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Laurel Dykstra: Bible Study Notes


July 25, 2013

Laurel Dykstra: Bible Study Notes











Day one Hospitality to Strangers--Community Reading Skills

(Migration, Homelessness)

Territorial Acknowledgement (please stand)—land of the Interior Salish people Spokane “Children of the Sun” –awaiting compensation feds for losses and contributions Grand Coulee Dam, fishing sites, burial grounds, homes, trad gathering places

Acknowledge them, their care for and knowledge of this land of salmon, sage and pine—while Salish people’s have a powerful tradition of hospitality it is a lie & denial of colonial past and present to describe ourselves a guests here.

I grew up in unceded Coast Salish territories, grandchild of economic migrants, white working class

White privilege and academic success masked the way that being working class, female and queer disadvantaged me

I grew up in a high Anglican tradition

Brocade, bells, altar to Mary -every Sunday gospel procession—book holder, two tapers (candle bearer), deacon—to read, crucifer carrying a big tall jesus on a stick, sensor (incense on a chain) boat boy hold extra incense. Sing the gospel

Gospel was central, it was a treasure

When we pray Nobody says Amen unless it’s written on the page

The frozen chosen. I am having an intercultural experience as an Anglican among Baptists

Exercise in pairs—think of a time when you accepted/received hospitality outside of your community or culture–reciprocal, power dynamics, how did it feel?


Wanted to be an altar server—back-drop of women’s ordination

Tears and shouting—my brother was an altar server and I was the choir master’s helper—sitting on the organ bench, turning the page. As physically far away from the altar as it was possible to be in the same building

On the one hand –the gospel is central, and on the other “not you”

Despite that I Knew that bible at it’s core about justice –but why don’t we do what the bible says

So I went looking for people who were doing what the bible says—mostly I looked in places connected with “radical discipleship movement” “radical hospitality”

L’Arche –homes for people with developmental disabilities

Catholic Worker—anarchist movement begun by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin focused on community, hospitality, non-violent social change,

Reverse mission –Cuernavaca

Anti-globalization movement

Bed bugs and head lice and intestinal parasites

Housemates overdosing in the bathroom

Homeless encampments—human shit in my shoes

Hosting coffee hours in SRO hotels

And on the week before Christmas I turned a pregnant couple away from a homeless shelter

Radical Hospitality is the theme of our conference

We tend to think of radical as a synonym for “Extreme” –but radical comes from radix or root—what I’ve been growing into is an understanding of a more rooted hospitality

I live now with my not-so traditional family in a housing co-operative in the most pathologized and maligned neighbourhood in the city of Vancouver—higher new HIV infection rates than almost anywhere in the “so called” developed world, but also broken heart of movements of resistance and for social change. and am really working on what it means to be a neighbor.

Group of families pooled resources to pay a neighbour’s rent –single mom, 2 sons

Radical/Rooted Hospitality is a pervasive biblical theme Prof. de la Torre and Pastor Mitchell have helped us to look at and unpack some of the key passages

We are going to in our time together look at some of these passages grouped around the major themes and practice some skills

This for me is prayer—where I get the “god feeling” when we engage scripture this way we are praying

Most Christians read the bible either as if it happened in Disney land –saccharine characters with vapid spiritualized morals and nothing to do with us and our real problems in our real lives or we read it like a fortune cookie, what is god saying to me (personally, individually)

Contrary to what many have learned in seminary the key tools for reading scripture are not being white, German, male and heterosexual.

Our lived experience and community engagement in work of relationship and resistance

Learned from base communities (I specifically spent time in Cuernavaca—women’s prison) –not everybody could read the page but everybody could read scripture

Weekly read the gospel for Sunday—in light of their experience, prep to comment in church

--see, judge, act

Indaba gatherings (zulu word for coming together with serious intention) –used in Anglican communion when questions around sexuality and inclusion threatened our church

More recently  “Gospel based discipleship” lead by indigenous Anglicans—gospel in the centre of our sacred circle”

All meetings –20 min, made meetings go faster

What do you notice? What is the gospel saying to you? What are you called to do?

