The Church Is a Learning Community Prov. 9: 1-10; Matt. 11: 25-30

Heaven on EarthOur church is a religious-service provider; we employ staff and deploy volunteers to gain more ground for the sake her cause.  That can sound self-serving, but there’s nothing wicked about it.  We shouldn’t apologize for offering services to our community.  Yet, if a church is a colony of heaven on earth, we’re to extend our work across time and space.  We don’t exist just for this moment.  A community of faith reaches out across that divide of space as a teaching congregation; passing on the accumulated wisdom of the past, while remaining open to discover the new from those we teach.  Church is at its best when it’s a teaching congregation; willing to learn too.

Harpole is the head teacher of a Church of England school in J. L. Carr’s novel The Harpole Report.  He squares off with a prim and proper teacher who takes offense saying, “I’ve never been spoken to like this in my thirty years of experience.” Harpole replies, “You haven’t had thirty years of experience, Mrs. Grindle-Jones. You’ve had one year of experience, thirty times.”  The church cannot be at its best if we act like Mrs. Grindle-Jones, thinking there’s nothing more to learn.  We’re at our best when we’re a community of faith that mutually teaches and learns from each other.Two Way Street

Teaching hospitals that include learning in all processes are good models.  In a teaching hospital, young administrators, doctors, and nurses learn by doing among the more experienced.  There’s also a symbiotic relationship in a teaching hospital, for not only do the learners gain from the teachers, the teachers learn from the students.  A teaching church passes on what they know while learning as they pass it on. We’re at our best when this kind of mutual learning experience exists.  There are some common denominators in learning communities of faith.

A learning community shares a spirit of humility.  The word sophomore comes from two Greek words: wisdom and moron; wise fools. Sophomores think they know all they need to know and there isn’t any more to learn.  The more we think we know, the more learning curve declines.  This is the immaturity the proverb says to set aside because the church isn’t at its best if it behaves sophomorically; thinking she can teach without learning.

A woman explained mansplaining to me.  She said a man from Manhattan (not Kansas) tried to piously tell her about farming.  Well, she grew up in Ohio in Amish country, where a horse might run over you if you’re not looking and traffic stops for the cows.  Her DNA was shaped on the farm and her values were rooted in the dirt that grew the crops she helped plant and harvest.  She said, “Mansplaining is when a man supposes he possesses knowledge a woman already knows; like farming.

Dining TableThe proverb beckons us to hear the call of wisdom; wooing us in a Martha Stewart like way to come and sit at wisdom’s table.  We read, Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I’ve mixed.  The call of wisdom is a call of hospitality; drawing us closer to wisdom’s beauty.  The nearer we come to wisdom, the more a spirit of humility falls on our spirit; for we know we’re not worthy of wisdom gifts.  .  Wisdom charms us into its world; so truth can fill our hearts and minds with a new light.  We’re drawn, not dragged along on the path of righteousness.  For, divine wisdom isn’t learned by a schoolmarm smacking on us the wrist with her ruler.  Wisdom comes as we  humble ourselves; believing we have something to learn.

The Cowboys’ rookie wide receiver, Terrance Williams, had a rough start at training camp and through the first few weeks of the season.  Did I mention Williams was from Baylor?  He said. “At first I was so nervous I dropped everything.  The last two weeks we’ve seen him at his best; catching 11 passes for over 200 yards; including a 82 yard touchdown.  Jason Garrett said: Sometimes nervous isn’t bad.  When you’re nervous and prepare the right way, you do well.  I am more concerned about the guy who has all the answers. Garrett commends humility and criticizes those who dictate the answers rather than learn in humility.  Did I mention Baylor won yesterday? Terrance Williams

The humble path the leads us to walk in the way of wisdom holds tightly to our personal faith in Christ, while holding loosely to our certain declarations about Christ.  This creates room for us to learn more about the person of Christ from others persons in the community of faith.  A spirit of humility knows intimately the One who is the Truth, while also knowing certainly we’re not he; nor do we exclusively possess all the truth we need to know.  A community of faith is at its best when learning fosters a spirit of humility.

A learning community of faith fosters a spirit of curiosity.  A learning community pursues truth with active minds; pushing each other to explore, grow, and live into the questions. We’re fearless about the truth.  Truth is stubborn, it can’t be ridiculed without consequence.  God is the author of truth and wants us to know it.  We pursue it; trusting it will deepen our faith and ,grow our knowledge of God’s ways; leading us to God.

CuriousA man spoke to me about my sermons.  He had a graduate degree and wouldn’t have the job he had without a great amount of education.  Yet, he had different idea about church.  He told me he had to think all week, when he came to church all he wanted to hear was the old, old story he already knew. He wasn’t in the mood for dialogue so I acknowledged he was heard. 

The Proverb says “A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you.  The wise, when rebuked, will love youThe wise lovingly listen to those who speak to the truth, even if it feels like a rebuke; refusing to hate or make enemies.  The wise are open to converse with science, even if her findings challenge their world view.  The wise look for the good that comes from one who don’t yet believe, even though their practices raise questions.  A spirit of curiosity draws us closer the truth, not hating what challenges us or those who differ from us.  A spirit of curiosity can’t weaken the faith; the Gospel can stand up to any challenge, or it isn’t the Gospel.  A community of faith is at its best when learning fosters a spirit of curiosity.yoke

A learning community of faith yoked together in unity; growing in the knowledge of God together.  Matthew’s gospel depicts Jesus as the embodiment of wisdom.  God gave Jesus unique access to the Father.  As the Son, God has given him the right to reveal the knowledge of God that’s hidden from the wise and revealed to infants to whomever he chooses.  Wisdom is uncovered through this New Testament invitation to be yoked to Christ and each other, so we grow in the knowledge of God together.  

Jesus says, “Take my yoke”, learn from me and others who yoked together; plowing into the knowledge of God as we’re guided by Christ’s wisdom.  A yoke-a wooden beam that harnesses the oxen to each other and to the farmer who directs the plowing.  (Now I am mansplaining.  Many of you know more about plowing than I, who prefer loafers to boots.)  At the risk of over-explaining (mansplaining) let me point out some aspects of being yoked to Jesus, so we might learn in unity from him and each other..

Hands UnityYou’ is plural when Jesus says, “You, take my yoke”.  It’s more common to have a team of animals yoked together.  The yoke implies we don’t learn alone; for a faith community isn’t made up of individuals who learn on their own.  We learn together, tied to Christ; in unity with him and each other. 

This yoke is custom fit, not one size fits all.  It sits gently; allowing us to learn together without tiring. It’s easy, not exhausting to dig deeply; plowing ground as we learn from Christ and each other.  Christ leads us gently, but surely in what we need to learn.  No voice should be silenced, each voice is needed to learn together.  None are privileged, learning together means we learn from every person.  Christ may speak to all of us, through any of us.  As we hear each other, we learn of God and the greater wisdom that can be learned in a unified community that is yoked to Christ and to each other. 

Godly wisdom requires a spirit of humility about what we don’t know.  Godly wisdom possesses a curiosity to know what we can know.  Godly wisdom allows Christ to lay his yoke on us and be yoked to him and others in the faith community; learning as we follow Christ wherever he may lead.  When humility, curiosity and unity exist in a community of faith the church is a learning community and at it’s best.

Learning Community

Published in: on October 13, 2013 at 6:47 pm  Leave a Comment  

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