DO study

Good morning to everyone.

I am grateful to have the opportunity to get to speak to you all this morning and share with you some thoughts and insights on the topic of “do study”.

This Sunday is the last Sunday in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time.

This time next week we will be celebrating the first Sunday of Advent and starting a new year in the church calendar.

During each season of the church year we examine the life of Christ from different perspectives, and we reflect on the Kingdom of God- A kingdom in which the relationship between God, humanity and creation is right and balanced.

With the birth of Christ the Kingdom of God came to earth and began to live among us. In scripture we read accounts of Jesus and John the Baptist proclaiming to gathered crowds, “the Kingdom of God is at hand”.

The numerous teachings that Jesus begin with by stating: “The Kingdom of God is like…” were teaching the disciples, and now teach us, about a place and a way of living that was not the world that the disciples were living in.

The Kingdom of God is present in the words and presence of Christ, but is not fully present; it’s here, but not yet. This Paradox of “here, but not yet”, applies to more than just the spiritual realm. It is something that is a part of our day to day lives in more ways than we may realize which we will look at.

When we are born we are welcomed as full members of the human family, though we have many, many milestones to hit. We are here, but not yet. Through childhood emotions, personality, thinking and rational develop in leaps and bounds.

Having worked with children and youth over many years, I firmly believe in validity of children’s thoughts and feelings; that children should be respected as individuals that have a voice; keeping in mind that their thoughts and feelings are not yet finely tuned or matured. They are here, but not fully yet.

The teenage years can prove to be especially challenging (right, parents?) but not just for parents. The teen years are so challenging for the teens!

I see the struggle time and time again- “But I’m older now!” “I have more responsibilities!” “My parents are smothering me!” “Why do I feel out of control?” That tension of feeling grown up, but not seen as grown up, is real.  How many of us have looked back on our lives and said, “What I didn’t know at 16…18…23?!” We have come into our own, but not fully yet. It’s not just in our biological development we see the here, but not yet. It’s present in our spiritual development as well.

At Baptism, individuals are initiated into the church, often in infancy (though not exclusively), as members of God’s spiritual family- it is a permanent and lasting. Yet even while we are fully accepted into the family, there is so much to learn and experience that affirms our faith and makes it complete. We are fully in, and yet there is still work to be done.

In the great thanksgiving we recite the mystery of faith, “Christ has died, Christ has risen, Christ will come again”. The kingdom of God was here, and is here, and yet is still to come.

We ALL are here but not yet, in more than just one way. We are part of God’s family; The Holy Spirit is at work in our lives; And yet we are still being shaped as individuals, still growing spiritually- From the youngest child to the eldest adult.

Even the disciples were a work in progress- We read in the gospel lesson (Mark 14) that at Jesus’ most critical time, they fall asleep in the garden. They were with Jesus everyday, and yet still didn’t fully understand the magnitude of what he was doing.

As we travel through our spiritual journey, the discipline of study shows us how our growth as individuals is connected to how Kingdom of God is at work in the world.

Study- the acquisition of knowledge; examining, analyzing. To learn facts, learn techniques. Our minds tend to go to this definition first. But I think when it comes to life and faith, it’s more than just memorizing the facts and knowing information. It’s thinking deeply on the words of scripture- how do the stories about the first Israelites and the letters of the early church form our understand and image of God? It’s reflecting on the wisdom of other faith leaders and theologians, giving us different ways to see the love of God, like looking through a prism with many sides.

I treasure the wisdom of Henri Nouwen, Richard Rohr and Mother Teresa. Their reflections on grace, faith, doubt, and the nature of God have had a great impact on my connection to God and my neighbors.

“Faith is not for overcoming obstacles; it is for experiencing them—all the way through!” ― Richard Rohr, Radical Grace: Daily Meditations by Richard Rohr

“Dare to love and to be a real friend. The love you give and receive is a reality that will lead you closer and closer to God as well as those whom God has given you to love.” — Henri J.M. Nouwen

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” — Mother Teresa

Study isn’t just reading and learning from words on a page, but also examining how we put the ideas and thoughts into practice.

In our reading from Ecclesiastes we read, “The words of the wise are like goads”. A goad is a sharp pointed stick that is used to urge on cattle that are pulling a load or tilling the ground- Also known as a cattle prod. When we goad someone we are provoking someone, or irritating them to some kind of action or reaction.

Most of us do not like to be made to feel uncomfortable, but I’m here to tell you, sometimes you need some goading! We need to be pushed a little in order to grow.

In our growth, are we able to step back and examine our hearts and our actions? Do our actions and attitudes reflect the love and grace of God? Are we too comfortable in our faith? Is it all just a little too neatly packaged?

Lastly, study is experience- our greatest teaching tool. Taking the wisdom and knowledge we have acquired, and the examination of our hearts and living our lives according to what we have learned. It’s putting into practice what we believe to be true about God. It’s being open to being uncomfortable so that we can bring others closer to the Kingdom of God.

A pastor friend of mine once said, “If we don’t have a kingdom of God mindset, then ministry can happen only in the church, and nowhere else.”

We can read scripture all day long, we self analyze until we are blue in the face, but if we aren’t breathing more life into the Kingdom of God, then we’ve missed the message in the pages. No matter our age, how “far” we have come in our faith, we all must “do study”, and isn’t it wonderful that there are so many ways in which to do it? Amen.

 Old Testament Lesson:  Ecclesiastes 12:9-12

Besides being wise, the Teacher also taught the people knowledge, weighing and studying and arranging many proverbs. The Teacher sought to find pleasing words, and he wrote words of truth plainly.

The sayings of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings that are given by one shepherd. Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.

Gospel Lesson:  Mark 14:32-42

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”