We are born to learn. From the time we are born, we are hungry to learn about our surroundings in order to get our needs met. Young children are hungry to learn to communicate their needs and so acquire language. We learn to read from pictures, then words in order to know a story. The mastery that comes as we learn builds confidence in us to learn more.
Unfortunately, this confidence can be fragile. I have observed this lack of confidence in adults when it comes to learning about their Christian faith. Rather than step into the unknown, many adults steer clear of anything resembling “study” or “learning”. The older we get, the more likely we want to avoid situations that are unknown and unfamiliar to us. When Jesus said, “whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Mark 10:15) perhaps he meant to encourage the kind of enthusiastic openness to the new and unknown that we witness in young children, eager to know their world.
Some of you have risked the unknown by studying together the gospel of Mark this Lenten season. I asked the adults in the afternoon class if the learning and conversations had made any difference to them. Everyone qualified their statements with, “I’m not a Bible scholar…” I said, “Neither am I”, demonstrating the fragility of our confidence. But I realized neither statement is true. While we may not be PhD trained biblical scholars, we are Bible scholars because we are intentionally engaging the text, using the most recent scholarship we can and our own intellects and hearts.
After qualifying their responses, each person indicated they had learned things, internalized more about the faith story we share. Each of them knew they’d heard of these things at some point in worship, in a sermon, but now it was IN them. “So,” I asked, “would you say you have more confidence about understanding scripture?” Each of them answered, “Yes.”
Wow. That is more than I could ever hope for. If we can develop confidence in our understanding of scripture, we can actually have a conversation about it with other people who may just want to know about this faith we share. We are the bearers of the good news, evangelists. One of the many ways we share that good news is through our capacity to help others hear and know the story of Jesus.
I hope you will continue to risk learning to grow your capacity to bear the good news as a follower of Jesus.