"The Bible is inspired and a holy set of texts precisely because it tells the truth about life, even our lives. We live on those pages; we know those people and they know us."
There’s a lot to like about the Covenant Bible Study (Abingdon Press, 2014), which is geared to adults. There are 24 episodes divided into three areas: Creating, Living, Trusting. A short video segment introduces each episode, starring... Talking Heads - yes, but engaging ones.
A visiting scholar, one well-versed in the topic of the day who is not only knowledgeable but also approachable and who has a charmingly contemporary approach to ancient texts, is joined by the segment hosts. The hosts, one a Presbyterian pastor and the other a United Methodist pastor, take our place, so to speak, at the table where they have conversations, pose questions and wonder aloud.
Setting and Sequence
The scholars discussing each topic change according to their field of expertise, while the co-hosts provide stability—as does that table. Constructed especially for this program, it is the sturdy symbol of the ongoing conversation that moves not only from biblical text to biblical text but also from appropriate setting to appropriate setting.
When they meet to study Ruth, Esther and Song of Songs for instance, the table is in the midst of an opulent tent decorated with lush plant life and draperies. The visit with the newly minted People of God who are on the move, takes place at the table in the middle of a wilderness.
Instead of moving through the Bible in the order of the pagination of most of editions—a tedious process for all but the most die-hard biblical fan clubs—this program moves through the stories according to a rubric of the three segments.
The series begins with Genesis and moves directly to Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers in the following episode, lulling us in to expect Deuteronomy and the Former Prophets (Joshua, et al.) as the next act on the biblical hit parade. But in a surprising turn, we find ourselves in Matthew and Mark. This novel approach gives us a new way to think about approaching all biblical texts, giving us a new lens for seeing how the texts interact across the millennia.
A Refreshing Approach
This strategy approaches the Bible in the way I think we ought to be approaching the Bible. We stop seeing the Bible as a magic answer source, which allows it to become a series of stories and songs and legislations and dreams and poetry and epistolary literature. If we but allow it, the Bible begins to read us better than we read it.
In the segment on Genesis, for instance, instead of beginning with a discussion of the two major sections in the book, the primeval history and the patriarchal/matriarchal cycles, the scholar of the day opines that Genesis is about relationships. Yes! How refreshing. How disarming. How non-pedantic. How real. And how true.
But the Study is not just about the film selection of the day. There are leader and participant guides that accompany the group viewing, which help folks to make the connections. Let’s be honest: A lot of people know that the Bible is holy and inspired and a guide for life, but many find it a dusty and difficult set of documents, from an age and culture so removed from our own as to constitute a ‘galaxy far, far away.’
The scholar in residence and the co-hosts, however, understand that the Bible is inspired and a holy set of texts precisely because it tells the truth about life, even our lives. We live on those pages; we know those people and they know us.
Additional Resources Included
But wait! There’s more: a set of meditations—96 of them—to help people to center in the text, nestle into it and become comfortable, or disturbed, in the best sense. They give folks a chance to listen for connections, inspiration, and the thin, small voice of the living God.
Such care in production is costly and this program is not inexpensive. However, it’s possible to purchase in a variety of ways. Check it out. You can even download some hefty free selections to peruse and try with a group before buying.
Check out www.covenantbiblestudy.com and see what you think.
Victoria L. Garvey is the Associate for Lifelong Christian Formation, Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.
This article was originally published in the magazine Episcopal Teacher.
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