The extended winter break for Thursday Bible Study ended on the 25th. Between all the distracting busy-ness during the last weeks of Advent, Christimastide, and my absence after the Epiphany, it had been six weeks since we were last together. I wish I could say our first gathering was crowned with glorious insight, and we all felt we had gained greater insight into Paul's message to the Corinthians. I wish I could say that, but I can't. If anything, I think some of us left more puzzled than when we began.
Noting that Graham had studiously avoided the Epistle in his fine sermon for last Sunday, and that I would have been clueless on what to say about it had I been the preacher, I thought the passage (I Corinthians 7:29-31) merited further study. To paraphrase, Paul encourages the Corinthians (and us) to not be, as they/we are -- married, mourning, rejoicing, buying or otherwise doing business in the world, and all because "the appointed time has grown short" and "the present form of this world is passing away." Usually reading the context for the verses provides some clarity about what is going on. On Thursday, that practice added to our shared frustration.
Sometimes Bible Study is like that. We don't want to be appeased with simplistic explanations that mute the biblical message as we attempt to take the Bible seriously. A former rector of mine would say in these situations, "Best to just leave that where Paul (or Jesus) flang it!" So, I did just that. Then, when I was not looking for it, I received an insight that I found truly helpful on, of all places, Facebook: Perhaps what Paul was trying to tell his readers is that whatever their situation in life, that is not their fundamental identity. Our fundamental identity is rooted in who and whose we are, adopted children of God, reconciled and restored to full relationship with God, and (hopefully) one another by God's gracious gift.
We also live in unsettled and changing times; the culture around us would gladly pigeonhole us and tell us whether we matter or not. But even as the world changes around us, we too can know fundamentally who and whose we are -- members of the household of God, branches of the vine, inheritors of the Kingdom and Christ's own forever. At least for me, that assurance is worth the occasional frustration in studying the Bible.
We will continue to study the readings from I Corinthians appointed for these weeks following the Epiphany. Coffee and tea are served, and we aim to begin at 9:30 Thursday mornings in the Rectory dining room. Please feel free to join the conversation!
During Sunday's Rectory Forum, we will continue watching, and discussing, topical clips from the producers of "The Sultan and the Saint: The Story of the Sultan of Egypt and St. Francis of Assisi." This week's clips focus on religious thought in the time of St. Francis --particularly the thinking of medieval Islam and medieval Christianity. Although the term "Dark Ages," has passed out of use to describe the life of western Europe, it was particularly inappropriate for regions under the rule of Islamic leaders. Indeed, it was in just these regions where the science, philosophy and literature of antiquity was preserved in Arabic translations, having been destroyed in their original Greek. The tolerance of medieval Islam toward Chrisitanity gets lost in the violence of contemporary extremism. Coffee and tea will be ready in the rectory entry hall, and we will begin as soon as we can after 9 a.m.
In addition to groups focusing on the parish's finances, and on service within and outside our parish community, our Strategic Planning process also encouraged on-going conversation about our ministries with children, youth and their families. These conversations began again during the fall, and will convene for a first time in 2018 on Sunday, January 28, during Coffee Hour. At one of its last meetings in 2017, the group decided to title its efforts "Faith Formation; " all are welcome.
In faith, hope, and love,
Your Friendly Neighborhood Rector
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!