Second SBL paper
I always thought folks were mad when they did two SBL papers, but here goes.
Accepted for a Contextual Biblical Interpretation session in Boston.
William John Lyons
University of Bristol
A comparatively little studied phenomenon is the shift in biblical meaning produced when a sermon designed for oral delivery in a Christian communal setting is published in an edited volume designed for a different purpose. The Bible has—hopefully—been successfully inculturated for an audience in a certain time and place, but its subsequent usage, and especially its reproduction in print, potentially shifts that cultural tone into a somewhat different key.
The sermon considered here was delivered in Sheffield in 1992 by Professor John Rogerson of Sheffield University. Its text, set by the Anglican lectionary, was the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37) and its setting was the ‘First Celebration of Holy Communion’ of the newly ordained vicar of the Nine O’clock Service (NOS), Chris Brain. The sermon’s discussion of the need for the divine risk-taking as exemplified in the Scriptures to be echoed by human risk-taking in the present was originally heard in the context of a fast approaching move into a long awaited mission-field. It took on a different meaning, however, following the contextual shift brought about by the collapse of NOS in a public sexual scandal in 1995.
Although it could have been presented as prescient, the decision to publish the sermon in 2002 did not revolve around an attempt to claim foreknowledge. Rather it was the abrupt closure of NOS by local Church authorities that provided a third context—the deafening silence now reigning over its mission-field, the club culture of Sheffield—in which the published sermon could now effectively function as the protest of one still angry individual, a protest aimed at those Church leaders who refused to echo the divine risk-taking so prominent in the sermon and who by their risk-averse behaviour effectively destroyed a Church already badly damaged by internal abuse.