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Breaking the rules of Bible study

Wamego First Presbyterian Church values intellectual inquiry. Don’t believe it? Read this post by David Hancock, leader of a Sunday morning Bible study, then join us as we celebrate 150 years of learning more about the Bible.

When I started the current version of the church’s adult Bible class, I was unsure of how it would be received.  There are time-tested rules for how to conduct a Bible class, and I broke every one of them.  Adult Christian classes are “supposed” to be taught at an eighth grade level, focus on how participants feel about selected Bible passages, and, most importantly, reinforce what people already believe.  I didn’t set out to do any of that.  I just wanted to teach what the words on the page actually say, bringing in history, cultural context, original languages, translation choices, theology and later church traditions, a love and respect for Judaism, and whatever else was at hand to get a better sense of what the authors of the Gospels and Epistles wrote and why they wrote it.  Most importantly, I brought a willingness to admit that oftentimes we simply do not know the “answer” to a passage.  We are called, however, to search.  Thus I faced a question:  how would an adult Bible class that refused to treat adults like children be received?

I got my answer one Sunday from someone I dearly loved, Marie Carrel.  She had a habit of saving very little in class, save for the very end, when she would offer some pearls of wisdom from a long, Christian life.  Then one particular Sunday something was different.  She sat quietly, as usual, during the class.  We were wrestling with a particularly difficult section of, I believe, the Gospel According to Mark, one that is rarely or never the text for a sermon.  Then, at the end, she looked up and said something to effect of:  “I have been in this church for many, many years.  I have listened to sermons, and I have taught Sunday school.”  Oh no, what had I done wrong?  I was convinced that she was about to lower the boom on me and my descendants unto the seventh generation.  Instead she continued,  with a voice of pure sincerity, “and what I want to know is, why hasn’t anyone taught me these things before?”  Wow.  I had just received the most wonderful benediction a teacher could ever receive.  Thinking about the saint who bestowed that blessing on me is a big part of what motivates me to spend part of every week preparing for the class of ahead.

So, if any adult reading this blog is in the mood to be treated like an adult, come to the adult class. We’d love to have you. We are studying the Gospel According to Matthew, at Chapter 21. We meet at 9:00 a.m. most every Sunday in the Fellowship Hall.

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