Each of us has a lived experience that makes us an expert on our own lives. Our stories are part of the larger narrative of the gospel in which God is creating meaning and continuing to write the story. By reading the gospel from the perspective of our own experience, we can better understand both the gospel and our experience, each informing the other. We can discover our expertise by reading for the “ouch,” finding places in our pain where God has already healed us and places where God intends to heal us. When we sit with the ouch and learn from it, we are allowing the gospel to be a living document and setting loose the Spirit to transform the world.
Ashton Roberts presented “The Wounded Reader” at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on October 18, 2018, as part of the Hein-Fry Book of Faith Challenge (HFBFC), a project of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). At the time, Ashton was a student at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary; he conducted his project on internship at St. John’s Church, in Knoxville, Tenn.
Each year, as part of the HFBFC, one student from each seminary of the ELCA is challenged to create an innovative project that invites people to open Scripture and join the conversation. The 2018 challenge, focused on fostering a learning community that is an open table, brought together those steeped in biblical texts, themes and images as well as those unfamiliar with them. The students collaborate with pastors, leaders and congregation members to learn together, and then present their learnings at a culminating event. A panel of theologians, denominational leaders and pastors—as well as the audience—responds to each presentation.