Lost in Wonder, Love, and Praise
First: Last October I talked with a friend who had discovered Godly Play. At the heart of the program is the question, “I wonder…”
Godly Play teachers tell Bible stories and encourage children to wonder about the stories. Rather than answering their questions, the teachers say, “Hmm…I wonder…” (and often, “What do you think?”). Doing so frees the children to imagine answers themselves.
Second: Last week I ran across a Facebook argument over history’s role in K-12 education. The two camps were working with different understandings of history. One treated it as a unit of information to be passed on to our children, the other as an investigative discipline dependent upon source materials.
Most of my schooling, as I remember it, fit into the former camp. My classmates and I learned bodies of knowledge. We needed a command of that knowledge to function effectively as citizens. Scientific or historical investigation was only necessary if we ultimately intended to enter one of those fields.
Presbytery Pastoral Retreat
Both of these memories came to mind at the presbytery’s annual pastors’ retreat this week. Cynthia Rigby led us in an exploration of the place of wonder in the pastoral life.
The Gospel is a thing of astonishing wonder. The idea that the immortal, almighty Creator of the universe submitted, not just to existence on our tiny planet but to life as a baby within a peasant woman’s womb…who doesn’t find themselves asking with Mary, “Wait—what?! (1)”
Astonishing. So much so, in fact, that it frightens us. So, despite our best efforts, we repeatedly domesticate the Gospel. We reduce it to a program that can make our congregants’ lives a little more bearable, not an inbreaking of God’s Word that must turn them upside-down.
We teach our children to think of Bible stories as guides for being good. Or, as I learned in science and history, we teach them that faith is a collection of knowledge to master, not a path toward ever-increasing discovery.
But God refuses to remain domesticated. Despite our best efforts, the Word breaks in.
A Curious Spirit
Perhaps that is what happened for some of us this week. Perhaps the still startling proclamation of a Gospel that most of us have known many years came once again, this time through the voice of a Texan seminary professor. Perhaps the Spirit will blow through our congregations, as violently as it did at Pentecost—or at least as violently as the wind blew through the Malibu eucalyptus trees.
And what then? What will it mean for us to stir the embers of curiosity within our congregants, from the youngest to the oldest? Where will they take us if we give them freedom to discover something in the Gospel that has never occurred to us before? What might they do with their new-found, pro-found conviction that this Word is real—more real, in fact, than the “real world” in which they spend their days?
It will not be our doing if it happens. But perhaps we can make room for the happening to be more likely.
Somewhere along the Way—
2 All quotes are as I remember hearing them, and may not be word-for word correct.