Come Let Us Talk Gospel

Did you hear the one about the Jewish feminist, the Methodist evangelical, and the first century gospel writer? It resulted in a great gift for the church. The Gospel of Luke by Amy-Jill Levine and Ben Witherington III is the first commentary of its kind. Amy-Jill provides a Jewish voice and Ben a Christian voice as they engage in a stimulating discussion with the Gospel. I like the way they say it “Ours is not a debating commentary; ours is a ‘come let us reason together and talk’ commentary.”

I have not yet read it in its entirety. But what I have read I find fascinating. The approach is novel. It is helpful for a critical reading of the text but not only that, this approach is helpful as a way of living. While it is important to express conflicting views rather than pretend they do not exist, they are able to maintain some sense of sensibility. The authors prefer to dialogue with respect for the text, for those who listen to the text, and for one another. Although they differ often, they exhibit a working friendship with peacemaking as a goal. I love the way they say this “Biblical studies should not be a contact sport, with its own sections of cheerleaders.” For me, it comes across as (apologies to Amy-Jill) a very Christian effort.

Amy-Jill and Ben refer to the author as “Luke” without making a serious attempt to identify this “Luke.” They agree that “Luke” writes sometime during the second or third generation of Jesus followers. They agree that the Gospel is written to an ideal audience known as “Theophilus.” This recipient has insider information and already knows something about Jesus. Theophilus is a gentile who is familiar with Jewish scripture and has sympathy for the Roman presence.

Just as they make no strong effort to identify who “Luke” or “Theophilus” are, they do not discuss at length potential sources or synoptic relationships. Instead, they emphasize the text, which they would both encourage to be read out loud. Finally, both Amy-Jill and Ben agree that Luke writes with an agenda. And that is “to show how Jesus of Nazareth is the world’s preeminent teacher, healer, and savior who should be heeded, imitated, and finally worshipped.”

Perhaps what both authors want most is for readers to feel as if they are invited into the conversation.

Missio Alliance and the Mission of the Spirit

Missio Alliance is an ecumenical group that does not want to avoid the challenges of living as the church in the twenty first century. Because of that, they continue to make a serious effort to host conversation about how the church can engage in mission in a postmodern world. Many things are worth repeating following their recent gathering “Awakenings: The Mission of the Spirit as the Life of the Church.” Some of them are included below.

The conference began with conversation on “The Holy Spirit: Our Forgotten God.” The reasons we could forget the Spirit may be numerous but Todd Hunter suggested these reasons may include the explicit gospel we grew up with does not mention the Holy Spirit. And he thinks we equate the Spirit with weirdness and try to separate ourselves from that. Hunter reminds us the Spirit could be grieved by wacky excess or by being ignored. He concludes by telling us it was Jesus who said “it is better that I go away…” And that to be the people of God is to be connected to the Spirit.

Over the course of the gathering we were encouraged to look at the Spirit from different angles and through the lens of different traditions. This was a helpful exercise. Throughout we were in agreement that the Spirit intends to strengthen the church by the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit has no interest in promoting individual advancement. The Spirit is not interested in hierarchy, but unity. Not celebrities or heroes but community.

We cannot reduce the Spirit to mere gifts. To reduce the work of the Spirit to individual gifts is to miss the point. The Spirit is always about the Body. And the Holy Spirit is not only about the Holy Spirit. This is about God. And God in relationship. Trinity gives us a fuller picture of God. It was N. T. Wright who mentioned the Spirit weaves us into God’s poem. Some of us may be sonnets or haikus or limericks to help the world imagine His new creation. We are his workmanship, the masterpiece of the Spirit.

Other things I find scribbled in my notes include;

-There is a vast difference between believing something and living in the narrative of the people of God.

-From the day of Abraham it is evident that the people called to provide the solution are part of the problem.

-God gave the church the bi-vocation of worship and mission.

-The church is not the manager of the guest list, but the welcome committee.

-Church cannot be reduced to a utilitarian tool, it is a relational entity.

-The tabernacle is a small working model of new creation. God dwells here. We are the tabernacle people, the Spirit dwells within us.

-God is shaping the church to be someone who will show the world what Jesus is like.

-The church is following Jesus into the future, no matter what is out there.

A big thank you to Missio Alliance for this conversation!

Meet Me at the Library

One week from today June 24, 7:00pm – 8:00pm there will be a program at the Mechanicsburg Public Library “A Conversation Beyond the Ordinary: Readings from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now.” Here are the details from The Patriot News;

For more information about the book, check this site

A Conversation Beyond the Ordinary

Looking forward to a reading at the Mechanicsburg Public Library. Here is the release from the library web site. More information about the book can be found at

ParticipantJoin us for A Conversation Beyond the Ordinary: Readings from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now on Wednesday, June 24, at 7:00 pm.

All are invited to join us for readings from Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now. Author Randy Saultz will read selections from the book and encourage us to pay attention to the realities of our lives, both seen and unseen. Participant asks each of us to become explorers and to become curious about the world and about God.

The meeting is designed to be a true conversation where those in attendance are encouraged to respond with observations and questions.  Join us for this night of colorful and lyrical “field notes” that highlight some of the mysteries that become tangled with ordinary experiences and cause us to say “wow.”

This program will be held in the Meeting Room on the lower level of the library. Please register at the library, by calling the library at 766-0171, or emailing the library at

LGBT: How We Talk About Things Matter

I am one who hopes that the reason some of us are intentionally welcoming toward the LGBT community is because we are trying to take seriously the command to love our neighbor. I surely want to believe that we do not make decisions in order to keep step with society. I am one who hopes that the reason some of us are perceived as opposed to that lifestyle is because we are trying to take seriously the biblical text as the word of God. I want to believe that we do not make difficult decisions in order to keep people not like us away from us.

