Pastor Randy's January 2021 Reflection
January 4, 2021, 3:24 PM

I was brought to an abrupt new understanding of my likes and dislikes after one of my classes on the prophets of the Old Testament. I have been taking my fifth class from the Israel Institute of Biblical Studies during this last year. I really enjoy these classes, even if they are thirty weeks long, meeting once a week, because I am always learning something new about the culture in which the Bible was written. These classes give me a fuller understanding of the author’s intent in their writing as well as helping me find ways to apply my understanding to my growing faith.

The current professor who teaches this class always ends his class with the statement, ―We now have some time for questions. Exploration, curiosity, delight, questions all trigger endorphins in my body. I love to learn and I love to share that learning.

The problem I have with this class is not that anyone seldom asks a question; rather, it is the next statement by the teacher. After a moment of silence, which I have interrupted a few times with questions, he says, ―Well, good. Then it has been a good class if you have no questions.

Whenever I am in the role of the teacher, I want to have an exchange with my students. I see those in the class as fellow travelers or sojourners in this world, teaching each other, learning from each other, exploring new ideas and getting excited about new vistas. I don’t feel I have done a good job in my role as teacher if no one has any questions, preferably on the topic I have been addressing.

My teaching style is one which I hope incites curiosity and further delving into the subject matter, perhaps even causing people to further explore their own new understanding and sharing that new understanding with the class at the next meeting.

I am disappointed in this class on the prophets primarily because of this lack of engagement. I also am disappointed that the teacher simply reiterates what we see on the power point slides. He seldom adds any new information. Neither does he suggest alternative views or additional sources we can explore on our own.

Perhaps my favorite class was on the Jewish understanding of the New Testament. This professor had a two sheet bibliography listing additional resources, and he was always adding some new insight he had learned recently. I also felt he was interested in our views about the subject matter. The time in the class flew by, and I added several books to my library which I read during the course of the class.

I think this style of teaching also informs my role as a spiritual leader in our faith community. I am reading, exploring, digging into the available mines of material. This is not limited to what I find in the Bible, but also includes what can be discovered in books about culture, language, issues at the time of the writing of the Bible, or even the author’s underlying intent in their writing. While I truly believe the writers of the Bible were inspired by the Holy Spirit to put down their thoughts, I also believe that sometimes what is written are their thoughts bound by their culture. This means further exploration needs to be undertaken before one truly understands the message the author, and I think God, was trying to convey.

I believe we all have a story which affects how we read the Bible, and we need to understand and acknowledge our prejudices and leanings when we read. The best way to discern when we are shortsighted or hampered by our past or when we are insightful and enlightened, is by sharing our understanding with others. That is why I believe God has us explore His word in community. We need each other to broaden our understanding.

Another reason I love these classes from the Institute is that they provide a unique view that I don’t get anywhere else. My understanding of Hebrew has grown over the last five years as I have taken these classes. This means my understanding of the Bible has grown as well. However, it does not mean I can’t also learn from you. I do want to learn from you, and I want us to learn together.

I want all of us to encourage each other to share what new insights we have learned in our own personal study and for each of you to know that God loves that personal engagement in His word.

So, this next year as we explore the Gospel of John together, I hope you will be willing to share what you are learning as I will be sharing what I am learning. I believe God longs for us to cultivate our spiritual side, and he will provide amazing jewels as we mine His word by the leading of His Spirit.

Uncovering new words of life with you, Pastor Randy

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