Tuesday at NOAC

Photo by My Radar
A weather photo shows the heavy rain over NOAC this morning–the only spot of green on the entire eastern half of the country. Asked about the deep theological meaning of NOAC having an early morning thunderstorm while the country all around remained dry, former Bethany Seminary president Gene Roop explained it this way, “The rain falls on the just.”

Quotes of the day

“We’re here to serve the Kingdom of God, and it’s narrative that’s going to do it, and we’re the narrators, you and I.” –Phyllis Tickle, Tuesday’s keynote speaker. Tickle is a lecturer, essayist, and self-proclaimed “recovering academic” known for her Divine Hours series and her writing on Emergence Christianity.

“Five hundred years ago, you may remember…well, you may not remember–but this is NOAC.” –Phyllis Tickle, Tuesday’s keynote speaker.

“I’m eager to listen anew to texts that speak of God’s healing power among us.” –Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, the morning Bible study leader at NOAC 2013. She is professor of preaching and worship at Bethany Theological Seminary.

“There is no pitting of right action against right worship…. It’s not that fasting is wrong, we just have to learn how to do it…. God wants us, by the end of chapter 58, to desire that of God that brings life.” –Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm leading morning Bible study on Isaiah 58.

Homework for a time of great upheaval

A 500-year cycle of change and distress–one might have felt alarm at Phyllis Tickle’s assertion that “we are living through a time of great upheaval,” but the scholar, theologian, academic, storyteller, author, and mother of seven tied it all together with humor, insight, and hope.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Phyllis Tickle speaking at NOAC 2013.

And a homework assignment for the older adults at NOAC. Noting that that nature of home life has inevitably changed, with the loss of the female householder, and the emergence of women gaining equality in employment, “there is no one waiting to make stories out of a child’s day,” and therefore no one teaching the biblical story to children at home either, Tickle asserted. “It is up to us who are grandparents and great-grandparents, who are the ones who know the stories, we must go back and weave those stories into the lives of our grandchildren and great grandchildren.”

If the older generations don’t do their homework, and children don’t learn the Bible story, Christianity may survive, Tickle said. But, she warned, “the church may not.”

In a striking true story from her experience relating to the younger generations, Tickle was at a church dinner where she was asked to talk about the history of the controversy over the Virgin Birth. Afterward, she talked to one of the teenagers who were there to serve the meal for the meeting. Referring to the adults who had been present, he asked her, “Don’t they know the Virgin Birth is too beautiful not to be true, whether it happened or not?”

That conversation illustrated for her not only the importance of story, but also the rising generations’ new understanding of fact versus truth: that the beauty of a story lies in its “actuality, not factuality.” Another beauty of story is its part in the healing process, both for individuals and society, she said, “We write stories about our harms, whether we share them with others or not.” Giving several true to life examples, she spoke about the healing that may come when a difficult experience is “wrapped” in storytelling, or written down.

Tickle is known for her books about Emergence Christianity, and the theory that about every 500 years there is a great change in society, and in religion. “Everything shifts when this happens,” Tickle said. “Our Great Emergence has been building for 150 years. It affects the church. We have to readjust to a new society and a new culture.”

–Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and a volunteer on the NOAC Communications Team.
A biblical family argument, and what it can teach us

“In Isaiah we are walking in on a family argument,” Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm said, Tuesday morning in the first of her three Bible Studies. The family argument is between the people and God, and at the heart of it is the desire and need for healing. The reason this passage matters is that we’re still having the same argument with God ourselves, she told the NOAC congregation, and so it may be studied in the search for healing.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Dawn Ottoni-Wilhelm, morning Bible study leader for NOAC 2013.

Isaiah 58:1-14, Ottoni-Wilhelm suggested, consists of “reflections on restoration. The images of healing are plentiful.” She also asked, “What images of healing are offered to us? What kind of God is presented in these passages?”

Among the suggestions for images from this passage, shouted out from the congregation, were water, loosed chains, rope of the yoke, bread, house, broken and restored walls, and light.

The passage calls for the use of imagination, she said, by believers back then and by us. Many assume from reading this part of Isaiah that God opposed the religious practices of the day. “God is not opposed to religious practices,” Ottoni-Wilhelm asserted, however. “God wants us to be clear about what our religious practices should be: right action towards each other, our delight in God and each other.”

She then asked, “What kind of God is imagined in this text?” Answers included, compassionate, a big God, a parent, a just God, God who responds , a forgiving God, God who does not give up, a God who is here, a God who grieves sharing sorrow, a God of all times, a God within each of us, and a disappointed God.

Finally, Ottoni-Wilhelm concluded, we find “an engaged, interested , conversant God.”

Bible study continues each morning through Thursday.

–Frank Ramirez is pastor of Everett (Pa.) Church of the Brethren and a volunteer on the NOAC Communications Team.


Question of the Day:
What was your biggest adventure travelling to NOAC?

 “Trying to sleep on the airplane. I had a ‘red eye’ flight. I feel real red eye right now.”—Alice Quigley, Martinez, Calif.  “Driving the bus with eight other people on board. They all behaved.”—Buddy Crumpacker, Blue Ridge, Va. “We always have trouble getting off the 40. We’ve been all over the place. We had the scenic tour.”—Carol Replogle, New Oxford, Pa.  “Driving through that winding road in the North Carolina mountains!”–Pat Roberts, Indianapolis, Ind.  “I’ve been to every single NOAC. It’s been an adventure just to travel. I had a good driver.”—Virginia Crim, Greenville, Ohio  “We stopped to see our nephew who just started Belmont College in Nashville.”—Norm Waggy, Goshen, Ind.

NOAC Communication Team:  Frank Ramirez, reporter; Eddie Edmonds, tech guru; Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, editor & photographer


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