Until the end of last week I was, along with all my other things, involved in taking a seminary course on the book of Matthew. Over the school year to date I have taken two online courses, one an introduction to theology and this one on interpreting the New Testament. The thing that became most clear is that I know less now than I did before!
How can this be, and why bring it up now?
It occurred to me that people reading my blog may at times mistake me for a person who “knows what she’s talking about.” In actual fact, while I do know what I have read, heard, learned, and the nature of my thoughts and reflections, I don’t have any previously untapped source of wisdom. I am not an expert! Hence the warning, Caution! The writer of this blog likely knows less than you do!
Throughout my courses this year, while working on essays on such weighty topics as Universal Salvation and Matthew’s Theology on Women, I spent a lot of time reading, reflecting and looking for the answers. Inevitably what I found would be a series of possible approaches, the realization that the topic was too broad for a three page essay, and most of all more questions. Unlike nice tidy questions like, “where is the Great Pyramid located?” the questions of faith are not to be answered with a correct or incorrect answer. There is no ‘knowing’ only reasoning, reflecting, and believing.
So, as I pick up my ‘pen’ again it is with greater trepidation than before that I’m likely to get things wrong. I can’t help but wonder if by the time I am ready for ordination I will still be able to put pen to paper at all.
I expect most of us are familiar with the expression, “The medium is the message” coined by Marshall McLuhan. The phrase is as old as I am, well ten months older. At the time it was spoken in reference to the quickly changing face of media and our tendency to focus on the obvious effects and not really look for a deeper level. I don’t pretend to really understand McLuhan’s message, but I think that it is important to look at our messages, especially as they are becoming more and more public through blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc.
When I prepare a message for any of my usual churches I do so knowing that, for the most part, I will be preaching to a Christian audience with a fairly similar frame of reference to mine. When I write something for my blog it is different, I have no way of knowing who may read my post so things I wouldn’t normally explain get explanation. Things that are totally open to the world on the internet need a different filter than comments to my friends and colleagues over lunch. Awareness of audience is even one of the sections on rubrics for evaluating student writing.
I am working on a service I will be leading at my sister’s church in the Montreal area. I have led worship at all four of the Presbyterian churches in my area, but this will be my first time preaching out of the province. I am somewhat familiar with the church as I have worshipped there and sung in the choir on occasion, but I don’t really know it. I do know that there are several retired ministers and theology professors who attend her church. While I am used to having one or two retired ministers in the congregation for my services at home, they are people with whom I am very familiar and comfortable. This is not the case for my sister’s church, and who knows what other areas of speciality I may trip upon in my message?
One service I did on Aboriginal Sunday a while back went well. At the end I greeted people at the back as usual. One woman hung back for a bit and when she came up to me said she was debating whether or not to tell me what she really thought. I asked her to go ahead. She was not pleased with my message and gave me various reasons mostly related to her perceptions of “special treatment” for First Nations people in our area. While she had, in part, missed the actual point of the sermon, she needed to talk about the issues it raised for her and I hope that helped her in some way.
So, would I write a different message if I was speaking to the un-churched, the working class, a room full of professors, or atheists? In the end, all I can do is what I usually do. I will study the texts carefully, review what other’s have said on the topic, do some fact checking, and then write what seems to flow. Hopefully what I say will give people something new to think about, something to inspire them, or something about which to debate.
Posted in Bible Study, Reflections
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