Psalm 23 and mission – Jesus as shepherd, host, Emmanuel

I came across this quote in McCann’s NIB commentary on the Psalms while preparing for an undergad module on Missional Texts: Psalms & Genesis 1-11

In short, in NT terms, Jesus is shepherd, host, Emmanuel. When Psalm 23 is heard in the context of Psalm 22 and of Jesus Christ, its profoundly radical implications are even clearer: God is with us, but is not ours to own; the God who shepherds us to life also gives life to the world; the table at which we are hosted is one to which the whole world is invited.

Making a Biblical Studies programme missional, part 3

This is the third in a series of posts exploring the Biblical Studies side of the new curriculum at Redcliffe College. Specifically, I’m aiming to inform and excite you about the way we are trying to make our teaching of Biblical Studies a thoroughly missional activity. Check out part 1 and part 2 of the series for an overview and introduction.

Having established a missional approach to the Bible and a foundational survey of the books of the Old and New Testaments in the first year, we then focus on some key texts in year two. By this stage we want students to be deepening their understanding of the content, interpretation and application of biblical texts.

As well as a biblical language, students have the option to take the following modules:

Missional texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of these two key Old Testament texts and consider how they relate to the thinking and practice of the church’s involvement in the mission of God.

This module covers:

  1. The function of the book of Psalms and Genesis 1-11 as part of a missional reading of the Bible;
  2. Key issues in understanding and interpreting Psalms and Genesis 1-11, including historical and cultural contexts, genre, structure, literary features and theological themes;
  3. Case-studies in exegeting Psalms and passages from Genesis 1-11;
  4. The contemporary application of Psalms and Genesis 1-11, especially in relation to the thinking and practice of mission.
For me, it is so important that students leave Redcliffe equipped with the Psalms. More than any other part of Scripture, the Psalms articulate life and give us a liturgy for all the experiences we may go through. We encourage the students to pray through the Psalms – a habit I hope they will adopt, enjoy and be shaped by. There are also some important and intriguing missiological questions in the Psalms, not least the role of the nations and the great eschatological visions of nations gladly worshipping the LORD.
Genesis 1-11 has often been treated as the background to God’s mission. In this module we explore the content of the text in depth and try to see how it can function missionally.

Missional Texts: Luke and Acts

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of Luke’s contribution to the New Testament and consider how it relates to the thinking and practice of the church’s involvement in the mission of God.

This module covers:

1. The function of Luke-Acts as part of a missional reading of the Bible;

2. Key issues in understanding and interpreting Luke-Acts, including historical and cultural contexts, genre, structure, literary features and theological themes;

3. Case-studies in exegeting passages from Luke-Acts;

4. The contemporary application of Luke-Acts, especially in relation to the thinking and practice of mission.
The language of the descriptor is clearly very similar to the Psalms and Genesis 1-11 module. Luke and Acts was an obvious choice in that it spans at least two different genre, and is often referred to in the literature on mission.
Finally, in addition to these book-specific modules, we offer a hermeneutics module:
Interpreting the Bible in Intercultural Contexts

The module aims to enable students to analyse important aspects of historical and contemporary interpretation of the Bible, and consider biblical hermeneutics in relation to a variety of Western and non-Western cultural contexts.

This module covers:

1. Key periods and events in the history of Biblical interpretation (e.g. Jewish, early Christian, and Medieval exegesis; the hermeneutical impact of the Reformation and of the Enlightenment;

2. Major topics in contemporary hermeneutics (e.g. literary approaches and  the role of the reader;

3. Biblical interpretation in different cultural contexts (e.g. Latin American, Asian and African);

This is an opportunity for students to look at the bigger picture of biblical interpretation, but also explore issues of intercultural reading and contextualisation.

So, by the end of the second of their three-year bachelor’s degree in Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts, students are delving deeply into some crucial biblical texts and becoming more sensitive and globally aware interpreters. Stay tuned for the final year…

Mission and the Psalms – liturgy is not play acting

Israel and the Nations by James Chukwuma OkoyeI’ve been thinking ahead to a module on Redcliffe’s Applied Theology in Intercultural Contexts degree programme called, ‘Missional Texts: Psalms and Genesis 1-11’. Here is a nice quote from Okoye found in his wonderful book, Israel and the Nations: A Mission Theology of the Old Testament. It is part of a chapter on Psalm 96:

The psalmist calls on Israel and the nations to be united in the worship of the one God, Yahweh. The gentiles may be restricted only to the “courts,” that is, the courtyards of the temple, which are open to non-Jews, yet the “wall of separation” has begun to crumble, if not in fact, surely in the religious imagination.

The praise and worship of the nations, which the prophets predicted of the eschatological future, are transferred to the present in our psalm (Gunkel and Begrich 1998, 25).

The coming of Yahweh is, first of all, liturgical: the royal glory and power of Yahweh are made manifest to the worshipers, who accordingly prostrate in obedient submission to their King. The very assembly of praise enacts the reign of God, for the assembly thereby recognizes itself as servants coming into the presence of their lord to acknowledge Yahweh’s rule and to declare the dealty to Yahweh (Mays 1994a, 64). As Walter Brueggemann affirms, “liturgy is not play acting, but is the evocation of an alternative reality that comes into play in the very moment of the liturgy” (1984, 144). The alternative reality is that of a society that has been made right under God – true worship leads to true society. Liturgy is the beginning of the dismantling of the old order of injustice and faithlessness (ibid., 146). Insofar as Israel and the families of nations participate in the worship of Yahweh they are sharing in the dismantling of the old order and the emergence of the new order under Yawheh.

