I am Richard W. Swanson, and I teach at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. I am the director of the Provoking the Gospel Storytelling Project, and I am a member of the Network of Biblical Storytellers. Before all that, I was a preacher, a Lutheran pastor in rural Wisconsin. Then and now, the heart of my work involves exploring the insides of biblical narratives.
Photo by Michael Shafer
Domesticated biblical texts are of little use, I think. We have trained them only to speak when spoken to. We have taught them to sit quietly until we call for them. We have developed tricks for them to do that we can predict.
The Provoking the Gospel project is an effort to encounter biblical texts in the wild. For the past decade and more I have worked with actors and composers to study what happens when you embody biblical stories and study them the way actors discover the depths of the stories they perform. In this work we have been surprised, sometimes shocked, sometimes amazed. Always we have been provoked.
I have marked the trail of these provocations in the books I have written. The first was Provoking the Gospel: Methods to Embody Biblical Storytelling Through Drama (The Pilgrim Press, 2004). This is a how-to, why-to exploration of this method of interpreting biblical texts. The most important word in the title is “embody.” Working with actors has taught me to pay attention to the truths that our bodies tell us, especially when dealing with things that sometimes get called “spiritual.” The next four books are the Provoking the Gospel commentaries on the gospels. They begin with Mark, and then proceed to Luke, Matthew, and John (in that order). Together they make a connected argument about what this way of working with biblical stories has taught me about the “authority of Scripture.” They also apply the method to the texts found in the Revised Common Lectionary.
This blog is a next step in that project. Each week I will post a Provocation here in the hopes that it might spur imagination among preachers and others who want to reflect on the preaching texts of the Revised Common Lectionary for upcoming Sundays.
I look forward to our shared conversation.