Form groups of 10, not all people you know, --introduce yourselves

Pay attention to who speaks and how often—do I and people who look like me take up more than our fair share of time and space? Always invited and never expected to share

Read aloud, Read a different translation

each person say a word or a phrase that you notice sticks with you

How does this resonate with your own experience of giving/receiving hospitality

Migration and homelessness


  • Genesis 18: 1-8
  • Matthew 25:34-46
  • Exodus 22:21
  • Exodus 23:9
  • Leviticus 19:33-34
  • Leviticus 24:22
  • Jeremiah 22:3
  • Hebrews 13:2


  • What passages did you have?
  • To whom do we show hospitality? Why?
  • Theme--Hospitality to Strangers
  • **Include in Debrief –Hospitality Distortions and Failures—Sodom—Genesis 19 straight from Mamre, Judges 19
  • rec Our God is Undocumented

Day Two Table/Meal hospitality

Literary Reading Skills

Quick review of yesterday

  • Hospitality to strangers—vulnerable who you don’t know
  • Why? b/c you were once aliens, strangers
  • b/c they might be angels/messengers
  • b/c that is where we find Christ

Two additional themes:

(Noah group—hospitality of land and creation, partic wilderness)

**homelessness of god—foxes have dens, who are you to build gd a temple, I will dwell in tents

Our God is Undocumented—Ched Myers and Matthew Colwell

Whistle apology—rude way to interrupt

exercise in pairs—St. Agnes mother’s day (food bank, single parent, staying w/friends)

share a story about a meal and difference

skills of community reading

today new set of tools –literary skills

don’t panic, you have literary skills and you use them all the time: you don’t read song lyrics the same way you read a fb post, you don’t read an auto manual the same way as a letter,

notice—what kind of writing is this?


Oracle from a prophet

Is it a parable? A saying

Some legal text/a commandment

Is it a joke? –there are a few

The bible represents roughly the equivalent span and diversity in English literature Chaucer’s Canterbury tales to hip hop

Who is speaking? Who’s the audience?

Is a text descriptive or prescriptive—running in the hall

What is the context?

Do you know of similar stories –in this book? In other gospels? In the bible? In other lit?—eg Moses, Jesus, Superman, Hercules –all endangered infant hero raised by substitute parents

--man and a woman meet at a well there’s going to be a wedding

--peril in a boat? –Noah, moses, Jonah, Jesus, Paul

Surrounding material—eg if the laws concerning hospitality appear verses away from the laws concerning how to marry or financially compensate the father of a virgin who has been raped what kind of authority do we give them?

Notice patterns—word repetitions, breaks in the flow

Statistics are your friends—

Hebrew bible 1426 names, 1315 men

God is called father predominantly in the NT, 65 times in Synoptics gospels, (44 in Matthew)

2/3 of NT references to hell are in Matthew

Most references to African nations emphasize greatness, strength and riches

All these “reading skills” add to community skills

Read the passage, 2x, dif translations, languages

What do you notice?

Apply your experience

Food Justice, Outsiders –Trayvon, black youth and young men, LGBTQ

  • Banquet—Luke 14:7-11, 12-14, 15-24
  • Gleaning Lev 19:9-10
  • Loaves and fishes Luke 9:10=17, Mk 6:31-44, Matt 14:13-21, Jn 6:5-15
  • Cana Jn 2:1-10
  • Wisdom’s table Proverbs 9:1-6
  • Lord’s prayer, midnight guest Luke 11:1-8
  • Tax collector Matt 9:9-13, Mar 2:13-20


  • what were the passages (all diff)
  • what do they have in common?—food
  • what other themes? Inclusion, sharing, humility, abundance/extravagnce

insiders and outsiders

Now we may think that purity codes and ancient rules or prejudice about who you ate with are confined to the past or to other traditions

Think about a mall food court—can you think of anyone eating there who would keep you from eating, make you want to eat somewhere else? Lose your appitite?

Who would you have to dinner at your house? Who would you share a sandwich with? A lick of your ice cream cone? 

 (J D Crossan calls food bank charity where we give from our surplus with out being changed, “the last refuge against the terror of open commensality”)

Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated;

This is not pie in the sky by and by when you die real food for hungry bodies

the sacred meal that is at the heart of our tradition is not sacred because 2000 years ago the Kingdom Movement shared the meal and told the story of slaves who walked though water and wilderness to freedom, not b/c Jesus talked about his body and blood and said “do this”

That meal we share is sacred because over and over again that movement and those people ate and drank, abundantly in a world of scarcity, broke boundaries of cleanliness and caste

When empire had humiliated, tortured and extinguished the one they loved.

And when his desolate companions shared bread with a stranger on the road they knew Jesus with them again.

