bible study

A Note from Peter (March 2017)

With the 2017 Speaker Series this weekend and Nativity hosting Happening #85 the following weekend, one could be excused for forgetting that Ash Wednesday is March 1! But indeed it is, and so, at 12:05 and 5:30pm we will gather to pray for the world; to have ashes imposed on our foreheads; and for the invitation, once again, “to the observance of a Holy Lent.”

For the last ten years, my observance of Lent has always included listening to the St. Matthew Passion by J.S. Bach. This massive work of classical music recounts and reflects upon the story of the last supper, Jesus’ arrest, trial, and crucifixion. It was originally written to be performed on Good Friday in the church where Bach served as church musician. Truly, this is a piece of classical music meant to be an act of worship. It is crushingly beautiful, and at times inspiring, mournful, and surprisingly joyful in places. Each Lent, it allows me to dwell deeply in the story of our Lord’s suffering and death and his love for us.

My hope, this Lent, is to share that gift with you all in an adult forum class I’m calling “Bible Study with Bach.” We’ll read together Matthew 26 and 27, pausing periodically to watch a performance of the Passion from the Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris. In the performance, you get a sense for Bach’s own spirituality, how he interprets the biblical text, and what he thinks it all means. And just like reading scripture with any other friend, how Bach reads the story might shape how you read the story. These days, when I read of Judas giving back the money for which he betrayed Jesus, I hear the depth of his repentance that Bach puts into music. When I think of Peter in the garden denying Jesus, I hear the mourning that Bach puts into Peter’s voice. Two years ago, my entire Palm Sunday sermon was inspired by the music Bach composed for two words St. Matthew wrote: “wept bitterly.”

I’ll be assisted in this undertaking by our friend Ben Arnold, assistant professor of music at MVSU and known to many as a bookseller at Turnrow. St. Matthew Passion moves me on a deep level, but when it comes to talking music history and theory, I get out of my depth very quickly. I am grateful to Ben for helping me out in that department. In addition, David Williamson has given an introduction to Bach and the Passion elsewhere in this newsletter. As David points out, all of you already know music from the St. Matthew Passion. It’s in our hymnal, and it’s in a lot of weddings too!

This offering begins March 19 and will continue through Easter Day. Whether you’re a big music lover or not, why not take this Lent and this opportunity to spend a little more time with the story that makes all the difference in the world?


A Note from Peter (July 2015)

Discernment, I’ve been told, is figuring out what is next and what is not next. The fallow time that is summer in the church is a blessing in that it invites us into discernment. Though our farmers are hard at work now, for those of us whose lives are tied to the school calendar, the summer provides a moment to stop and wonder about what it is that God would have us do next.

In our church family, a number of your leaders have been discerning with me the shape our Christian formation programming will take down the road. Christian formation is a term I use to encompass every part of our life together that helps us to grow in the knowledge and love of God. Sunday School is the obvious example, but youth group, children’s chapel, Emmaus small groups, and Mission Mississippi prayer breakfasts are all part of how we do Christian formation. Here are a few of the things your leaders have been working on:

Junior High Sunday School: Two years ago we made an attempt at starting a Jr. High Sunday School class. As we have more and more children in this age range, a number of us discerned it was time to make another go of it. Emily Riser has offered herself as the leader of this new class that will cover the 5th-8th grades. For her curriculum, she’ll be using Sparkhouse’s re:form, a program that invites emerging young adults to tackle questions together about the Bible, the creeds, Jesus, and other topical concerns. You can learn more at

Adult Forum: Beginning this Fall, our Sunday learning for adults will take a slightly different form. We’ll move out of the current classroom and set up in the parish hall. Want to sit and listen and talk about the day’s topic while eating your breakfast casserole? Great! Want to sit and chat about the weather? Well, you might want to do that in the Bishop’s Hall. In addition to the new space, the teaching burden will be spread around a bit more. Look for programs led by yours truly as well as other Nativity members and friends.

Godly Play: This Montessori-based approach for our 3-6 year olds is off and running. Lindsay Powers, Kim Lassiter, Cindy Wilson, Tish Goodman, Sherrie Peel, and Kathy Whicker have agreed to be our teachers, and most of them will travel with me to Sewanee the last week in July for a four day training in the program. Look inside for ways that you can help fund the startup of this program!

Emmaus Groups: Many members had very positive experiences last year with these small groups that gathered on a monthly basis for fellowship and learning. Look to hear more in August about joining a group for the first time or reconvening last year’s group.

Wednesday Bible Study: Frances Lavelle and I have discussed beginning a simple bible study after the 10am Wednesday service. Would you be interested in that? Let me know!