Spirit Alive: Grounded in the Word

Spirit Alive: Grounded in the Word


Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog that looks at different aspects of mission and ministry throughout the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and beyond.

March 14, 2017

Food for the Soul:

Reading the New Testament as It Evolves into History

Lent is a great time to deepen one's connection with the Word. Part of my regular, daily prayer and meditation practice involves reading scripture each morning. And thanks to Marcus Borg's wonderful insight, scholarship, and guidance you can actually read Christian scripture in the order in which it was written right before your very eyes. What I mean by this is that Borg's book Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written gives the reader an opportunity to experience the New Testament according to the actual flow in which the books were written between the years 50 and 120 AD. Doing it in this manner opens up the scriptures in a whole new way. It is an amazing experience that I thoroughly enjoy and recommend it to you.

Through his helpful commentaries on the text, Borg reminds us that "there were vibrant Christian
communities spread throughout the Roman Empire before there were written gospels," that "placing the gospels after Paul's letters makes it clear that, as written documents, they are not the source of early Christianity, but its product," and that "the gospel--the good news-- of and about Jesus existed before the gospels." All this brings incredible life to these letters and stories as you come to terms with the fact that from the very beginning the Christian faith was a dynamic, spirit-led movement that was made up of a variety of communities-- Jew and Gentile-- that were trying to make sense of and share the the life and teachings of Jesus. From the outset, Christianity was a communal venture, and the oral tradition that started it quickly gave way to the written tradition that we interact with today.
But it is important to note that this early spiritual movement, which we are descendants of today, was set within the context of a larger political empire. Rome was a powerful force that had its own imperial theology, with Caesar Augustus embodying its "Son of God." In fact, when Octavian was born the event was viewed at the time as a divine conception, with this infant Caesar being seen as the son of the god Apollo.

No wonder, as we follow Jesus through his Lenten journey to the cross, this early Christian movement was seen as being so dangerous and subversive. Rome was not about to play second fiddle to another God and "son," whose message of love, compassion, and peace for all would undermine the basic principles of Roman rule. Or as Borg says: "...To call Jesus 'Lord' and 'Son of God' meant that the emperor was neither of these things. It meant becoming countercultural, rejecting the values of dominant culture and living in accord with another vision of how things should be."

Being a Christian clearly involves stepping outside of one's cultural surroundings in order to experience a different view of what is really most important in life. Reading scripture on a regular basis is a great way to begin this journey...and reading the New Testament in the order in which it unfolds into history is a powerful experience. If reading scripture isn't already a part of your spiritual practice, Lent is a great time to begin...and I'd highly recommend Borg's wonderful way of undertaking Bible study as a way to do it. 

Blessings on your journey,
Spirit Alive is a twice a month blog and email by Rev. Lowell Greathouse, Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference. It seeks to identify where the spirit is alive in our congregations and communities. Check out past editions, or subscribe to the email list.



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Lowell Greathouse

Lowell Greathouse is the Mission and Ministry Coordinator for the Oregon-Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church. He looks for places to find where the spirit is alive and help them grow in vitality and fruitfulness. Share with him at lowell@umoi.org

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