To the extent that we too give and accept radical hospitality, that we too eat that bread of affliction and that we lose our beloved to the machines of domination

 We participate in that meal and know that presence.

Day Three Hospitality to Prophets/Disciples

Interrogating Power Relationships


Quick review

  • Hospitality to Strangers/community reading
  • Table Hospitality/literary skills

Today two themes one more skill sets

But first a story:

My church—something I am proud of anti-racism training mandatory for all people in positions of leadership—clergy, lay ministers

–a small group of us—white, Metis, Chinese, Afro-Carribean are training to be the trainers –trouble is we are all we raised under and affected by white supremacy,

--anti-oppression work is not like corrective surgery but more like dental hygine

Hospitality and a church you are connected to (2 min)

How many shared a story about the church as host?

How many shared a story about the church as guest?

So, just hang on to that info as we move on to today’s skills focus (again, already using) An essential tool when you read the bible is that of interrogating power

Latin American Liberation Theologians talk about “Hermeneutics of Suspicion”

(know a band by this name)

which is just a fancy way of saying that we come to know scripture best

not by loving it,

not by parading it around the church with candles and incense,

not by quoting it whenever we can

but by actively practicing our distrust.

Ask—is this true? Who says so? If so who benefits?

Hebrews Christians were pretty marginal but scriptures produced by the tiny literate percent---what does it mean when people of privilege identify with

Is a passage Descriptive or Prescriptive? (no running in the halls)

In anti-racism training learn that “-isms” can be understood in 4 ways

Inter-personal –easily identified

Institutional—power structures behind –eg numbers in jail



Reading steps review

  • Read different versions
  • What do you notice
  • How does it relate to personal experience
  • How does it relate to bigger social questions

Hospitality to Prophets and Disciples

  • 1 Kings 17:8-16 Elijah and widow
  • 2 Kings 4:8-17 Elisha and wealthy woman
  • Luke 10:38-42—M&M
  • Matthew 10:40-42
  • Acts 16:11-15
  • Mark 16:7-13 no purse
  • Luke 10:1-12 no purse

Church as itinerant

Churches pouring money into buildings that in many cases are too big for congregation

civil rights hospitality—Rosmarie Harding

young organizers in the house of black community leaders as a strategy that provided safety for young people

Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons describes her experience

"We were seen as ‘leaders,' people who brought a vision, people who brought resources, ideas, and materials that they wanted. At the same time, because of our youth we were also children to them."

"I had to obey Mrs. Sphinks when it came to what time I could come in and where I was going. I had to tell her where I was going and where I had been. If she said I had to go to church, I had to go. But at the same time, they were willing to follow me into the jaws of the jail....

Guerilla Hospitality

  • Josh 2:1-16 Rahab
  • Luke 7:36-50 Mark 14:3-9 woman w/ jar (Matt 26:6-13)
  • Luke 10:29-37 Samaritan
  • John 2:1-10 cana
  • John 6:5-15 feeding (boy)

Kind of my favorite—unlikely or guerilla host, seizing the host perogative


tanners, leper, tax collector

--occupy, Tent City, Food Not Bombs

in hospitality to strangers assumed host is male head of house

--challenge the householder/property owner as the moral actor (Fear of Beggars)

unexpected patterns—lots of Luke –role of women

Biblically hospitality is pervasive:

To strangers, with food, creation as host, divine hospitality is abundant gift, to prophets and disciples,

I love this, I have had so much fun grappling with scripture together. Thank you for doing this work, for bringing your own stories to our shared sacred story.

Close with two quotes about stories

Dorothy Allison

White, southern, lesbian poverty writer (Trash, Bastard out of Carolina)

Women lose their lives not knowing they can do something different. Men eat themselves up believing they have to be the thing they have been made. Children go crazy. Really, even children go crazy, believing the shape of the life they must live is as small and mean and broken as they are told.

Oh, I could tell you stories that would darken the sky and stop the blood. The stories I could tell no one would believe. I would have to pour blood on the floor to convince anyone that every word I say is true. And then? Whose blood would speak for me?

Two or Three Things I Know for Sure

Plume, New York, 1995 p. 51

Stories by Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo)
I will tell you something about stories,
(he said)
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see.
All we have to fight off illness and death
You don’t have anything
if you don’t have stories.
Their evil is mighty
But it can’t stand up to our stories.
So they try to destroy the stories
Let the stories be confused or forgotten.
They would like that
They would be happy
Because we would be defenseless then…

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