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Story Magazine

First Quarter 2008

Engaging Scripture in a Lutheran Key with Heart, Mind, and Spirit

by Communication Staff

Professor emeritus and Convocation master of ceremonies Michael Rogness answers an audience question during a panel discussion while keynote speakers
Rolf Jacobson, Diane Jacobson, David Lose and David Tiede look on.

"Opening Up Scripture to Open Up Lives: Convictions and Challenges"

Diane Jacobson, professor of Old Testament; director of the ELCA "Book of Faith" Initiative

What kind of claim do Lutherans have on the Bible? A unique one, said Diane Jacobson-- and it's a claim that is poised to reclaim God's Word as being of and for the people.

Jacobson outlined what Lutherans believe about the Word of God-- that the Word exists in the form of Jesus, through the written Scriptures, and as it is proclaimed in preaching and witness. Still, for Lutherans to effectively share the Gospel, they need to be willing to tell their own stories of how the Word has touched them. "We are the best witnesses for the Bible when we share our own experience with Scripture," she said. "How can you trust what I say about the Bible without hearing that it matters to me? We need to start by saying, 'Let me tell you why I love this book.'"

"Law and Gospel Part I: Making Sense of Life"
Rolf Jacobson, assistant professor of Old Testament
David Lose, academic dean; Marbury E.Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching

"Sin is a disease. The best we can do is manage the symptoms," said Rolf Jacobson. "The law tells us how to do that. And the gospel reminds us that through Christ, God makes us whole."

The plenary offered a refresher on the Lutheran understanding of law and gospel. Much of Lutheran identity is caught up by these concepts, yet they can come across as wooden, predictable, even boring. Church leaders need to use creativity and imagination when painting the picture of what this means for our lives. "Law and gospel is all about naming reality. It's about telling the truth, twice," Lose said. "First we hear the difficult truth of our brokenness, our fears, our sins. And then we hear the good and gracious news about God's response to our condition, for Christ's sake, no matter what. You can't separate the two, because both come from God."

"Law and Gospel Part II: Making Sense of Scripture"
Rolf Jacobson, assistant professor of Old Testament
David Lose, academic dean; Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching

Do Lutheran preachers get so focused on proclaiming the gospel--in  particular, that God forgives our sins-- that they risk "flattening out" the rich and varied meanings of the texts? That was the question posed during Jacobson and Lose's second plenary. "Forgiveness of sins is a primary way in which Lutherans have come to understand God's redemptive act," Lose said. "The problem comes with the temptation to make forgiveness the only way to speak of God's redemptive act." The most effective, faithful preachers "pay attention to the context," Lose said. "What is the Word the people need to hear to be encouraged in faith and in life?"

"Bible Reading for the Slow of Heart: How the Apostolic Reading of Scripture Has Opened Up My Mind"
David Tiede, president emeritus, Luther Seminary; Bernhard M. Christensen Professor of Religion and Vocation, Augsburg College

The apostolic interpretation of Scripture is a historical quest, communal hope and confessional calling, said David Tiede in his keynote address. Tiede recognized how the risen Jesus established this interpretation by stirring the "slow of heart" to believe what the prophets declared and to bear witness. At the heart of the apostolic interpretation is Israel's prophetic understanding of history. The Jesus communities then carried their faith into the Greco-Roman world in order to restore Israel's calling to be a light to the nations. Like these early communities, Christians today can turn to Scripture to quicken their hearts to their apostolic callings for the sake of others.


The workshops were all led by faculty members from Luther Seminary's Bible division. They helped attendees look at Scripture from new perspectives. Workshop highlights and recommended readings can be found online.

● "Martin Luther on Romans: The Shaping of a Reformer"
James Boyce, professor of New Testament

● "The Word and the word: Truly Human, Truly Divine"
Fred Gaiser, professor of Old Testament

● "Artists Show Us the Bible"
Sarah Henrich, professor of New Testament

● "Becoming a Book of Faith Congregation"
Diane Jacobson, professor of Old Testament

● "Between Book and People: Moving from Text to Sermon"
David Lose, academic dean; Marbury E. Anderson Chair in Biblical Preaching

● "The Bible and Ecology"
Kathryn Schifferdecker, professor of Old Testament

● "How Law and Gospel Work in Preaching"
Mary Hinkle Shore, associate professor of New Testament; associate dean for first theological degree programs

Go to for keynote presentations, a keynote panel discussion, workshop highlights and recommended readings.

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