In my own true fashion, my second entry to be written perhaps ought to be the first one read. In my chronologically first post, I dove straight in to the question of what this blog is about – specifically, diving deep into the wide, wonderful world of the Hebrew Bible’s Wisdom Literature. I offered up some observations on what the Wisdom Literature is, very specifically what we mean we say the word “proverb” since we’re going to be spending a lot of time with a whole book of ’em, and ended with a general invitation to come along for a journey into what scripture has to say about who and what we are, who and what God is, and what both of those realities ought to mean for how we navigate life in this world. Not a bad way to start off, but I think it may be helpful to know a bit more about who I am and why I feel compelled to embark on this exegetical journey, the endpoint of which is yet undetermined. After all, if the words of Dr. Yvonne Delk (the first African American woman ordained in the United Church of Christ, a great teacher, and a personal inspiration) ring true – that “what you see depends on where you sit” – then you might want to know about my chair (so to speak) before you pull yours up to the table.
So, the vital stats. I am a thirtysomething white, straight, cisgender man. I grew up in a blue collar middle class family in a smallish factory town on the Texas Gulf Coast – my dad’s hometown, though my mom is originally from the Mid-Atlantic. I grew up Southern Baptist, then nondenominational (with a strong influence from both Baptist and Pentecostal theologies), then went off to an ELCA college and eventually became a Theology major, ELCA Lutheran, and seminarian (now pastor)…in that order. I am married with one child, and after time spent in Ghana, Uruguay, Colorado, rural Iowa, and Chicago (for almost ten years), I now live in the countryside of Wisconsin’s Driftless Area. I have served in pastoral capacities in four congregations – as a detached intern (i.e. basically solo pastor) at a small town Iowa church, as a pastoral assistant for a cash-poor but ministry-rich inner city Chicago congregation, as pastor at a small near-suburban congregation literally across the street from Chicago city limits, and now as the very part-time pastor at a very small church in a very small town.
That’s me in a nutshell, the easily listed demographics of who I am. More personally, I am an Enneagram 9 and a Myers-Briggs INFJ (for those who put stock in these kinds of things). I’m a little bit of a polyglot and jack-of-all-trades-master-of-none when it comes to interests and skillsets…I’ve dabbled in a wide variety of things. Since high school, I’ve been passionate about how to help people connect the words of the Bible to their daily lives, and since college, I’ve been passionate about how the Bible can inform our wider worldview…and about how our own identifies color how we engage and interpret scripture. I have a fondness for the B-List sections of the scriptural canon…the stuff that doesn’t show up often in the lectionary, and that most casual readers of the Bible tend to skip. Very specifically, Old Testament History, the Wisdom Literature, and the Minor Prophets have always excited me. We really just don’t know what to do with them as a contemporary Christians, so in my experience, we tend either to ignore them completely (a la mainline Protestantism) or read and apply them poorly (a la many evangelical and fundamentalist Christian traditions).
And that, right there, is why I’m writing. Even more than inviting you, my dear reader, into reflecting about what a life of wisdom might mean, I’m on a mission both to make the Wisdom Literature accessible and engaging for those who might otherwise ignore it, and to provide a more exegetically rigorous take on matters than I experienced in my own early years of studying scripture. That being said, this is not a “scholarly” blog. I am not a professional scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures; I’m a pastor. My principle concern is drawing forth things of value for application and contemplation by laypeople; I know my limits, and they stop well before claiming this writing endeavor will be marked by its academic rigor and cutting edge scholarship.
I close with this thought, perhaps my deepest convictions when it comes to how we ought to be engaging with the Bible. If we are really, honestly open to hearing God’s Word (in a broader, more Lutheran sense of that concept) though the words of scripture…it’s going to leave a mark. It’s going to challenge our preconceptions about who we are, who God is, and how the world is. Nothing tells me faster that I am reading myself and my beliefs into scripture rather than letting it be read into me than finding myself feeling perfectly comfortable and content while doing so. It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing…and the Bible’s swing is way bigger than my own politics, theology, or worldview. The Holy Spirit loves to provoke and agitate as much as comfort and console.
So, perhaps that’s my greatest hope and most sincere prayer here – that the Spirit will show up in this work and engage in some provocation, some holy agitation to confront us all with whatever wisdom it is we need to hear. As we dialogue with these books, may we be formed – and transformed – by how God meets us in the conversation.