Saturday, June 25, 2011

Live Dangerously! Come to the Bible Study!

Dear Parish Faithful,

Due to the importance I ascribe to our annual Summer Bible Study – one reason being that the Bible comes from and belongs to the Orthodox Church - I always begin with a letter of exhortation to try and “recruit” new participants before we begin each year. Whether or not that exhortation falls on deaf ears or not, is beside the point. My pastoral conscience impels me to make the effort, and every year it seems as if we have some new members that join our circle. So, if you belong to the species of homo sapien, and if you are simultaneously a member of our parish, then this letter is meant for you.

Just a generation ago, many Orthodox parishes may not have had a Bible Study. Under those circumstances, parishioners justifiably hungry for the spiritual nourishment that comes from the living Word of God may even have participated in a local non-Orthodox Bible Study in order to satisfy that hunger. The inherent danger in this is confusing an Orthodox and heterodox interpretation of the Scripture, and thus relativizing the Truth as we understand it, proclaim it, and live it within the Church. Fortunately, what may have been true a generation ago, is no longer the case, as most Orthodox parishes today do provide a setting for reading and studying the Bible together. Our parish clergy today are much more thoroughly educated in the Scriptures from seminary and beyond, and are quite capable of offering quality classes. Therefore, the only further “ingredient” needed is parishioners who desire to learn and who make the commitment to do so.

We now have a complete Orthodox Study Bible, providing us with excellent commentaries that inform us of the Church’s interpretation, as well as providing great quotes from the Church Fathers, such as St. John Chrysostom. I understand that there are also Orthodox “online” studies that you could turn to. With such access, why even “bother” to have a parish Bible Study? Why not stay home, find some free time, and study alone or perhaps even with the family? (This is something like the “Netflix approach” applied to the Bible). Certainly things that I would encourage. But these are the obvious things to do if you cannot attend your own parish Bible Study for “reasons worthy of a blessing.” What I have learned over the years, is that it is the fellowship of coming together that is a key component to the parish Bible Study.

The parish Bible Study builds a sense of community and an awareness that there are others in the parish who also “hunger and thirst” to go as deep as possible into the source of our Orthodox Faith – the Holy Scriptures as the living Word of God. Learning something new, discussion, sharing, listening to the insights of others, building closer relationships, meeting other parishioners beyond the surface greetings of the “coffee hour;” all these components make the parish Bible Study a key event in the ongoing life of the parish. It is making a conscious commitment to set aside that most valuable of commodities – time itself – for the “things of God.” And to choose a “churchly activity” over a “worldly activity.” To set aside “worldly cares” for the sake of the “world to come” – revealed in the Scriptures and discussed together as a Body which is an extension of the Liturgy.

When I was young, I did not like to experiment with new foods. My mother would say: “Try it, you’ll like it.” Could we apply that to the Bible Study: “Try it, you’ll like it.” Especially those of you who have never tried it. “Live dangerously” – come to the Bible Study! (The “danger,” of course, is learning the hard reality that each one of us has a long way to go in being an authentic Christian – a genuine follower of Christ).

We will begin next Wednesday, June 29, at 7:45 p.m., appropriately the Feast of the Synaxis of the Apostles (following the Vespers) since we will be reading from perhaps the greatest of the Apostle Paul’s epistles: Romans. We will begin at ch. 12.

Fr Steven

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