Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring-Summer Bible Study Announced!

Dear Parish Faithful,

Christ is Risen!

Our Spring/Summer Bible Study will begin next Wednesday, May 28, as already announced. I wanted to share a few words about the place of the Bible Study in the over-all life of the parish with the hopes of encouraging some "new faces" for this year's sessions. In my humble opinion, a Bible Study should be approached as a genuine parish event. As something essential and integral to the life of the parish and its parishoners. On the surface, life seems to flow by on its natural course, but just below the surface we are threatened with "eruptions" that lead to greater confusion on the moral, ethical, and spiritual levels of existence. (Actually, such "eruptions," unheard of a generation or two ago, are now pretty much out in the open). Orthodox Christians are not immune from making choices that do not reflect a Christian "lifestyle" at its fullest, but rather that reflect the confusion just mentioned. Could this be because we are overwhelmed by a secular and post-Christian society with its own worldview expressed through a bewildering variety of ubiquitous sources - TV, radio, music, films, magazines, etc. - without the balance of knowing the teachings of the Holy Scriptures in greater depth? That must be at least one of many reasons for such a challenging situation. And if we only hear the Scriptures once a week through an appointed Epistle and Gospel reading in the Liturgy, then the Word of God - powerful as it is - can indeed be overwhelmed by a cacophany of ungodly voices. That is why a disciplined and consistent reading of the Scriptures at home is so important for the contemporary Orthodox Christian. You cannot fight a successful battle in the "spiritual warfare" that characterizes our lives without a real weapon: "And take ... the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God." (EPH. 6:17)

That also points to the Bible Study as, again, a real event in the life of the parish. In a world that on some levels, and at some times, and in some circles is rather insane, ungodly or demonic; we come together to read, study and discuss the Holy Scriptures, the living Word of God, that strengthens our sanity, trains us in godliness and reminds us that we are also surrounded by angels. The group setting provides fellowship, creates a sense of solidarity, and generates insights from our neighbors that expand our understanding of the sacred text as we study it together. It also insures a commitment of time and energy to the Word of God that is on our schedule, not to "put off' to a more convenient time. With everything that the Bible Study promises to be, it is something to look forward to on a weekly basis. This commitment breaks through the "Sunday only" syndrome that especially characterizes the summer months. The "post-paschal swoon" blends into the "summer swoon" with an alarming swiftness (is it already here?) that can leave us spiritually undernourished as the summer takes its toll on our capacity for spiritual vigilance and growth. The Bible Study goes a long way in overcoming that tendency. Its ongoing presence through the hot summer months means that at the center of the week is a center of purpose and direction.

All of this is lost when the Bible Study is reduced to a parish "activity." All such parish activities are "nice," but not essential, perhaps, to the admonition "to work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (PHIL. 2:12). Such an activity is for the "Bible Study types" that are in every parish, almost something of a sealed off sub-group within the parish, like "seniors" or "singles." Such an attitude frees us from the responsibility of at least assessing our domestic situations and making a choice. For those who are "married with children," there is always the possibility of one spouse attending while the other cares for the children. Think of the exciting conversation when you return home and attempt to relate everything you learned at the Bible Study to your husband or wife!

"I am going to the Bible Study!" is a battle cry of spiritual resistance against all of the secularizing tendencies, empty entertainment distractions, and spiritual laziness that threaten to engulf us within their relentless web of temptations. "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die" is how the Apostle Paul summarizes such an approach to life (I COR. 15:32). But the Apostle wrote this about the Holy Scriptures:

For the word of God of living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the eyes of him with whom we have to do. (HEB. 4:12-13)

So put your $39.00 Orthodox Study Bible to good use and join the Spring/Summer Bible Study beginning next Wedesday evening with ACTS 1. Become part of a real parish event. "Come and see" why the Bible Study participants (now a pretty substantially-sized group) keep returning for more. Experience the excitement of coming to a greater understanding of the living Word of God that is "inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that that man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work." (II TIM. 3:16-17)

Fr. Steven

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