Thursday, August 22, 2013

Back to School


Adapted from the church newsletter:

Last week, my husband and I accidentally discovered a rabbit’s nest in our back yard.  Well, truthfully, our dog discovered the rabbit’s nest; we discovered her excitement before she was able to do much damage.  I spent the next few hours learning about rabbits’ nests (even though I took science in school I don’t remember learning about rabbits’ nests), and what to do when your dog discovers one.  We also spent the next few days checking the area and the nest to make sure the bunnies were all right beneath the earth.

I have always loved learning new things, but didn’t necessarily think my own backyard was a place to learn them.  I actually loved going to school, even though I wasn’t always good at school (I was good at reading, but math was hard for me).  Every year at this time of the year, I wish I had an excuse to buy a backpack and some spiral notebooks and a few new pencils.  Every year at this time of year, I sort of wish I was going back to school.

What is a disciple of Jesus but a student?  We are all going back to school, really, if we are disciples of Jesus.  And some of the learning is in worship and some of the learning is in Sunday School classrooms and some of the learning is in Bible studies.  And some of the learning is in the strange and familiar places that we travel, and some of the learning is in our own backyards, as we uncover rabbits’ nests and encounter birth and death and suffering and joy.

Truthfully, I could never learned about the rabbits’ nest if I hadn’t been to first grade, and to all the other grades as well.  When we go back to school in the fall, we aren’t just learning:  we’re learning to learn, learning habits that will keep us curious and alive for our whole lives.  And when we come to church, to a Bible study, to serve together, we are learning, but we are also learning to learn:  learning to handle the tools and the wisdom that will keep us curious and alive in our life of faith.

Soon we will bless backpacks, and send students back to school.  At the same time we'll see more families with children back in worship and Sunday school.  And I can't help feeling both excited and wistful at the same time, excited for the new people I will meet and those I will be happy to see again, and wistful because I have missed them most of them in the summer.  I wonder (as I often too) if we haven't been mistaken to tie Sunday School to the School year so closely.  Though there are many reasons why people don't come to worship so often in the summer, I suspect at least one of them is simply that summer has become vacation from worship as well as from school.

But what is a disciple of Jesus but a student? Where-ever we are, where-ever we go, we are learning and being formed by his life.  And worship is one of the places where we get the tools so that we can learn to learn:  so that we can learn to see the presence of God in the weeping stranger, in the tall grass in our back yard, in the faces around our dining room table.  And worship is one of the places where we get the tools, so that we can learn to learn:  where we practice speaking our faith, kneeling in prayer and in service, listening to God, listening to one another.

The rabbits have left the nest.  We don't see them any more.  But there are many more things to learn, in my own backyard, in the sanctuary of my church.  It's true.  Once we learn to learn, there are lessons everywhere.




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