Wednesday, August 21, 2013

fresh words and deeds: a theology of innovation

I preached in chapel today. The Gospel lectionary text was Luke 13:10-17. After the reading, I played Van Gogh Shadows by Luka Agnani and then spoke.

The video brings together two artists.

First, Vincent Van Gogh. Our entire trip through Europe during our Sabbatical was defined by Van Gogh. Our 13 year old was fascinated by the colours, the vibrancy, the subject matter, the fact he cut off his ear.

The second artist is Luka Agnani. A digital artist. Who takes Van Gogh – 13 paintings – and adds light, intensity, movement and people.

The result is that what is historic, Van Gogh paintings, is seen in fresh ways. Things we’d not noticed. People I’d not paid attention to. Insights I’d not been aware of.

Which helps me make sense of the Gospel reading. In Luke 13, the is something historic – Sabbath understanding, Torah, pattern of living. “There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.”

And then there is the fact that, in the actions and words of Jesus, faith is seen is fresh ways. “Woman, you are set free from your ailment.”

Jesus takes the historic – sabbath, Torah – and adds light, intensity, movement. And above all a focus on people. “And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?”

Which also helps me make sense of some of my current research. I’m exploring new ways of church. How does what is historic, relate to the new, the contemporary world around us?

As part of the research, I’ve been re-reading the Basis of Union. As all Principals of Uniting Colleges do! :) In particular wonderful phrase “fresh words and deeds.” It occurs at the end of Paragraph 11.

According to Davis McCaughey’s Commentary on the Basis of Union, you need to read paragraph 11, alongside paragraph 10.

Together. You read paragraph 10 and value of historic maps – of Scripture, of the witness of reformation fathers. You read alongside Para 11 and value the “faithful and scholarly interpreters” who serve the church by enabling it to stand “in relation to contemporary societies in ways which will help her to understand her own nature and mission.”

It’s such an interesting place to locate scholars- not in paragraph 10, with the historic, but in paragraph 11, with contemporary societies and fresh words and deeds.

So applying Paragraph 10 – we need historic maps – we need Van Gogh – we need the Old Testament, the Torah, the Law.

And applying Paragraph 11 – we need scholarly interpreters, who help us stand in relation to contemporary society.

Result is fresh words and deeds – fresh light, extra intensity, focus on people.

Which I hope is our experience – as faculty, as students – at Uniting College, as Flinders Department of Theology, as Adelaide College of Divinity.

We’re hold Paragraph 10 and 11 together. The historic – Scripture, tradition – and the new – reading the culture in mission. And the result?

May the Lord be confessed in fresh words and deeds.

Posted by steve at 11:30 PM

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