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UNITY Lutheran Church

One Book, One Church, One Summer

Inspired

Weekly Discussion Prompts

Stay engaged with your church community this summer with our all-church read:

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again
by Rachel Held Evans

Starting June 9, 2019 we'll read the book together in manageable chunks over 10 weeks.  Bookmark this page to view the latest reading prompts and to join our online discussion.  Participate anytime during the 10-week period!

1. Select a button above to see the weekly discussion prompt and the comments related to the prompt in the discussion box below.
2. After reading the prompt, use the form below to contribute to that discussion.
Questions or concerns about this book discussion? Need a book? Contact Pastor Josh to pick up your book for $10.

Discussion Prompt #1

Week 1: June 09-15

INTRODUCTION

“My journey back to loving the Bible, like most journeys of faith, is a meandering and ongoing one, a story still in draft. And like all pilgrims, I am indebted to those who have gone before, those saints of holy curiosity whose lives of faithful questioning taught me not to fear my doubts, but to embrace and learn from them.” (xix)

What is your earliest memory of the Bible? My Lutheran elementary school days were punctuated by “memory verses” – select passages of scripture we had to memorize and recite or write down as a kind of “quiz” every week. I was never very good at memorization, but I’m grateful for that practice of internalizing the Bible and committing its message to memory from a young age. Still today, even if I can’t remember the exact wording or book-chapter-verse reference, those verses I ingested come to mind at timely moments.

My faith has changed a lot since those Lutheran school days. Like Rachel Held Evans, I too grew up in a conservative, fundamentalist church with a literalist understanding of Scripture: an earth created in six days, biology classes that skipped over the textbook’s chapters on evolution and dinosaurs and fossils, an interpretation of Revelation that read like a roadmap of the actual end of human civilization as we know it. From storybook to handbook to answer book, Evans’s journey through her early relationship with the Bible hits close to home.

But my own journey didn’t stop there. The church communities I encountered in between college and seminary expanded my understanding of the Bible and what Christianity could look like: women could be pastors, science actually had something to teach us (without skipping chapter one of the biology textbook and without contradicting what it means to confess God as “creator of heaven and earth”), and being a Christian didn’t mean voting only one way or belonging to only one particular political party. Most importantly, I discovered the stories, songs, poems, and letters of the Bible didn’t have to be taken literally. They could somehow be both flawed and true at the same time.

I love the idea, from Evans via Neil Gaiman via G.K. Chesterton, that the Bible is more than true (xxi). The Bible’s stories speak profound truths about who God is, who we are, and how much God loves this whole world – profound truths that are more than true not because they give us a historical record of “what happened” but because of what they mean -- and how they continue to prove themselves over and over again. The God who loves God’s people so much acts to deliver Noah and his family from an earth-destroying flood, and to liberate the Hebrew slaves out of bondage in Egypt, and to embody the human person of Jesus Christ in first-century Palestine who “brings good news to the poor,” and to fill even us with God’s Spirit as we live and serve in our Brookfield and greater Milwaukee neighborhoods. Scripture is “inspired” and so are God’s people, whose story is written in the pages of the Bible and is still being written today.

-Pastor Josh Evans


JOIN THE CONVERSATION!

Use the form below to make a comment.

In different times in her life, Evans describes the Bible as “storybook,” “handbook,” “answer book,” “position paper,” “stumbling block,” and finally “inspired and inspiring.”

Which of these most resonates with you?

Which do you resist?

How has your perception of or relationship with the Bible changed over the course of your faith “journey”?

Discussion Prompt #2

Week 2: June 16-22

"THE TEMPLE" & CH. 1

“This understanding of themselves as a people who wrestle with God and emerge from that wrestling with both a limp and a blessing informs how Jews engage with Scripture, and it ought to inform how Christians engage Scripture too.” (28)

Once I was asked in an interview for a youth ministry position, “What would you say to a youth who was questioning their faith?” Who knows with what inarticulate mumbo jumbo I replied, but if posed the same question now, I would say, “Thanks be to God!”

Here’s the thing about life: It’s complicated. It’s messy. There are few easy answers and many shades of grey. That is why I love our Bible, because it is just complicated enough and just messy enough to help us make sense of our complicated and messy lives.

