The goals and gifts of reading and studying the Scriptures together

The Rev. Dr Robin J. Steinke, ELCA. Photo: LWF/ I. Benesch
The Rev. Dr Robin J. Steinke, ELCA. Photo: LWF/ I. Benesch

By Rev. Dr. Robin Steinke

Scholars, pastors, teachers and graduate students are currently gathering in Chicago for the third international LWF hermeneutics consultation, sponsored by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and hosted by the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC). This consultation on the Gospel of Matthew gives sustained attention to the ways in which we interpret Scripture and builds on the work of two previous consultations. All regions of the LWF are represented in this ongoing interpretive process and each day includes prayer, prepared lectures on particular texts and themes in Matthew, and time for discussion in small groups and plenary sessions.

A number of goals have surfaced as we have been studying Scripture together over the last three years. One of the goals that emerged during the first two consultations was “… to promote common insights into what it means to hear and interpret Holy Scripture as the Communion bears witness to our unity in Christ for the sake of the world” and “to share faithful ways of interpreting Scripture, both for LWF centrally, and for churches belonging to the communion” and, finally, to “look forward to the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, in a spirit of reformation and transformation, both of church and society, emphasizing the role of biblical interpretation for the life of the church.”

As we have worked together it has been delightful to discover new ways of hearing the Word of God through the distinctive insights, experiences and traditions reflected in the communion. A recurring gift in these consultations was noted in Eisenach last year: “Lutheran hermeneutics are open to surprise. When we take seriously that God is at work in the world, coming together as a communion of churches to read and study Scripture may open up insights that point us anew to the Triune God.”

At this, the third such consultation, we are privileged to have the presence of Jewish scholars who have shared with us their wisdom as we have reflected on distinctive Jewish perspectives in Matthew. Rabbi Laurence Edwards and Dr Sarah Tanzer have helped us see how some early misconceptions and misunderstandings between Judaism and Christianity emerged.

For me personally it has been a gift to accompany these consultations, to reconnect with colleagues who are now friends and meeting new colleagues from throughout the communion. I pray for God’s blessing and gift in our deepening relationships and work as we study Scripture and live more fully into what it means to be a communion of churches. I invite you to join me in praying for the fruit of this attention to Scripture.

The Rev. Dr Robin J. Steinke, ELCA, is president of Luther Seminary, St Paul, Minnesota and member of the LWF Council.

Third International LWF Conference on Lutheran Hermeneutics


Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog are those of the author, and not necessarily representative of Lutheran World Federation policy.