and seemingly magical things depend on an imagination that awakened by the serendipitous Holy Spirit, constantly brooding over us in our prayerful reading.  We are but participants in how the Holy Spirit activates it, actors and reactors in its serendipitous invasion into time and space.

Let us approach Bible reading with expectation and imagination.  Let us find the pauses and lacunae in our priorities when the inner spirit of a person is vacant, yet fully awake.  We must be like those who watch for dawn to break, breathless and alert, studying every flicker of light and wisp of sound for an approaching intruder or cheerful dawn. When either occurs, our whole purpose for reading the Bible is fulfilled.  We discover who we are and what is our place as we listen and read the Bible.

I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.  My soul waits for the LORD more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen wait for morning.  Awake, O my soul.  Awake, my glory, I will awake the dawn.

About markwhitters

Always seeking new ways to make ancient texts come alive, Mark Whitters has taught and designed award-winning "reacting" classes for many years at Eastern Michigan University. He has written more than 20 mostly academic articles on Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The publications for his essays include Harvard Theological Review, Journal of Biblical Literature, Catholic Biblical Quarterly, Journal for the Study of Judaism, and Commonweal. He also was a lead editor for the 7-volume Encyclopedia of World History (Facts on File, 2008). Outside the classroom, he sponsors a spiritual awareness discussion group for area college and university instructors called the Socratic Club, and has traveled many times to the Middle East and the Mediterranean world. He is a member of an ecumenical brotherhood called the Servants of the Word, whose Detroit house reaches out to youth in the neighborhoods. In his time off, he loves cooking (and good food) and still tries to keep in shape. And he prays!
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