It is somewhat unique for me to be asked to contribute to a theological spot. For the past 20-plus years, I have found myself in front of 1200 to 1500 students weekly, talking about our spirituality. I have also spent time at camps, sport and in the chapel. The choice of words reflecting centuries of theological insight has little if any meaning in this setting. Perhaps some would say, ‘that is because the words aren’t used enough.’
I’m not convinced. I think Jesus was faced with this same dilemma as he spoke to the foreigner, tax-gatherer, child or outcast each day.
The theme of this issue, being ‘beyond your circle’ prompts us to ask ourselves, ‘how do we relate to others?’ I believe it begins with simply being with them and listening. The gospel often refers to Jesus knowing what ‘they’ were thinking and then responding. He spoke through story and chose his stories to carry a meaning that they could identify. More importantly, he cared what they thought and understood. Jesus would speak and tell stories about their world because it was his own incarnation – he was born as one of us.
Our stories at Scotch College are about things that the students are familiar with and to which they can relate. It may be the story of Disney’s animation film, Big Hero 6, or Dido’s song, Life for Rent. When a School Captain shares his reflections on the ANZAC legend and a student shares a letter written by a young man to his mother from the trenches at Gallipoli – seven days before he dies – others begin to understand the different ways people sacrifice.
Our student’s stories aren’t just about giving some money, though this may be important. It’s also about living the story by being personally involved. Students are asked to take risks and to step outside their comfort zone. They may visit an elderly person’s home or a ‘half-way house’ for the socially isolated. Some have the opportunity to visit the slums of India or the villages of Cambodia and Tanzania to experience for themselves a different world – but none the less, their world.
It’s not just about charitable giving, but charitable living. Whether it is overseas or at home in our own neighborhood, it is about us investing ourselves and becoming the story. All the qualities of love and living are expressed in such a vivid way in 1 Corinthians 13. Each of the qualities mentioned are about how we live and relate to others. Patience, lack of jealousy and pride, forgiveness and positive openness are necessary characteristics to open up to others.
Paul concludes, “When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child. Now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways. What we see now is like a dim image in a mirror.”
I don’t believe Paul is talking about aging, but about maturing. Life is not about being or seeing the ‘dim image’, it’s about seeing and being real and sharing ourselves, because that’s what God has done for us in Jesus.
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-4
Rev Chas Lewis, chaplain at Scotch College, a Uniting Church in WA school.