Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sunday School Pays Off

Mondays and Wednesdays are quickly becoming my favorite day of the week. Luka has a nephew named Anton who came to church with his wife a while back. He was interested in studying English and the Bible. So he, Luka and I started to meet last week. We're studying the book of Mark.

Our Bible studies are in the morning and on Mondays we meet at the church while on Wednesdays we meet at Luka's apartment. I can't tell you exactly why I enjoy it. Maybe it's getting together and having chai, maybe it's because in English, maybe it's because this is the one Bible in English group that I feel like I don't have to really prepare for. It just seems effortless. Or maybe because I'm just kind of a discussion moderator and the other two do the rest. Or perhaps it just feels like a "legit" Bible study.

You know what I think it is. I think maybe because it feels less to me like I'm "Teaching" and more like a group of friends just getting together to read and talk about the Bible. I like that. It's kind of like I can just relax and we can study together.

It's also giving me a chance to talk about my faith and what I believe and you know what I've discovered? It's not really that scary. Especially when you're already studying the Bible anyway. For example, Anton's friend Roma joined us this past Monday. He had a lot of questions about what we were reading. One was about sacrafice. He wanted to know about why the Jews were sacraficing things. It gave me a chance to explain Old Testament sacrifices and how Jesus came and was the perfect sacrafice for us and so we don't need to sacrifice animals anymore. Luka also explained how every action had a price and in the Old Testament the price for doing wrong was having to sacrifice an animal.

By the way parents, this is why you and your children should attend Sunday School. Biblically we are told that we need to study scripture so we can be prepared to answer questions. Part of the reason talking and sharing about Biblical things isn't as hard as I thought it would be is because I've spent a long time attending Bible class, youth rallies and listening to sermons. I'm not discounting self-study. Obviously that's a huge part of one's relationship with God, but I'm also saying that Sunday School and sitting through church are valuable as well.

Oh and all that time in an a capella church where my mom sang with me and my aunt sat with me, helping my  finger follow the notes as we went has finally paid off as well, but that's a story for a different post. 

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Justice and Revenge

When I first came to Russia, I bought and read a book about a murder that happened in a church community several years back. The person accused of the murder got off with what seemed like a light penalty. After I finished the book, I decided to do a little research on the Internets to find out, as Paul Harvey would say, "The rest of the story," that is what has happened to the people since the trial.

I couldn't find out a lot about what happened once their fifteen minutes was up, but I did find out a lot about how the rest of the world felt about the accused and the penalty that was received.

Sometimes, I find reading the comments on news stories a lot more enlightening than the news story itself. In this day of blogs, and internet and globalization, everyone has an opinion on something. And they like to make those opinions known to the whole world. Which is fine in and of itself. There's nothing inherently wrong with it. But I'm not going to lie, there is a certain kind of comment I've started seeing on articles where people feel that "Justice" isn't being served, and truth be told it's kind of disturbing.

"She will answer for her sins,"

"He will get what he deserves"

"She played the system and walked freely...we all have our day in judgement"

"He's in Hell where he belongs"

"They'll get what's coming to them"

I mean, I'm not saying this isn't true. We all will have to face judgement and answer for what we've done( 2 Cor. 5:10) It's just the way that people state these facts like they already know the answers. Maybe that doesn't make sense. But it's almost like while they're saying "He or She will be judged" what they actually mean is "He or She will be judged, found guilty and sent to Hell to burn for all eternity"

When did we become such vengeful people? I mean, if you had a family member who was murdered or involved, I can understand that you'd be upset. People have a right to their feelings and I'm not trying to marginalize that. I mean, my goodness David, the man after God's own heart, often freely expressed his feelings of anger, loss, and revenge. And have you read the Psalms lately? Some of them are quite full of these sentiments. (Check out Psalm 94 for example)

But the difference is the Psalmists and David knew where they stood. A type of "God you are amazing and powerful and I want your justice to reign down on these terrible people. But I understand that you are God and have your own ways."

I think we can learn a lot from that.

Christ himself told us to love our enemies. (Matt. 5:43-48) I know, I know, easier said than done. Now this is gospel according to Abigail, but we're not talking "love your enemy" as in seeing Jim Bob at the church potluck and quickly running to the other side of the fellowship hall. Nor do I think he's saying we have to spend every waking moment with Jim Bob and become best buddies with him. Love takes work. Anyone who is in any kind of relationship (not necessarily romantic) knows that. You have to learn about the other party, you have to get to know them, and most importantly you have to see their faults and learn to live with and/or deal with them.

Again, I'm not trying to marginalize something like murder, rape, abuse etc. But what I'm saying is that loving our enemy means you have to let go, take a step back from how they've wronged you and see them as humans. As people. We are broken people in a broken world after all. That doesn't excuse what they've done or make it right. It can't change the past. But loving a person gives you the ability to forgive them and forgiving them gives you the ability to move forward.

Sins are not unforgivable and in the eyes of God, sin is sin. If you truly repent, God will forgive you. This covers everything from lying, drunkenness, sexual immorality, yes even something like rape. I know, maybe it's easy for me to sit here and say "love and forgive" with the safety of a computer screen in front of me, but I know that when I let things go, no matter what it is, when I strive to love God and love people, I am a happier person because of it.

There is a time for everything and perhaps it's time we leave the judging to God.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Another Slice of Life

My coat crackles and the snow squeaks under my boots as I make my way to the church. We've been having deep cold in St. Petersburg. It reminds me of Yakutsk. Back home my friends and family are running around in t-shirts. Figures.

Inside the church building, there is a trail of dirty, wet boot prints leading up the stairs. My white gloves are slowly turning black. Welcome to Russia. This is why I keep a pair of tennis shoes at the building. Well that and my boots get hot. I only wear them all day on Sundays.

Yesterday evening Luka and I went to meet a babushka at the metro. She's been having a rough time. We take her some money and a Bible. When we get to the metro stop she's waiting for us. Almost as soon as she sees Luka she starts crying and big tears roll down her weathered cheeks. I don't know what to do so I pat her arm and hand her a kleenex. Sometimes that's all you can do. Her eyes light up when we give her the Bible. I hope she reads it.

The internet randomly turned off in the apartment yesterday. Again. I could've played with the router and things. I would've eventually figured it out. Instead, I play the Damsel in Distress card on my neighbor, Dima. "The internet isn't working," I say. "Can you fix it?" He turns the router off and back on. It works. I feel dumb.

I am watching the men empty the dumpsters on my way home after choir practice. It is a giant garbage bag with a dumpster lid that they are putting into the frame. I don't see the patch of ice and I slip and fall. The garbage man stares at me.

When I peel off my jeans and leggings at home, I see my knee is scraped and bleeding. I am more upset about my jeans getting dirty. I literally just washed them.

Tomorrow we are showing the movie Groundhog Day at the church building. I worry no one will come.