Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How We Read the Bible: Nate Bradford

Our faith backgrounds affect our understanding of God. Nate Bradford, one of the Associate Chaplains for Residence Life, spoke on Monday evening about just this topic and how we might approach reading the Bible.

Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience are all ways that we, as Christians, come to know God and different faith backgrounds emphasize certain aspects over others. Perhaps, Nate said, we can grow in our faith by understating our background and realizing the value in aspects we occasionally overlook. We also learned how the issues that people hold dear tend to affect which scripture passages they often emphasize in their reading of the Bible.

To drive these points home, Nate asked our group to analyze some very well known verses. In this project, we ranked these verses as they related to our understanding of the Bible—not to devalue certain verses, but to understand how we read and interpret the Bible. We then spent some time reading and thinking about the Parable of the Talents. Nate offered to us a non-traditional interpretation of this passage as a way to demonstrate how we can read scripture. We discussed the ideas of canon (the scriptures that influence how we read and understand the Bible and God), genre, the social-historical context of the Biblical story, and the scriptural context of God’s word.

This non-traditional interpretation led to some good discussion about how immense and beautiful the Bible is. The difficulty in interpretation should not be as frustrating as it should be humbling. At no point in Nate’s presentation did he make the claim that he had all the right answers (or that anybody has all the right answers, for that matter), but it’s important to remember that there is a right answer. Reading the Bible is one of the best ways to come to know God, and studying the scripture is not something that can be done quickly or carelessly.

Posted by David Hartwell on 07/27 at 12:44 PM
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Listening for the Sake of Loving

The Calvin group was thrilled to have Aminah Bradford, one Calvin’s Associate Chaplains of Residence Life, speak to us on Monday night. Using the story of Job, we learned about and shared ideas on attending to suffering people. As leaders, and as members of the Christian faith, we may be called to be with and have compassion for those that are hurting. There will even be times when we, ourselves, are hurting. Learning to listen for the sake of loving, and for the sake of leading, is an important factor in living out Christ’s teaching in our lives.

To do this, we first had to learn some of the wrong ways to listen. Relying on the acting talents of the Calvin group, we had to engage a “sufferer” using assigned, cliché, mishandled attempts at being considerate. Some of us were “Generals” who told the sufferer exactly what he needed to do and when. Others were “Quick Change Artists” who turn the conversation another direction. Some were “Interrogators,” barraging the sufferer with questions about how he got into this state. And some coddled the sufferer, offering cookies and saying, “oh, you poor, poor thing.” This was the “Granny Cup of Tea” group.

The lesson we learned from this was that all these methods, while none of them inherently or all-together bad for dealing with someone in pain, rely on vapid attempts at comfort without being truly compassionate. True compassion, literally meaning “to suffer with,” is what the Bible expects of us in dealing with others’ pain. “How can I be with them in this?” is the question we should ask before “how can I fix this?” Jesus, of course, reveals the most magnificent and pure act of compassion. Not only did he suffer with his people, he suffered for us.

To mark the middle of the program and to allow the Calvin group to bond, while thinking about where they’ve been this summer and where they’ll go in the future, the LCI had a retreat to Meadow Creek Reservoir. We played and explored around the lake, following it up with tin foil dinners around the campfire. We dedicated an hour of our evening to solo-time—a chance to quietly and solitarily reflect on God’s work in our lives and through this program. We returned to make smores, set up tents, and sleep. In the morning, the men and women of the Calvin group returned together for morning worship until it was time to leave and we returned to SMR for work and a strong finish to the summer.

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Posted by David Hartwell on 07/18 at 09:41 PM
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Youthful Leadership with April Berends and Drew Bunting

This past week began with fireworks in Grand Lake. Absolutely amazing! Grand Lake consistently puts on one of the best Fourth of July celebrations in the area, and they don’t seem to be keeping that a secret as thousands and thousands of people gather year after year. Most of the Calvin group found their place along the lake, amid the masses, to watch the boat pull the firework barge across the water for the entire crowd. Some bits of burning embers fell a little too close for comfort by the seated crowd, but I think that everyone would agree they witnessed a great display of explosive celebration.

On Monday, April Berends and Drew Bunting led the group in a discussion on Youthful Leadership—considering the strengths and difficulties of being a young leader. We were asked to consider Ephesians 3, specifically verses 20-21: Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we could ask or imagine, to him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen

We discussed, as a group, thoughts on discernment about God’s plan for our lives, reflections on our personal gifts for leadership in God’s kingdom, ideas of a Ministry of Presence, and the concept of living in the present as participants in God’s future. Both April and Drew reminded us of the importance of paying attention to God’s work in our lives and that we should continually be humble and hopeful as the future belongs to God, not to our personal agendas.

We received a rare treat on Wednesday evening as Drew Bunting performed a concert for us. He played for us several of his songs that displayed both his self-ascribed quirky sense of humor and Christian beliefs. He plays in a way that surely demonstrates his love for God ad love for music. Finding that balance of being a Priest and song writer has not been without it’s challenges, as Drew himself said, but I believe, and I think everyone who attended his concert would agree, he has found it.

Friends and Family: though it might seem hard to believe, the Calvin College Leadership Challenge Institute is at its midpoint. We are entering into our sixth week and have our mid-summer retreat this coming Wednesday. Please pray that the words and wisdom of the speakers so far have been met with openness and discernment and that the speakers yet to come continue in the offering of their hearts to the Calvin Program. Pray that each member of the Calvin group is mindful of God’s presence and that their time here in the mountains is viewed as more than just a job for the summer. From April and Drew’s Presentation: Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine:  Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church, and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever

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Posted by David Hartwell on 07/12 at 12:39 PM
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