I’m spending the week at Fuller Theological Seminary enrolled in the final seminar of my DMin program. I have completed all of the course work and am now ABD – All But Dissertation. The main task this week is for each of us doctoral candidates to present the first draft of our dissertation proposal, then listen to our colleagues and doctoral advisers deconstruct and tear it apart.
Day 1 – I arrived Sunday late afternoon after a fairly uneventful drive. I had fun listening to some of my old albums-now-on-CD, and I even got to hear the broadcast of Dinuba Mennonite Brethren Church. The five hour drive is never a problem because I love listening to music and radio. The day ended with a meal for the ten of us students hosted by our doctoral advisers, Mark Branson and Alan Roxburgh. We spent a couple of hours fellowshipping and catching up. I’m so blessed to have such wonderful colleagues, friends and conversation partners.
Day 2 – We started the day, as we always do, with lectio divina. Our passage for reflection this week is Acts 2. (For a brief description of this “dwelling in the Word” see my blog about last year’s Fuller experience here.) Acts 2 records the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It’s full of rich imagery: violent wind, tongues of fire, miraculous languages, amazed people, a sermon, repentance, baptism and the birth of the first church. One of the things that we reflected on is the context for this message. The believers are gathered together and are driven out into the streets after receiving the Spirit. They immediately begin speaking the languages of others in the city. Jews from various areas had moved to Jerusalem, and even though they would have spoken Greek, the newly Spirit-filled believers speak to them in their own native languages. These people used to live in communities and territories that were established during the Babylonian exile. These are the descendants of the post-Persian exiles. It's amazing to see that the Spirit chooses to speak in the native tongues of the people.
With regard to this context, we must ask, Why did the apostles speak to them in their native languages and not Greek, the dominant language that they all would have understood anyway? What was God up to? What was God doing by including all these nationalities and languages in the emergence of his new church? Or, as the people in Jerusalem asked, “What does this mean?” Surely God was redefining his kingdom community to be inclusive and open. The believers were ministering the gospel of Jesus Christ as any missionary would, in the native languages of the people. Our challenge today: What would happen if we walked our neighborhoods asking some of the same fundamental questions: How can we speak the language of these people? What signs and wonders are already evident in the neighborhoods we live in? Might we be “amazed and perplexed” with what God is already doing and ask with the first-century Jews, “What does this mean?” There’s a lot more to unpack in this passage….
The remainder of the day was spent listening to two dissertation proposals and then discussing them. The dismantling and reconstructing of our proposals is the primary task of this week’s seminar. I’ll say more about that after I have my turn.