If the Lord of Hosts had not left us a very small remnant, we would have become like Sodom, we would have resembled Gomorrah. Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; give ear to the Torah of our God, you people of Gomorrah.
– Isaiah 1:9&10
Over the last 5 years I have learned from several teachers who have shaped the way I engage God and the Bible (to be referred to as the Text from here forward). I studied with some teachers face-to-face. I even lived with one teacher’s family. Some teachers I only know through video and text-based learning resources. I was fortunate to find these teachers, but the hard part about learning is finding the necessary community to continue fostering growth and providing support (see Tempered Radicals by Dr. Debra Meyerson for more on how important this type of community is to lasting change). Over the last year, I spent a lot of energy and emotion toward finding people with a similar biblical hermeneutic or similar desire to know the God of Israel. That search left me frustrated, empty, and confused. I am entering this year fresh with hope — hope that God will use this blog series to recruit and rally His remnant.
For the next year, The Shuvah Project content team will embark on a weekly blog to show how important it is for people who claim to follow Jesus to engage God’s Word with an ancient lens. Not only will this blog series engage the Text with an ancient lens, but it will dig into God’s word, wrestle with God’s word, and attempt to build up a community surrounding God’s Word.
This particular blog post serves as Part-One of a Two-part introduction to this exciting endeavor.
Introduction Part-One (the blog post you are currently reading) serves to tell you what to expect during this endeavor. Introduction Part-Two (the blog post you will read next week) will serve to explain why this is a necessary endeavor.
This blog series, The Shuvah Project, will be an exercise in learning to ask better questions of the Text and hopefully answering some of them. So, it seems fitting to ask and answer a few questions regarding what the heck it will look like.
For one, what does Shuvah mean? Glad you asked.
Shuvah is the transliteration of the Hebrew word for returning. This particular idea of returning has connections to the community of Essenes at Qumran. More specifically, to the baptismal practice of that community, a Baptism of Repentance (i.e. tavilah t’shuvah). This particular baptism was an invitation to return home.
If true, what exactly is it that someone is to return to? Again, great question.
Maybe Jesus answered that question when stating the greatest commandments. First and foremost of which is to:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deut. 6:5; Matt. 22:37; Mark 12:30; and Luke 10:27)
How can someone claim to love God if they do not know God? How can someone claim to know God if they do not know what God has said?
What if the call is to return home to, and trust, the narrative God began back in Genesis 1? This is why the year-long blog series is titled The Shuvah Project. This blog series is a project in returning to God’s narrative and uncovering what is hiding there and why it’s worth returning to.
At the end of the day (well more like at the end of the year) the goal is to find and build up a remnant (The kind the Prophet Isaiah talked about).
Here is some background information that will be elaborated on in next week’s blog post:
For over 2,000 years, a Jewish lectionary has existed. A modern day lectionary persists as an annual cycle. The scholarship I stand with suggests during 1st century CE, the lection was also operating on an annual cycle. That is, every year the Jewish people, even those following Jesus, read through all five books of Moses (i.e. the entire Torah). Today, those weekly lections are discussed as weekly Torah portions also known as parsha.
At its core, this blog series is going to invite readers to join that tradition. Right about now you are likely asking why the heck would I want to do that. Hold onto that question for next week, because you will see both scholarly and pragmatic reasoning to answer why someone, especially a Christian, should partake in the weekly Torah portions.
I am certain that if you join us every week during The Shuvah Project, you too will be able to explore and answer the project’s overarching question:
What have Christians lost in order to gain convenience?
Each week here at The Shuvah Project there are several ways that we will attempt to answer this important question.
The first, an invitation to read the Text in a connected way. In preparation for each weekly blog post we will provide the weekly Torah portion addresses, the corresponding Gospel addresses in Luke (based on The Evangelists’ Calendar), and any connected readings in the prophet books. At the bottom of every blog post (starting next week) you will see the readings that the following week’s blog post will be based upon. This way, everyone knows what is coming a week in advance AND everyone can prepare by taking the week (Thursday to Thursday in our case) to read at their own pace. How wonderful that someone would tell us what the Sunday sermon is based on a week in advance so that we could read in preparation and contemplation (wink wink).
Second, by helping you become familiar with 21st century tools and resources. For example, it will benefit you to download a bible that has access to a ton of translations (e.g. Bible Gateway). Also, it will benefit you to be able to use an interlinear/concordance (I recommend the free app/website Blue Letter Bible). Later, other important tools will be discussed, like the Septuagint.
Third, the format. Each blog post will contain four sections of reflection that are designed to engage both thinkers and doers.
Section One: We will briefly examine the week’s Parsha (i.e. weekly Torah portion) and provide some ancient nuggets of wisdom. Much of this information will be taken from teachers I’ve studied under. Citations of sources will be provided as often as possible. I too like fact checking. But as a blanket statement and recognition, MUCH of these Parsha discussions will come from these four sources: (1) the wonderful folks at Aleph Beta; (2) Dr. Erica Brown’s Weekly Jewish Wisdom; (3) Haim Sabato’s Rest for the Dove: reading for shabbat; and (4) Marty Solomon’s Blog and Podcast.
Section Two: We will connect the ancient wisdom to the teachings and life of Jesus. Mostly, this section is guided by the Gospels, especially that of Luke’s account (you’ll understand why after next week’s blog). But, as you will also come to see, some of the other New Testament books lean heavily on the ancient rabbinic wisdom. After all, Paul, formerly Saul, was a trained rabbi. A biblical scholar, M.D. Goulder, seems to agree,
“Knowledge of Scripture is assumed by Paul (1 Cor. 9:13). He has taught the Corinthians to appropriate the Old Testament (1 Cor. 10:1) and in all his letters he drew on wide areas of Scripture for his argument, treating them as a shared authority which he expected his churches to be familiar” (The Evangelists’ Calendar, p.14).
The next two sections are what I am most excited about, but at the same time I recognize how carefully the project will need to navigate them.
Section Three: We will highlight where current Pastors (and some historic ones) have missed the mark in their teachings of God’s narrative.
Section Four: We will talk about the inconsistencies that exist in our homes, neighborhoods, and cities regarding God’s narrative. As we examine these inconsistencies we will find practical action steps for overcoming the stumbling blocks that prevent those who claim to follow Jesus from walking in His ways.
This is all going to happen within 1,200 words! How convenient 😉
To summarize The What, at the end of this year-long project my hope is:
- that you and I may know our God more fully
- that you and I may better understand how to partner with God in His narrative
- that we can stand together as a remnant with eyes to see, ears to hear, and a heart that understands
Next Week: The Why
Content: Chris Gambino Editors: Tony Carrigan, Rachel Fessenden & Megan Gambino