This summer, in a few weeks, actually, I'm starting a Doctor of Ministry program at The Methodist Theological School in Ohio. The program is on Leadership for Transformational Change. I'm excited about it - some of you know that I've struggled with some time in figuring out my higher education goals (and how that whole God's call thing works into it.) This isn't what I had in mind at all, but it seems to be what fits best.
Anyway, the first course up is: Continuity and Change, and I thought I might take notes on my readings here, for your viewing and commenting enjoyment! Each 'module' has a chunk of scripture and some resources, so I'm starting, as suggested, with the scripture texts, which seem to focus in on the early church.
Here we go!
Module 1: Introduction and Methodology
1 Corinthians 1:26 - "Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were or noble birth."
My trans: For see your own call, brothers: not many wise according to the flesh, not many strong, not many well-born."
This seems like a good verse to start a DMin program with - lest we get too full of ourselves. Reminder of who God uses - virtually never the likely candidate. What do the Corinthians think of Paul's description? Would Paul fit his own description? I think he would believe himself wise, strong, well-born. (Not, of course, that he would boast.) (Must get over qualms with Paul a bit if going to spent whole class in New Testament church with him...)
Acts 4:32-37 - The whole group of believers are of "one heart and soul", no one has private ownership, everything is shared. Grace is on upon all, no one is in need. Barnabas in particular is highlighted as selling his land and bringing the proceeds to the apostles' feet.
This description is always so beautiful and moving, but is it possible? We see the deterioration of this system in the very next chapter, and throughout history. How can we let go of our need to own and possess to achieve such a thing?
I also wonder about the emphasis of the apostles' teaching on the resurrection of Jesus. Obviously important, but did they also spend time teaching what he taught? Or just who he was? Because I think one of the biggest shifts between Jesus and the early church is the focus on Jesus' identity rather than on Jesus' message.
"There was not a needy person among them." What a vision! How far did this extend? Who was left out? Anyone?
Barnabas is from Cyprus. How far away did folks come from to join the movement? Or was Barnabas already 'in town'? Nice foreshadowing of someone who will later be significant.
Acts 13:1 - "Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a member of the court of Herod the ruler, and Saul."
My trans: In the assembly in Antioch there were prophets (literally: revealers/interpreters of God's will) and teachers who were Barnabas and Simeon, the one called Niger, Lucius the Cyrenian, Manean, (the one living with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.
Setting the stage. Interesting to me is the literal meanings given in the Greek lexicons for prophe^te^s: one who speaks for God and interprets God's will to others. Good definition? Better than thinking of a prophet as a fortune-teller!
1 Corinthians 12 - Spiritual Gifts, One Body, Many Members
"Spiritual gifts" is more literally something like: "spiritually-things." I wonder what Paul's hearers had in mind when he spoke/wrote that word? "Gifts of God's grace" appears later in this chapter, but the word 'gift' is not really in this first verse exactly. I think using 'gifts' in verse 1 distracts from the meaning of verses 2 and 3.
Vs. 6: "activates" is from Greek energeo^ = energy.
Do you think Paul meant this list of gifts to be exhaustive or hitting the main categories? Or was he just giving a few examples?
I'm still a skeptic about tongues and interpretation of tongues. I have no idea what this means and anything I've 'seen' seems, well, contrived.
Two issues in Paul's body metaphor: 1) Members who don't want to be part of the body, because they are too good for it and 2) members who aren't welcome as members of the body, because they aren't good enough for it.
Really though, this body of Christ imagery is some of Paul's very best stuff, is it not?
Vs. 28: Again, is Paul just making a list, or giving a serious ranking? It would be hard to actually rank in light of his previous verses...
2 Corinthians 8 & 9 - Encouragement to Be Generous, Commendation of Titus, Collection
8 Vs. 12 "For if the eagerness (read: zeal, haste, earnestness) is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has - not according to what one does not have." What a fabulous verse that I've apparently never noticed before. This 'eagerness' can apply to so much of our work in the church. Eagerness, fervor, energy - it can make so much impact on whether or not what we set about to do with God will bear fruit.
Paul is sincere, to be sure, but it can't be denied that he's also a smooth talker...
Vs. 19 "the brother who is famous among all the church for his proclaiming the good news" - who is that?
Vs. 22 And who is this "our brother whom we have often tested and found eager in many matters"?
9 Vs. 4 Again, Paul's strategy: You don't want to humiliate us, do you??? All while saying: "voluntary gift, not extortion." I just emailed my Greek professor from Ohio Wesleyan, though, to help me better understand the Greek here.