Yesterday I led a session for the Uniting Church's Mission Resourcing team here in South Australia. This team encourages and equips congregations and the Uniting Church generally in South Australia in the areas of justice, intercultural relationships, intergenerational worship and education, and international relationships.
I introduced my work with story, presented for them one portion of Paul's letter to Rome (Chapter 12), inviting them to wonder, then inviting them to consider in what ways deeper and more confident knowledge of the Sacred Story might change the work in which they are engaged. Wondering included that better knowledge of identity by knowing the story builds confidence when meeting with difference, so we need not fear that difference; and more confidence allows an openness in relationships, across cultures and generations.
Then I invited the team to play. Taking Acts 9:1–6, which is one of the stories on the lectionary for this coming Sunday, we spoke the story over and over to ourselves, noting the way our body moved, the emotions we felt, the questions we wanted to ask, the phrases we hadn't noticed before.
Gestures for Saul falling, for the blinding light, came naturally, intuitively.
We felt Saul's movement from anger towards peace; wondered if Jesus's voice might express disappointment, or anger; noticed that Saul was respectful towards women before following Jesus, as he saw women as equally able to be arrested as the men, for being followers of The Way (and we wondered if we women might not have wanted to be deemed insignificant in that case, after all!).
I found it interesting that many experienced 'boredom' as part of the process, either as a kind of apathy towards a well-known text that has to be, and can be, overcome through such a process of embodying the text, or in the process itself. The process of reading the story over and over does usually take one through boredom, saying the same words again and again; pushing through that with diligence, we find ourselves making new discoveries, coming to really know the words, to understand their meaning, and to hear it anew.
I participated in the reading practice as well, and noticed how I slowed down, pausing after each description of the actions – those who were with him stood speechless; Saul got up; he could see nothing; they took him by the hand; he neither ate nor drank. Slowing down gave space for the amazement, the wonder, the listener (in this case me) might feel in response to this event.
I noticed the way I read Jesus' words as disappointment; that I wanted to write 'lord' without the capital letter that the NRSV employs, for Saul is not necessarily acknowledging this speaker as the Divine at this point; and I spoke Saul's 'breathing threats and murder' with venom for the calculated and ruthless persecution it is depicted as being throughout the story.
If you are telling this story this week, how are you hearing it?
What are the emotions you feel, for yourself, for the characters in the story?
Where, how, does this story speak meaning into the stories you and your community are living today?
May the Spirit inspire and delight you as you encounter the Sacred Story together.