20 Quotes from Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching

narrative reading, narrative preachingI recently finished reading Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching: Reuniting New Testament Interpretation and Proclamation edited by Joel B Green and Michael Pasquarello III. The book is not so much an overview or intro to narrative theology as it is an example of applying this approach to biblical reading and preaching. The book has intro and conclusion chapters that contextualize and then round out the discussion, but the bulk of the book (6 chapters) is devoted to illustration. First, each of the three sections of the New Testament—the Gospels and Acts, the letters, and Revelation—are read narratively, by digging out the narrative significance and mining the exegetical potential of the text. Then, building on these insights, lessons are drawn and a sample sermon is constructed.

Below are twenty quotes that I enjoyed.

Twenty Quotes

“The ‘revelation’ of God’s person is inextricably tied to the events in which God becomes different things, in a way that any person does; it is thus inextricably tied to narrative.” This understanding of God is “storied.” Its content is embodied, lived. (13)

The formal aspects of our faith cannot be segregated or distinguished from the narrative content and context of God’s revelation of Himself to us. (13)

To read Genesis-to-Revelation as Scripture requires something more than the turning of pages and the movement from one book to the next, Leviticus to Numbers, Malachi to Matthew. This “something more” demands of our learning to account for the grand narrative plotted therein, from creation to new creation. (13-14)

Science itself has come full circle now to underscore the storied quality of distinctively human existence, together with the essentially hermeneutical nature of human life. (15)

Clearly, “truth claims,” however necessary, are insufficient for vital Christian faith, since these “beliefs,” these “statements,” are quite capable of functioning as raw data in a narrative whose beginning, middle, and end are antithetical to the biblical story. (16)

“Reality” does not come to us “clean,” but always through the filters of our perception. The world is always for us already an interpreted world. The critical question then becomes, Perceived how? Or, better, Within what narrative account will we interpret? (17)

I take the claim, the Bible as Scripture, to refer to a theological stance whereby we recognize that we are the people of God to whom these texts are addressed. This leads to the realization that the fundamental transformation that must take place is not the transformation of an ancient message into a contemporary meaning but rather the transformation of our lives by means of God’s Word. This means that reading the Bible as Scripture has less to do with what tools we bring to the task, however important these may be, and more to do with our own dispositions as we come to our engagement with Scripture. Scripture does not present us with texts to be mastered but with a Word, God’s Word, intent on mastering us, on shaping our lives. (23)

For those genuinely interested in interpreting the Bible as Scripture, the single most important practice to cultivate is involvement in reading the Bible with others who take its message seriously and who meet regularly to discern its meaning for faith and life. The best interpreters of Scripture are those actively engaged in communities of biblical interpretation. If such a group is multigenerational and multicultural, this is even better. (23)

Narrative… constitutes a theological claim about the coherence of the Genesis-to-Revelation story. It is the attribution to the sum of the parts of the Bible of a purposefulness that binds sometimes disparate voices into a single chorus. Episodes that seem less central to the whole of Scripture, that turn into strange paths or corridors not easily integrated into the whole, are nonetheless set within or framed by the whole, which then serves as a necessary theological context for interpretation. (30)

In the narrative of Scripture, we know what will happen in the End (“We have read the last chapter”), but this does not neuter this narrative of any sense of drama or suspense. Questions remain. In particular, still being written is the narrative of how God’s purpose will come to fruition; the questions remains, Who will serve this purpose, and who will oppose it? (32)

The Gospels and Acts do not come to us with the agenda of soliciting from us an agreement that (say) Jesus did such-and-such or that Peter said so-and-so. Their invitation, rather, is that we enter into the interpretive dance, that we actually involve ourselves, imaginatively and bodily, in this story. (47)

Reading the Bible as Christian Scripture entails an affirmation that the Old and New Testaments are inseparable in their witness to God the Savior and that the coming of Christ is the point of orientation that gives all biblical books their meaning as Scripture. (52)

Preaching does not occur in a narrative vacuum. (53)

Narrative preaching places this invitation before people: to enter and to make our home in “God’s story,” with all this means in the transformation of our allegiances and commitments… (56)

For Christians, Revelation is the fitting bookend, with Genesis, of the whole canonical story. (122)

Worship is both a foretaste of life in the new Jerusalem and the realization of the heavenly reality within the time and space of this creation. (140)

The poet/prophet is a voice that shatters settled reality and evokes new possibility in the listening assembly. (163)

A much larger and enduring theological and pastoral task… is to articulate the necessary wisdom to see, or to make sense of ourselves, as people created and destined to know, love, worship, and serve the Triune God. (180)

Christian Scripture is a whole because it is the whole narrative of the one Triune God. (183)

One must come to a personal knowledge of and attachment to the subject matter of Scripture, the Triune God, in order to make sense of its words. Thus the task of pastoral exegesis requires learning to inhabit Scripture in a manner that transforms the preacher, fitting him or her into the inner life of God. (187)

2 thoughts on “20 Quotes from Narrative Reading, Narrative Preaching

  1. One thought your recent posts have led me to is that understanding the Bible is like learning a language. Imagine being given a book in a foreign language and being charged to read it daily. Our dear Lord Jesus is the alpha and omega meaning He is the alphabet. Nothing is spelled without Him. He is the Word of God. He is God expressed, explained and declared. God speaks to us in and by the Son. Apart from the Son we cannot receive God’s speaking. What changes would it make in our way of teaching the Bible if it was done more as language teaching, than merely teaching a body of concepts? If this view is appropriate, then the barriers to understanding the Bible become more obvious. One aspect of this thought applied is that language learning is always more effective and efficient in a community. Immersion is the way.


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