Matters of Interpretation

Books, for instance, like of the Bible

Who Is “We”?

Sepia line drawing, pilgrims walking on a road by a river

“We” is the “Not-That-Early” 9:00 a.m. Sunday Bible study class that meets every week in the conference room of the Corydon Presbyterian Church, 568 Highway 62 West, Corydon, Indiana. [Or by Zoom; we’ll probably keep that up, at least for a while.]

There’s a story behind that name …

blue and white delft clock showing 9:00

Officially, the class is “The Present Word,” the name of the curriculum we use – more or less. It’s based on the National Council of Churches’ Uniform Series International Bible Lessons for Christian Teaching, by the way.

But we acquired the nickname “Not-That-Early” thanks to our efforts to convince people that 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning is … well … not that early.

After all, people get up much earlier for a lot of things.

Milking cows. High school swim practice. Getting children to the school bus on time. Beating the rush hour traffic to Louisville.

Granted, 9:00 a.m. could be perceived as early for a Sunday morning.

Still, since it isn’t that early, we can even sleep in a little, and still make it to class.

Here’s our open invitation:

If you are ever in the neighborhood [physically or virtually], can make the not-that-early meeting time, and have an interest in reading, thinking and talking about the Bible with other people, we cordially invite you to join us – we’d love to include you!

garden path leading to a house with Easter lilies

What’s our approach to Scripture?

Interesting question.

We clearly take it seriously, because we keep reading it, we read it together, we believe God speaks to people through Scripture, we think the Word of God we hear through Scripture has a claim on our lives, we keep trying to hear that more clearly and “follow … more nearly” …

On the other hand, it seems all of us have at one time or another said something like “Well, that’s not right!” about something we’ve read in the Bible. While we don’t just stop there, our willingness to say it in the first place probably says something about the kind of readers we are.

woman dressed in peasant garb reading a large book with a pencil in hand

Maybe you could say we …

… are open to a range of methods of reading Scripture;

… bring our life experiences, practical concerns, and critical questions to our reading and into conversation with Scripture;

… try to listen to the text, even when we feel we need to resist or challenge it – and when it resists or challenges us;

… ask a lot of questions, including questioning some of the pre-approved answers to the questions.

We are all learning as we go. Knowing a lot, or anything, about the Bible is not a prerequisite for this class.

Bibles on a library shelf

We do not often …

speculate on the psychology of Biblical characters (e.g., “Jesus must have felt …,” “Abraham would have thought …” – mainly because one of us keeps pointing out that we often don’t have that much information about these characters’ psychology, are often just making stuff up out of our 21st century psychology, and the Bible often doesn’t seem to care about its characters’ psychology, anyway);

identify The One Right Answer to What This Text Means (mainly because the text probably means more than just one thing, and because we are interested in what it might have meant to readers long ago and how that might be the same as, or different from, what it means to readers today, and because we are interested in how our different perspectives affect what the text says to us, and … );

end up with a tidy nugget of comfortable spiritual advice that also supports our preferred theology (although we do end up with such nuggets from time to time; but at least as often we find that the insights and spiritual advice are challenging rather than comfortable, or can call our preferred theology into question in some way, or at least push us to think more deeply about it, so that our conclusions are seldom “tidy”).

Whatever this approach is called, we have found it thought-provoking, enjoyable, and worthwhile. We think, or perhaps hope, it is also faithful.

coffee counter with signs, two men

A word [of warning] about coffee: The church is now [as of 6.17.2019] the proud owner of one of those automatic brew machines that make coffee in less time than it takes to say “oh hey, thanks, I was just wondering if there was any coffee left,” so you are welcome to church coffee, just be prepared not to take the last drop of coffee in the pot and not make more. The filters and coffee are in the kitchen, anyone will be happy to show you where … [and all this is assuming that we ever get past COVID and back to sharing coffee.]

Finally, being old is not a requirement for taking part in this group. We have found, however, that if you hang out with us long enough, you will get oldER.

Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Table with plants and books painting in blue