Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Learning at Church

With summer well underway and fall approaching, Christian education and catechesis always seem to come up in our parish. Are we having a fall Bible study? Do we need a longer new member’s class? How about Sunday School? Are we offering enough opportunities for people to learn their faith or drowning them in information?

There is no question that part of the church’s ministry is to offer people the opportunity to learn and deepen their faith. However it’s in the methods by which we feel this can be accomplished that we find differences, and our vision of the church comes into play.

How do we see the church and its mission to teach? Is church primarily a school where classes are offered and the faith taught systematically at all ages? Are newcomers brought into this educational system so they can be brought up to par with the doctrinal conviction of the parish? Or, is the church envisioned primarily as a family with learning and growth happening organically as people live the life of faith? There does not have to be an either or approach to this question, but we each seem to have preferences based on our own experiences.

Personally, I prefer the latter approach. Maybe it’s my reaction to endless hours of studying for exams, licensing boards, continuing clergy and medical education; its dull and forgettable! When it is not, I suspect it can contribute to our storing information divorced from its context! Information without life, not linked to emotion or experiences, apart from a setting to color its meaning, and with no relationship to real people, can be less than helpful to growing in the spiritual life. I have met very uninspiring people educated this way! Some with very a very impressive knowledge base, lots of information about Bible verses and theological concepts but oh so dry!!!! I have also encountered others, perhaps unable to cite a chapter and verse of Scripture to prove a point, but whose lives irradiated the love of God and his presence.

For me, nothing compares to the learning that happens in ones daily life and experience. We live it in our own homes! Most of us do not hold formal toilet t raining classes for toddlers, nor dinner etiquette lessons with an exam, nor pimple care for teenagers, it happens naturally in the context of family life. There, by conversation, redirection and plain interaction most of the things important to family are learned. The things we value, those that are acceptable, the things that make us laugh, those that we remember with sadness, dress codes and music appreciation, are all part of rich lessons while living in family and community!
It is the same in the life of faith, and though we may hold classes to help people get a basic understanding of what it means to be a Christian, the business of knowing and loving God and neighbor is not something one can learn in a classroom!

For Episcopalians living through the liturgy, as we go through the year, is a great aid in instruction. Our observation and interaction around Scripture, creed, prayer, and sacraments can be an experience of learning in the context of our life together as a family! No amount of book learning taught me about devotion to the Lord in Holy Communion as the experience of seeing it in the faces, outstretched hands and lives of real people with whom I share the life of faith. Likewise with so many things in our Christian walk; The baptismal covenant in the context of a baptism, a Taize service teaching the value of silence, a good Charismatic service opening our ears to speaking in tongues , a child’s first communion, a workday, prayers for healing! God and His words come alive, not just in a classroom setting but in the lives of his people, in their journey together, their joyful celebrations, challenges, sorrows, devotions and suppers, births and death.

The idea of catechesis incorporated into life this way feels so very natural to me. It may be slower, but in the end I think it will be deeper and more true to life. I also am very aware that it will be uncomfortable for some. We crave information and live in a time where it is instantly available at our fingertips. Some will want a new member’s class covering all the bases. Others will insist in a structured program of Bible study and Sunday school. Some will think there is too much already and for a few, there will be no amount of educational opportunities and offerings which will be enough! Yet for the patient seeker, who wants to not just learn about but also experience the marvel of growing in grace and the knowledge of God, every day, every Eucharist, every encounter holds a promise of growth and discovery.

May God be our teacher and the Holy Spirit always near to lead us to all truth.

Many Blessings


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Juzgar por Apariencias

" No juzgara por apariencias, ni sentenciara de oidas..."
Estas palabras del profeta Isaias refiriendose al Mesias siempre me han llamado mucho la atencion. No solo me hablan del carater del Señor Jesucristo, sino tambien me proponen un ejemplo a seguir.

El deferir juzgar rapidamente es una de las cosas mas dificiles para nosotros los seres humanos. Lo hacemos a veces automaticamente, al conocer a alguien aun verle por primera vez! Comentamos si es inteligente, si es bonita, si parece peligroso o peligrosa, si pegaria entre mis amistades o no. A veces hasta tendemos a caer en el prejuicio…..catalogamos a las personas, las pintamos a grandes brochasos…;los negros americanos, los blancos, los latinos...! La cultura popular hasta nos incita a el enjuiciar negativamente a las personas como dijera este dicho cubano..."piensa mal y acertaras…".

No solo juzgamos sino que suponemos el futuro y porvenir de las personas en base a nuestro juicio personal. Sin embargo, La Biblia esta llena de ejemplos en los cuales el juzgar por apariencias nos llevaria a equivocarnos….

Recuerde a las siguientes personas y como quedarian si las sometieramos al juicio de nuestros criterios:

Noé era un borracho, Abraham estaba muy viejo, Jacob era un mentiroso,Lea era fea,Jose fue abusado, David era mujeriego, Gedeón era miedoso, Samson tenía pelo largo,Rahab era una prostituta, Jeremías and Timoteo eran muy jóvenes, Elías era depresivo,Juan el Bautista comía langostas, Pedro era impulsivo, Juan creía que él era mejor que otros, Los discípulos se durmieron cuando oraban, Marta se preocupaba por todo, Su hermana María era haragana, María Magdalena estaba poseída por un demonio, La mujer samaritana tuvo 5 maridos, Zaqueo era muy bajito, Marcos se dio por vencido,Timoteo tenía úlcera en el estómago...

Claro esta que de esta lista seria dificil encontrar a ningun candidato para ser ejemplo en la fe, ni para ejercer ningun tipo de liderazgo en la Iglesia. De algunos dudariamos que pudieren llegar a ser personas de bien! Sin embargo, a pesar de estas limitaciones muy aparentes a nuestros ojos, Dios ve en cada uno de ellos cosas invisibles a nuestros ojos y que se escapan nuestro juicio. Si seguimos la historia de esta ilustre lista poco a poco vemos que se van revelando en ellos cualidades que quizas nunca nos hubieramos imaginado.

Dios no juzga por apariencias por que el mira el corazon, conoce a cada cual intimamente y a cada uno ofrece su amor y perdon! Dios no envio su Hijo al mundo para condenarlo, sino para que el mundo fuera salvo por El.

Que podamos ser en esto imitadores de Dios, no juzgamos por apariencias ni antes de tiempo sino que confiamos nuestras vidas y las de los demas al cuidado amoroso y juicio justo de Dios!