“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.” John 15:9-12
I write a lot about men’s ministry. It is, after all, how I got my first book published and how – via writing and speaking – I manage to keep myself in this important conversation, standing against the voices that push patriarchy, inequality, male chauvinism, and lightly-Christianized-misogyny as if sexism is God-ordained.
But today I want to talk about my Sunday morning class – “Practical Christianity” a.k.a. Everyday Christianity. The class is designed to facilitate a conversation around the notion that we are not so much members of a Presbyterian Church as we are Disciples of Jesus, followers of The Way.
I have around 40 on my role, with anywhere from 10-25 in attendance any given week.
I do not exactly teach/instruct this class, but throw around ideas and encourage productive conversation around the idea of following Jesus.
In our current study we are looking at “Christian Doctrine” from the Reformed perspective. Or, put another way, the question of what we believe, why we believe it, where these ideas come from, and what might God possibly be teaching us going forward.
I am using Dr. Shirley Guthrie’s classic text, Christian Doctrine, as well as a more user-friendly guide, Being Presbyterian in the Bible Belt.
One of the foundational premises of what we understand as Reformed Faith is that we all have something to learn and God is always willing to engage us. The Bible not only points us to God in era it was written, but has the authority to continually instruct as we journey through living history. Our faith and our understanding are a daily work in progress.
John Calvin, for example, may be the “father” of the Presbyterian Church but he would be horrified if 21st-Century Christians took his interpretations as ironclad and failed to question, debate, disagree, and seek God’s wisdom in and through scripture for today.
One of my favorite aphorisms goes like this, “If you meet someone who promises all the answers, and claims the exclusive truth about God… run the other way.”
Personally, I am more interested in better questions than easier answers.
So how do we learn?
Sunday mornings, along with a group of honest strugglers who follow Jesus and believe they still have so much to learn, I explore some of the basic tenets of Christian faith. Always, it is the scriptures that help us to understand more deeply.
But revelation comes in many ways – here are a few:
- God reveals God’s self through Creation;
- The Bible points to truth about God through a narrative interactive history, the recorded story of God reaching out to people and people seeking to know God;
- Jesus – at once fully human and fully God – fulfils and clarifies the many-layered stories, teachings, and eye-witness accounts in the scriptures; Jesus is the lens through whom we can see more clearly; Jesus gives us everything we can possibly grasp and so much more;
- The Church, the Body of Christ, presents a complex and telling witness;
- Ordained preachers – ministers of word and sacrament – also grant insight into the nature and the purposes of God;
- Prayer, the honest and earnest seeking of and communion with God by individuals such as you and me, can teach us a lot.
- Journeying together in the context of Christian community helps us to listen, and discern, and question again…
It is my intention to create an atmosphere where honest seekers can ask and explore honest questions.
Grace abounds here in The Presbyterian Church. We are confident that God meets us where we are and then gently leads us forward in our desire to know more and – most importantly – to be reconciled (restored in relationship) to our Creator.
This is one of the reasons I enjoy Sunday mornings so very much. Dynamic worship, great music, inspirational preaching, and then encouraging one another along the way in our journey of growing in faith.
Eternally grateful, eternally loved – DEREK