Last Sunday Adult Study met and while I missed it — thanks be to God — the conversation continued in Proverbs! A huge thanks to Gina & Gene for co-facilitating Adult Study while I was traveling! So after opening in prayer there was the opportunity to check-in. The check-in of course discussed the homework of daily praying for our enemies.
It seems that many of us are a bit uncomfortable with the language of “enemy.” Who is an enemy anyway, right? Often I think many would not think they have enemies — and honestly I wonder how that word felt and sounded to the original hearers of the Bible? Does someone who has served in the military have a fuller understanding of an “enemy?” Do we have the ability to be our own enemy with the internal dialogue we have with ourselves? Is our enemy evil? The devil? Those trying to destroy us physically/emotionally/spiritually? And, how many of us act & treat folks as though they are enemies? In a culture & context where we struggle with enemy language, I wonder if the invitation to pray for our enemies is a method of inviting us to pray for others with intentionality? What do I mean? Well, it can be easy for me to forget to pray for my friends & those I love, but that person who is annoying me/opposing me/causing some conflict, they I think about easily and often, so what if that was how God was laying a person on our heart who needs prayer? And when we do pray for those who are our “enemies” how do we change, does the very act of holding them in prayer unite us more in grace, does the prayer affect us more than them?
And then there was the pivot to scripture:
Where we read about discipline, children, the rod, and foolishness (to name some of the themes). And y’all started talking about the rod — considering if it is something to actually inflict physical punishment or perhaps if it is a metaphor used to discuss discipline, or the guidance that parents are to offer their children. There was the mention of those who might have the challenge of ADD, ADHD, and/or other specific needs. Also a mention of if consequences are involved as well…
And then eventually came the homework assigning time. And this week there are a few connected pieces (questions) to be considering. We are all to consider, what can or should discipline include/look like in children/youth/adults … in church? So think about this question and come back with thoughts and ideas. Though, perhaps some will push a little bit with such a question (which is fine) asking a bit appropriately — WHY? — why, would we need to even consider such a question? And I offer, when we take vows to nurture those baptized in the faith (and yes, at every baptism this is part of the liturgy — part of the questions asked of the gathered congregation!) it means we need to be thinking and asking, as we vow “to guide and nurture the newly baptized by word and deed, with love and prayer, encouraging them to know and follow Christ and to be faithful members of his church,” if discipline is supposed to be included? And if discipline is to be included, how can or should that look exactly?
Discipline is a challenging topic and these scriptures are challenging scriptures. And yet, we are called to be disciples of Jesus Christ, followers of the One who came to serve, the One who washed feet. This is not easy, and in fact doesn’t the very identity we profess as Christians, as those who follow Christ require that we be disciplined by the very One we follow? Do we not in saying we are disciples of Jesus, say we are disciplined by Jesus/God/Holy Spirit?
Looking forward to Sunday morning y’all!
In Christ ~
Rev. Sabrina Slater