I am one who hopes that the tensions that emerge from this conversation lead to prayer, soul-searching, and fellowship together. I want to believe that we will be part of an ongoing dialogue that is faithful to God’s words and God’s character. Our conversation must take seriously the questions about how we love our neighbors who do not think like us or act like us. Our conversation must give priority to the way we read the text and the way we interact with others.

This will be an ongoing debate, I suspect it will be a primary conversation in the church for several decades. Nearly all of us will be certain we are on the right side of the debate. While we must be true to the biblical text, we do not want to encourage inappropriate behavior. May we be gracious even as we discuss controversial subjects.

The way we hold conversation is important. Instead of challenges to our faith, our points of disagreement become opportunities to demonstrate the way God works in the world. We are to love the person who opposes our beliefs, love those who are unlike us, love even those who consider us enemies. We are to become more in tune with the character of God.

We may never reach consensus on this issue, still we must behave like Christians. May our discussion prompt us to explore biblical responses to things like creation, humanity, sexuality, salvation, and grace. May we explore what it means to be the church. Whatever our thoughts about homosexuality or the LGBT community, we are still called to love those who think differently. Whatever our thoughts about the human condition, we remain confident about the grace of God.

A Lenten Conversation

I am excited about participating in a “Lenten Conversation” that will include readings from my book Participant: Field Notes from Here and Now and selected texts from the Gospels.  This conversation will be held at the Mechanicsburg Brethren in Christ Church on Tuesday, March 24 at 6:30pm.  We are hoping that it will be a true conversation where those in attendance will be able to respond with observations and questions.  It is our hope that this conversation will challenge us during our Lenten journey.  If you are interested in purchasing the book, you may find it at Amazon or at Barnes and Noble

Conversation With a Yearbook Photograph

I recently saw a picture of my sixth grade class.  There I was in the front row with what appear to be recently cut bangs sitting among people who used to be part of my everyday life.  Finding an old picture is an interesting exercise.  Photographs have a knack of starting a conversation with you.  Out of every picture comes the potential for a number of stories.  This one was no exception.  For six years, I spent nearly every day from September to June with these people.  We learned syllables and practiced lower case letters and were introduced to paragraphs together.  We had thoughts that were shaped together by chalkboard lectures, homework, and conversations after class.

I have not seen most of them since the sixth grade.  Sometime after I moved away I received a letter with notes from several classmates inside.  I don’t remember everything they wrote but I do remember what was written on the outside of the envelope “sealed with the water from my dog’s nose.”

One day we learned to take one another’s pulse.  After performing this with a partner once we ran a lap around the building only to do it again.  We looked for one another at basketball games.  We learned the school song together.  We chased each other at recess.  We made valentine boxes and delivered cards to one another on Valentine’s Day.  We chugged milk from cartons in the cafeteria.  We practiced fire drills.  We pretended to be Disney characters in the school play.  We were timed in the 50 yard dash out in front of the school.  I learned to roller skate with these people and we slept over at one another’s house.  We learned vocabulary together, some of it on the bus.

We read Dick, Jane and Sally together in Miss Marchington’s class.  Mrs. Ireton taught us to write cursive.  We put together a book of multiplication tables for Mrs Eselgroth.  We watched as our fourth grade classroom was visited by students to be disciplined as Miss Lucas doubled as the principal.  I remember Ms. Howe reading Old Yeller to us.  This was a formative time.  These are people that I grew up with while learning to add and subtract and how to get along with others.

It is likely that these early relationships shaped interaction I had with others later.  Truth is I have probably unconsciously made comparisons of people I have met with the people of elementary school.  These are people who helped me understand what it is to be a friend, what to expect from a friend, and what to expect from those uninterested in friendship.

Now I find myself wondering what they are up to.  Who developed as a fine musician?  Who developed into a skilled athlete?  Who was the senior class president?  Who became valedictorian?  Where did these people go to college?  What clubs did they join there?  What vocation did they choose?  Where have they traveled?  Do they like to fish?  Do they know any good recipes?  Do they grow their own vegetables?  Did they marry?  Did they have children?  Where are they now?  Would we recognize one another?  Would we enjoy a reunion?  What would we talk about?  I might start by asking about the way they sealed that envelope.

A Short Story About Conversation

We used to live at the corner of Tracy Creek and Underwood Road.   Not long after we had moved into this neighborhood, we were warned about a gentleman named Bill.  We were told that he was crazy.  That he trained his dog to be mean.  That his house was overrun by cats (this proved to be true but that is another story).  That he would shoot you if you walked into his yard.  That people had disappeared from his property.  Granted, his property did have the look of a property where things could take place.

This part of the country boasts some of the best apples anywhere and trees were abundant near our house.  One of these trees stood in Bill’s yard.  Occasionally, local kids would pick apples from this tree while walking by.  Sometimes they would eat them, sometimes they would throw them at his house and run.  There was also an outhouse in his yard.  One Halloween, as a prank, someone tipped it over.

One day, walking down Underwood Road, we wanted apples.  We could see Bill there sitting out front of his house.  But we wanted apples.  At the risk of Bill shouting angry words, someone asked if we could pick some apples.  Bill responded, “the dog won’t bite.”  Again, “could we pick some apples?”  And again, “the dog won’t bite.”  This seemed to go on for a while.

I am not sure if he was saying go ahead and have an apple.  Or, if he had trouble hearing and figured we were asking about the dog.  Or, if he was lonely and hoped we would come sit with him on the porch.  I don’t even remember if we ended up with apples.  But I do remember thinking that I am not sure I had ever heard Bill talk before that.  Having a conversation with someone changes the way you look at them, even a short conversation where you did not say a word.