Workshop: Rolf Jacobson
On Thursday, Rolf Jacobson, associate professor of Old Testament at Luther Seminary, offered a workshop on preaching the Narrative Lectionary. He discussed the ways narrative operates in our own lives and suggested that preaching the Narrrative Lectionary is one way for the church to become a better co-teller of the Bible.
Jacobson noted that we are always immersed in stories, whether it be through the news, our conversations, or anything else we might encounter. Even our doctrinal statements -- like "Jesus is Lord" or "Jesus is risen" -- are stories; there is a narrative behind them to share.
So what does it mean to preach the biblical story, to practice narrative preaching? Jacobson encouraged preachers to re-tell the biblical story in a mode that works for today, to translate it into a narrative to which your listeners can relate. And this re-telling needs to be critical and thoughtful -- not immature or naive. Likewise, it is important to prepare people for hearing strange messages, such as words used in the Old Testament and understanding the biblical contexts.
Stories are so important because they "tell the truth about the world," he said. And the biblical story is the only one that tells the truth about us and the world. We need to listen for the ways stories both tell truth about mortality, oppression, and evil, and about God's promises. For preaching, this can mean letting the story do the work. Just as Jesus didn't explain his parables, a preacher's job is not to explain the story to death or reduce it to mere points or doctrinal lessons. Letting the story do the work is part of preaching the biblical narrative. Of course there are certain things that need direct proclamation -- sometimes the promise needs to be named. But there is something powerful about letting the biblical story do its own work and connecting it to our own stories today.