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The Program (Wisdom from the Hebrew Scriptures)

Even if the Bible remains for us only great literature, and not sacred scripture, we should try to approach it on its own terms: as literature trying to tell us of human experience from a transcendent, God's-eye perspective, trying to remind human beings who had experienced both undeserved goodness and unmerited evil how to remain true to the transcendent source of creation, liberation, and ultimate justice. — Rev. John A. Buehrens

This program offers multigenerational workshops based on eight stories from the Hebrew scriptures. Some of these stories are well-known and others less so. Some have been told to children in Sunday school classes and Hebrew school for generations; others will be unknown even to some adults. Some of those narratives fit well with contemporary Unitarian Universalist values and others are more challenging in both the theology and the values expressed. All of these stories offer wisdom that can help people of all ages growth in spiritual depth and understanding.

This program draws on our Unitarian and Universalist heritage of critical and contextual examination of biblical text, which dates back to the mid-nineteenth century. It approaches biblical texts from four different points of view, asking:

  • Where does this text fit into Jewish history, both legendary and real? Who are the major voices in the passage? Who are the dissenting voices or minor characters?
  • What did this story mean to those who told it and to those who later recorded or preserved it?
  • What are the questions the story raises for contemporary Unitarian Universalists?
  • How does this story connect to the lives and experiences of program participants of all ages? What wisdom does it offer?

The program asks not only "what happened?" but also "when and why was this recorded and what did it mean for the people of the time?" It asks not only, "What does this story mean in our contemporary lives?" but also, "How does it challenge each of us spiritually and what wisdom does it offer?"

"God" who appears in the Hebrew scriptures has many different faces. The stories, which were composed by many different authors over a long period of time, tell many competing and conflicting stories about both God and God's people. The understanding of God shifts, changes, and evolves over the course of centuries as the stories are told, edited, adapted, and recorded. Above all, the Hebrew scriptures are a text of extraordinary courage, astonishing in that they contain not only the history and tradition of a people and a culture, but also an ongoing critique of that culture. Indeed, it is because of the conflicted and contradictory nature of this text that the narrative story of a small, obscure middle Eastern kingdom still holds wisdom and meaning in today's world. This program does not shy away from those contradictions, but rather embraces them as a reflection of a people's struggle to understand themselves and their world. It asks some of the questions they asked—about violence and war, about pain and tragedy, about gifts of life, about the nature of freedom, about group identity. This program invites Unitarian Universalists of all ages to view their own lives and personal experiences through the lens of those very same questions.

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This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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