Thoughts From Matt – Learning Together

by | Jul 21, 2020 | South District Newsletter, South District Webpage

‘Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths.’
Psalm 25:4

              What is God calling the Church to be?  What from our Methodist heritage is God calling us to carry forward into the future?  How is God calling us to change?  How will we need to do things differently in light of Covid-19?  What do we need to do in response to our commitment to making sure racism has no future?  How can we be creative innovators reaching people in new ways to transform the world for Christ?

There are always so many questions, and it seems like now there is more uncertainty than ever.  We are on a lifelong journey of discovering the way of the Lord.

In the Gospels, the disciples often seem to be perplexed by life’s mysteries themselves.  Right in the middle of the Gospel of Matthew’s Parable of the Sower is a little exchange in Matthew 13:10-17 between Jesus and the disciples about why Jesus teaches in parables.  The disciples want to know why Jesus doesn’t just come out and say exactly what he means instead of compelling his listeners to puzzle over the stories he tells.

Understanding, Jesus responds, is a gift from God.  The disciples receive the gift because they follow Jesus; those who do not follow Jesus cannot receive it.  But if you do receive that gift from God, then “blessed are your eyes, for they see, and your ears, for they hear.” (Matthew 13:16)

As always, Jesus’ words raise more questions.  If understanding is a gift from God, then does that relieve me from the responsibility of seeking answers to life’s questions?  After all, either the Lord gives me understanding or not, right?

And some of this stuff is pretty hard to figure out, even for deeply committed followers of Jesus.  If I do not understand, does that call my faith into question?  Am I really then a disciple?

All of this leads me to be a little bit alarmed that there is so much I do not understand.  But what I do know is that Jesus loves me, and Jesus loves you, and we discover new life in Jesus.  And I dare to believe that just that truth is enough for me.

But we are disciples, and so we commit ourselves to learning together.  We are on a lifelong journey of seeking truth together, and we are blessed in that journey.  Reading and learning, both individually and together, are spiritual disciplines that help us grow deeper roots of faith and a clearer understanding of God’s will and purpose for our lives and for the Church.

What are you doing to learn?  There are some very affordable continuing education opportunities coming up that I recommend to you; you can find information about both of them in the South District Newsletter, or contact the District Office if you need help finding out more.

One is a six-week online course from Path1 starting August 4 to help us move to the next level in what we’re doing with online worship and social media. It will be held once a week on Tuesdays for two hours. The cost is $200 per person, but the Desert Southwest Conference Vital Faith Committee is offering 50% scholarships for those interested in the course.

Another is this year’s Online Leadership Institute offered by the Church of the Resurrection on Sept. 24-25.  This year’s conference includes dynamic speakers like Rev. Michael Curry of the Episcopal Church.  Individual tickets are just $49 if you register by Sept. 1st.

What are you reading on your own?  A few weeks ago, I joined many others in our Annual Conference in affirming my commitment to making sure that racism has no future.  As part of that commitment I’m reading ‘White Rage’ by Carol Anderson, ‘How to Be An AntiRacist’ by Ibram X. Kendi, and ‘White Fragility’ by Robin Diangelo.  The Appointive Cabinet will be discussing the latter two books together as we learn together.

If you know of a good opportunity for continuing education, please let me know.  There are so many books to read, and so many ways to learn.  When we devote ourselves to the spiritual practices of reading and learning, individually and together, we create opportunity in our lives to experience God’s good gift of understanding, and we are blessed.

Thanks for listening,

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Author: Matt Ashley

The Desert Southwest Conference is a diverse and loving organization with open doors to a variety of people and partners in ministry. Celebrating our connection and diversity, we offer various resources. Content on this site includes information from other organizations that may not reflect the official policies or Social Principles of The United Methodist Church or the Desert Southwest Conference.

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