Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reclaiming the Mystery

**From the Fall 2011 Newsletter at St Christopher's.**
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“Stay loose, learn to watch snails, plant impossible gardens, make friends with freedom and uncertainty, look forward to dreams.”
Motivational sign on a children’s classroom wall

I have the highest admiration for teachers.  Teachers talk a lot about summer breaks and how much they look forward to times of escape from the classroom, but the twinkle in their eyes this time of year betrays how much they also look forward to children and stories and class pets and the lessons that together they’ll learn with their students over these next nine or so months.  It’s that twinkle in their eyes this time of year that I admire. 

To commit oneself to another’s understanding, to display the kind of patience that leaves a student believing she is loved, these are remarkable qualities.  I often wonder what it is that inspires certain individuals to offer themselves in this way. 

Recently, I read a reflection from a career educator who was grousing about standardized testing and the government jargon that comes with it: language like “meta-concepts” and “the implementation of outcome-based instruction,” for example.  The teacher observed that, in all of the official standardized instructions he had read, “I never come on words such as ‘delight’ or ‘joy’ or ‘curiosity’ or, for that matter, ‘kindness,’ ‘empathy’, ‘compassion for another child.’  Nothing, in short, that would probably come first for almost any teacher working with young children.” 

What inspires some people to become teachers?  Not government jargon.  No, the words that make teachers are the words of children. 

I believe that the same dynamic is true in the Church.  That is, necessary words like “church growth” and “building committee” and “capital campaign” sometimes jostle over and against the childlike words of faith you knew when God first found you.  I still marvel at the clarity and wonder with which Annie simply says, “mercy.”  I wonder: what are the words that you knew when God first found you?

Here are mine:  Christ.  Light.  Beauty.  Love.  Mystery.   

I want to encourage anybody with a desire to rediscover your first words of faith with the news that your leadership at St. Christopher’s is committed to that journey. 

This fall, no fewer than four new discipleship groups are gathering at church and in homes to share meals, stories, and life with one other along the pilgrim walk of faith.  Others are working on your behalf to feed the poor, tutor children, lead our worship.  A vibrant core of leaders is committed to opening and sharing the opportunity to grow closer to Jesus and become more like him. 

As your Rector, and working alongside these leaders, it is my strong conviction that the present opportunity before our parish is Jesus and the unending life that he brings, and that if we take hold of this opportunity with both hands, the rest of what matters will come.

So Rally Day is around the corner – September 11! – and I really hope you’ll come, but here’s a fair-warning disclaimer: the call that you’ll find there is not cutting-edge.  The gimmicks have all been shelved.  The call is ancient; the faith is as true as the words of children; and it is the Savior who calls you to reclaim the words that first met you on that slightly strange day you first looked up and all at once knew that God loved you.

Wonderful mystery: he’s calling you still. 

    Faithfully yours in Christ,
    Father Jonathan+

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