Vocal Exegesis: Reading Scripture Publicly Without The Heresy Of Boredom -- By: Grenville J.R. Kent

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 05:1 (Summer 2014)
Article: Vocal Exegesis: Reading Scripture Publicly Without The Heresy Of Boredom
Author: Grenville J.R. Kent


Vocal Exegesis: Reading Scripture Publicly Without The Heresy Of Boredom

Grenville J.R. Kent

Big Questions Films & Wesley Institute, Sydney

Introduction

Churchgoers are used to lukewarm yoghurt, but the Bible is about sin, scandal, violence, about lousy authorities, sex, money—all the things life is about today. A lot of people think the church should be some sort of haven to protect the self, turning their backs on human degradation and suffering. But that’s not the Bible.

Daniel Berrigan1

Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.

Professor Henry Higgins to Eliza, Pygmalion (Act I, Scene 1, 117)

Waves crashed and disciples shouted desperately to the sleeping Jesus, but the story was being read in the dry, factual tone of radio news. Jesus’ words brought “great calm” then two violently insane men screamed, but the reader’s voice did not vary in pitch, pace or volume. It was when Jesus was given the same vocal characterisation as the demons that I realised that this reading was more than boring. It was heresy.

How well do church readers transmit the living word of God? Are rich, emotionally layered psalms flattened to the even blandness of a textbook? Are the fiery warnings, gracious appeals and compelling reasoning of apostles and prophets blurred by readers who barely notice the movements of the text, and may have read it for the first time five minutes before? If so, hearers are missing

important ideas and are being shown that the Scriptures and the God they describe are drab and predictable. And that is heresy.

Crowds listened for hours as Ezra the scribe read God’s torah with compelling clarity. The Levites “read in the book of the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” (Neh 8:1-13) Ordinary people celebrated that they now understood, and they came back the next day for more, which led to a national revival. Moses read the book of the covenant in public with great effect (Exod 24:7). When the tribes crossed into the promised land, the blessings and curses of the law were dramatically recited from two mountains by two speaking choirs, a stereo of grace-based covenant theology, and then Joshua read the law (Josh 8:30-35; cf.

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