I appreciated Rachel Held Evans’s reminder in this chapter that the bulk of our Bible was written during the time of the Babylonian exile, a time in which devastation led to deep questions. Israel’s defeat threw everything the people thought they believed about themselves and God into question.And out of that crisis of faith, a stronger faith emerged: the belief that God is with us, not just when we’re at the temple and not just when we’re on top, but our God is for us wherever we are.

Most of us, if we live long enough and are paying attention to our lives even a little, will hit a similar faith crisis at some point. And as hard as it is, those times are the gift. Because with God’s help and the support of people around us, those times of doubt forge in us a faith that is stronger, deeper, and more expansive. Thanks be to God!

-Muriel Otto


JOIN THE CONVERSATION!

Use the form below to make a comment.

How has your faith changed over the years? What life events, stories, or voices caused that change? What do you think is the next way in which God wants your faith to strengthen/deepen/expand?

Discussion Prompt #3

Week 3: June 23-29

"The Well" & CH. 2

“If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons. If you want to heal, you will always find the balm. With Scripture, we’ve been entrusted with some of the most powerful stories ever told. How we harness that power, whether for good or evil, oppression or liberation, changes everything."

Reflecting on this week’s readings, “The Well” and Deliverance Stories, was overwhelming. There were too many parallels to what’s going on in the world today and to my own personal narrative. After letting my mind and emotions ping-pong in too many directions,I was able to focus on three themes.

Thefirstwas Hagar’s storyand how Rachel humanized her for me. Of course, I knew of Hagar -- but only her name, her son with Abraham, and her relationship with Sarah. Seeing her as a vulnerable, brown-skinned woman -- a slave, who was taken advantage of and suffered at the hands of her masters, was powerful. The image of her desperation -- running from the horrible known to the wild unknown was a reminder that to really understand and connect with others, you have to dig deeper to truly know their story.

We live in such a rushed and impersonal world. We are so connected to our technology, but so disconnected from each other. Imagining Hagar at that well, naming God (the God Who Sees), makes me look up to her and want to know more of her story. She wasn’t a priest, prophet, warrior, or king. She was Hagar -- foreigner, woman, slave. For me, her story is just as heartbreaking and inspiring today as it was centuries ago.

Secondwas the wilderness.It’s true, the “wilderness” is threaded throughout the Bible as a physical/tangible place that so many had to survive and overcome. The real threat of danger from wild animals, starvation, losing the people you love, or getting lost yourself paints a clear picture of the struggles of our ancestors. The wilderness is also a metaphor that can describe any of our own personal journeys. Entering into the unknown either through bravery or despair leads us down roads that we might not have chosen on our own. Navigating our own wilderness leads us through hardships, sadness, and loneliness, where we may get lost. But, having faith in the God Who Sees (and Who Hears, Feels, and Understands) can drive us to overcome those hardships. We can help others who are suffering along the way and see that well on the horizon that nourishes us and quenches our thirst.

Third, and lastly, the reminder that whatever you’re looking to find (good or bad), you will find it in the Bible.There are too many examples of people taking the text too literally, which continues to repeat the same injustices year after year, decade after decade and century after century.

My key takeaways from this week’s readings are:

  • Remember to look for and see the good
  • Focus your energy on helping those who need help
  • Be inspired by the strong and courageous people of the Bible (like Hagar)
  • Try to inspire others

-Colleen King


JOIN THE CONVERSATION!

Use the form below to make a comment.

What have you looked for in the Bible? Reflect on yourwilderness-- what were/are your struggles? What are the things you’ve overcome and conquered? What is yourwell? That light at the end of a tunnel that keeps you going and helps to carry you forward?

Discussion Prompt #4

Week 4: June 30-July 06

Discussion Prompt #5

Week 5: July 07-13

Discussion Prompt #6

Week 6: July 14-20

Discussion Prompt #7

Week 7: July 21-27

Discussion Prompt #8

Week 8: July 28-August 03

Discussion Prompt #9

Week 9: August 04-10

Discussion Prompt #10

Week 10: August 11-17

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