reading the whole letter

1 Corinthians is about 9600 words long. That would give us 32 posts at 300 words a day. I love that idea. I wouldn’t have to come up with anything new. But as we read a little bit each day, as we took six weeks to read the whole letter at five days a week, we would begin to forget what we had read the previous day. By the time we reached the end, we would have forgotten what was at the beginning.

It would be very easy, with a letter like 1 Corinthians, to stop and argue through individual paragraphs and sentences and even words. Paul makes many statements that feel harsh. What started at 32 posts could turn into a year’s worth of discussion and debate and post/counter-post.

Daily readings are useful. Focused discussion is challenging and clarifying. But it is easy to lose the continuity of a letter with close study. So Wednesday night, seven of us read the whole letter out loud in one sitting. It took us about an hour, just reading at a normal speed.

We’ll be spending the next many weeks doing the slower work. But I wanted us to hear Paul’s words out loud, like the first audience. I wanted us to not be able to stop, like the first audience. I wanted the similar phrases that show up pages apart to jump out at us. I wanted us to hear the familiar “love is patient, love is kind” in the same reading as “Some of you have become arrogant, as if I were not coming to you. I am coming very soon.” I wanted us to see the denominationalism that seemed to be happening at the very beginning of the church.

I wanted us to have to listen before we start speaking.

It was a great experience.

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About Jon Swanson

Social media chaplain. Author of "Lent For Non-Lent People" and "A Great Work: A Conversation With Nehemiah For People (Who Want To Be) Doing Great Works." Writer of 300wordsaday.com. I help people understand. Understand some of the Bible. Understand what Lent can be about. Understand what it means to follow.

7 thoughts on “reading the whole letter

  1. all for One recently “performed” the book of Philippians, and the feedback suggests that it was a positive experience for the audience to hear/see the letter all at one sitting. (We included “flashbacks” to Acts 16; the whole piece took 30 minutes.) We encouraged them to think of any contemporary persecuted house church receiving a letter from their pastor in prison. I especially liked hearing all those references to joy. When you read the whole letter at once, key words definitely stand out. That was a great way to start your new Bible study, I think.

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