Together Again: Biblical Stories of Reunion & Restoration
As we slowly return to cooperate worship and gatherings within our own community, come explore how earlier generations of believers have learned from and experienced reunion. Listen to familiar stories of redemption and reconciliation as well as ones where reunion is stalled, avoided, or only anticipated.
Audio recordings will be posted below each class description.
Current Covid Protocols for Adult Education
Our presenters are fully vaccinated and will comply with our testing protocol for worship leaders. Social distancing will apply in the Assembly Room with seating limited to 40 and masking inside the building will continue.
October 17 | Anne Stewart
Reunion and Repair
Jacob and Esau are the long-awaited twin sons born to Isaac and Rebekah. These brothers emerge from the womb already locked in conflict (see Genesis 25:19–34; 27:1–46). As they grow, the differences deepen and result in a dramatic power grab that fractures a family. Jacob must leave home to escape the vengeful wrath of his brother Esau. As these two prepare to meet again in Genesis 32 and 33, they have not seen each other for years. Jacob has gained wisdom and humility and prepares for the reunion with caution and savvy.
Anne Stewart is Vice President for External Relations at Princeton Theological Seminary. She is a Presbyterian minister and the author of Poetic Ethics in Proverbs: Wisdom Literature and the Shaping of the Moral Self. She is a graduate of Smith College, Princeton Theological Seminary (MDiv), and Emory University (PhD, Old Testament). Anne grew up in central Pennsylvania and was raised in the faith at Camp Hill Presbyterian Church.
October 24 | Dennis Olsen
Two Reunions and a Reveal
Israel’s ancestor Jacob had twelve sons who eventually became the twelve tribes of the people of Israel. Joseph and his younger brother Benjamin were Jacob’s favored sons, born of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. The other brothers all knew it and resented their younger brothers. This favoritism provokes the brothers to commit a violent act that propels Joseph on an epic quest resulting in fame, power and wealth. After years of separation, Joseph has a surprise encounter with his brothers who do not recognize because they assume he died years ago.
Dennis T. Olson is the Charles T. Haley Professor of Old Testament Theology and Chair of the Biblical Studies Department at Princeton Theological Seminary. He earned his MDiv from Luther Theological Seminary and his MA, MPhil, and PhD from Yale University. An ordained Lutheran minister, he specializes in the Pentateuch and other narrative literature of the Old Testament.
October 31 | James VanderKam
Reunion with Torah
After being exiled in Babylon, the Jewish people finally return to Jerusalem to find their beloved city and temple in ruins. Nehemiah begins rebuilding the city walls while the priest Ezra seeks to rededicate the temple. Both these leaders were convinced that the national disasters of the past were caused by disobedience to the law and feared that their contemporaries were repeating the sins of their ancestors. Therefore they and other leaders instituted practices that centered on the temple and were intended to ensure conformity with the law. In that way the restored nation could avoid the punishments meted out to generations past.
James VanderKam taught at North Carolina State University and at the University of Notre Dame where he was the O’Brien Professor of Hebrew Scriptures. His areas of research are the Hebrew Bible and the literature of Early Judaism such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. He and his wife, Mary, moved to Princeton in 2019 and became members of Nassau a few months later.
November 7 | Shane Berg
Reunion and Relationship
One of the most famous reunion stories in scripture is Jesus’ parable of the prodigal son. The embrace of the wayward son by his loving father, captured so poignantly in Rembrandt’s famous painting, is an enduring reminder of God’s compassion and love for us. This powerful image is key to our understanding of God’s grace and nature. The best-known stories in the Bible, however, often repay a fresh reading. A closer look will reveal a rich complexity and nuance that deepens our appreciation of this iconic parable.
Shane Berg is the Executive Vice President at Princeton Theological Seminary. Dr. Berg earned his MDiv degree from Princeton Theological Seminary and his PhD in New Testament and Ancient Christianity from Yale University. He served on the faculty of Princeton Theological Seminary for seven years as Assistant Professor of New Testament, and then joined the Seminary’s executive leadership team in January 2014. Around Nassau he is perhaps best known as Corrie Berg’s husband and the father of Anders, Mathias, and Soren.
November 14 | Theresa Thames
The Reunion that Wasn’t
If your family is anything like my own, family reunions can be…interesting. In our text, Matthew gives us a brief introduction to family systems theory by sharing an encounter between Jesus, his birth family, and the disciples. On first reading, Jesus’ response sounds harsh and gives us pause. However, Jesus’ jarring words model a more expansive understanding of family and widening of the circle.
Theresa Thames, an ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church, has been the Associate Dean of Religious Life and the Chapel at Princeton University since 2016. She is passionate about the intersections of theology, gender, organizational development, and social justice. A challenging preacher, thoughtful theologian, and devoted friend, Theresa is also a lover of life and a music connoisseur who prioritizes self-care and believes that freedom is not optional, rest is her strength, and radical joy is her resistance.
November 21 | Noel Werner
The Sound of Reunion
You might be surprised how much of our congregational song is based on the visions and poetry in Revelation. Starting with the reunion of God and the great company of saints in Revelation 7:9-17, we’ll explore the way in which this final book of the New Testament has inspired authors and composers for generations and created some of our most enduring songs. Together we’ll experience a little of what the great reunion might sound like through the prophetic witness of word and music.
Noel Werner has been the Director of Music at Nassau Presbyterian Church since 2006. He lectures on occasion at Westminster Choir College and Princeton Theological Seminary, and spearheads many cooperative music endeavors in the community, in addition to directing Nassau’s adult choir, coordinating Nassau’s extensive music program, and staffing Nassau’s Worship and Arts Committee.