But the coming of Yahweh is at the same time eschatological. Cultic gatherings at the temple anticipate the gathering of the nations and peoples of the earth to the shrine of Israel’s God, who is over the nations (Willis 1997, 302). The eschatological promise is that all the earth will also enjoy the just effects of the rule of Yahweh.

In a subtle manner, Psalm 96 merges the praise of “all the earth” and that of Israel. The Israelite who makes such an “oratorical outreach” (Marlowe 1998, 451) is being invited to pull down the wall of separation that continued to keep apart fellow worshipers of Yahweh. (pp.106-107)

If you’d like to look into the Psalms and mission in more depth, have a look at issue 33 of Redcliffe’s Encounters Mission Journal, which was on the theme of The Psalms and Mission.

Redcliffe College launches the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission

On Wednesday evening, Redcliffe College hosted the 2010 Annual Lecture in Bible and Mission, which incorporated the official launch of the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission. The event was put on in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators, Bible Society and Keswick Ministries. We also streamed it live on ustreamtv, which seemed to work well.

The lecture hall at Redcliffe was full, which was great to see. After a brief welcome I gave a presentation about the ethos and activities of the Centre. David Spriggs from Bible Society then came to the front and prayed a wonderful prayer, dedicating the Centre to God.

I then introduced Gordon Wenham who gave a lecture on the theme of ‘The Nations in the Psalms’. It was an excellent case study in tracing a theme canonically through the whole Psalter. I then gave a ten-minute ‘missional response’ in which I reflected particularly on ‘the Psalms in the Nations’; i.e., the Psalms as a tool of mission. We then had some time left over for an involved Q&A session.

When organising this event we have half an eye on how it might be used as a resource afterwards. Here’s what we are planning:

  • Encounters Issue 33 (June 2010 – due out in the first week of June) is on The Psalms and Mission and will feature the full text of Gordon’s paper along with my intro to the Centre and missional response. There will also be a number of other papers on issues relating to the Psalms and mission from a variety of perspectives.
  • We will be editing a video of the lecture and posting it on the web in the near future.
  • We will also make an audio version of the lecture available.

More on these in due course.

To finish this post, here’s an excerpt from a news item on Redcliffe’s website

The official launch of Redcliffe College’s new Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission took place on Wednesday 12 May at the College. This exciting initiative aims to serve the Church by engaging in research, teaching, writing and speaking on mission in the Bible and the Bible in mission.Web and digital media will be used extensively to make the news and activities of the centre widely accessible. There will be an annual public lecture and bi-annual consultation on an aspect of Bible and Mission, and the Centre will have visiting scholars from the two-thirds world who will input into the teaching programme and community life at Redcliffe.  The College is also working together with key agencies such as Wycliffe Bible Translators and Bible Society to develop the activities of the Centre, and is looking forward to being involved in events and initiatives such as the Keswick Convention and Biblefresh. 

Rob Hay, Principal of Redcliffe College commented: “At Redcliffe we are committed to ensuring our preparation of men and women for Christian service around the world is rooted in the Scriptures. Mission is the central theme of the Bible – and people involved in mission need to be equipped to demonstrate and proclaim the stories, images and truths of the Bible in their specific context. Redcliffe’s Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission makes a unique contribution to this area.”  

Speaking after the launch, Tim Davy, Director of the Centre, and Lecturer in Biblical Studies at Redcliffe said: “The evening summed up what is so exciting about the Centre. The lecture hall was packed with church members and leaders, biblical scholars and missiologists, mission agency personnel and students preparing for cross-cultural service. This reflects both the felt need and enthusiasm for what we are doing, and the importance of partnership, which lies at the heart of the whole initiative.” 

Community day in the Psalms

Recently we held a community reflection day focusing on the book of Psalms. A news item was posted about it on Redcliffe’s website today. Here’s what it says:

Community day in the Psalms

The Redcliffe community recently enjoyed a reflection day in which we immersed ourselves in the book of Psalms. The aim of this special day was to allow students and staff the opportunity to take some time out with God, both corporately and individually.

The day started all together with singing, prayer and a talk on ‘Living and Praying the Psalms in Community’, given by Tim Davy, lecturer in Biblical Studies and Director of a new Redcliffe initiative, the Centre for the Study of Bible and Mission. Tim’s main points were that the book of Psalms teaches us to pray, teaches us to pray our true selves, and teaches us to pray beyond ourselves. Therefore it is immensely important for the people of God as we participate in God’s mission in the world.

This was followed by seminars on different aspects of the Psalms, such as a guided meditation and a session on Psalms and the emotions. There was also time and space to be with God as well as the opportunity to get creative in a variety of ways including painting and poetry.

Commenting on the day, Tim says, “This kind of day is a valuable part of our students’ preparation for cross-cultural ministry. It is vital that they become practiced in immersing themselves in the Word of God, and engaging with God through that.”