Note: I understand that a lot of folk are still reading - or looking for - Friday's post on cancer and hope. If you missed it, click on "recent posts" to the right, then go to "February 2012." Once you're there, scroll back a day or two and take a look at "cancer, hospice, and a conversation about life." Apparently it's been a big help for many people.
Today I plan on sharing a more straightforward story:
Learning Curve: I was on my way back from my brother's Thursday when I stopped by to see my friend Charles Willard at Sun City. Charles and I teach an adult education class together at church. It was time to get our heads together about the Lent study and beyond.
I'm so blessed to teach with Charles; he's a bona-fide scholar. Charles is a Presbyterian minister, held the position of Librarian at Princeton Theological Seminary and then Harvard Divinity School, and taught New Testament studies at both institutions. Now he helps higher learning theological institutions gain or keep their accreditation.
RINGER: Teaching with Charles is like having Roger Federer as your doubles partner in the neighborhood tennis tournament, or bringing in Babe Ruth to hit clean-up for the church softball team. All I can say is, if you have the chance to attend our class but you don't... you really are missing some good stuff!
One of my friend's ministry gigs several years ago was mission work in Lebanon. It was there that he learned how to prepare proper Middle Eastern coffee. Like tea in England, the service of coffee is an act of hospitality. When you walk into someone's home and the first thing they do is to serve you, that is a very good thing.
Listen... Search... Learn: So we shared coffee and we talked. We talked about a wide range of topics, but always circling back to the great opportunity we have to share the faith journey of those in our class and to search the scriptures together for guidance and truth.
They were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11 - Amplified Bible)
The phrase "search the scriptures" strikes me as terribly important in our intention to be everyday disciples. And I love the phrase "with inclination of mind and eagerness." The concept reminds me of an ordination examination I once sat in on. The preacher-to-be opened the Bible, announced the scripture lesson, and then used the phrase, "Listen for the Word of God."
More than one minister present took issue with the phrase, suggesting that it suggested doubt that the Word of God was going to be heard. "You should say, 'Listen TO the Word of God," one rather pompous pastor lectured. "Tell me, do you believe the Bible is God's Word... or not?"
PREPARED & TUNED IN: But I think the young would-be-preacher was correct. God could be standing on the communion table, reading scripture through a megaphone and we would still miss God's Word unless we were properly prepared and tuned in.
We have to search the scriptures, and every time we do we find something new, something different, something powerfully and specifically for us.
That's one of the problems, I believe, with the literalist viewpoints that take the searching and the understanding and the listening and the contemplation out of scripture. I believe ready-made answers and tidy explanations are the last thing dynamic faith needs in these troubled times.
So we continue to search... and we continue to listen... and we continue to ask God to be in charge of the process... and so we learn - DEREK