Hello! Sometimes the message we’re trying to share with the youth at Miqra doesn’t get translated well when the students return home. I will attempt to summarize what we’re doing and hearing to help you connect with your student after the event.
Speaker #1: Bishop Dean Wolfe
Bishop Dean Wolfe opened Miqra Saturday by talking to the entire group about how to read and interpret the Bible. Here is my attempt at a summary of what he said:
The Bible is full of stories. They all have a purpose. They answer questions like, What is truth? What is important? What are our values? How should we act? The Bible is an introduction to a different way of life. It tells us of a spiritual world that is different than the material reality of our lives, but just as real even though we can’t see it or even explain it. The Bible doesn’t give up it’s secrets easily, sometimes you have to read it and re-read it. Think about: What did the passage mean to the person who wrote it? Who were they writing it for? What does it mean to us in the present? What does it mean to me, personally?
All of you here at Miqra are doing something on behalf of the entire diocese. When you read the entire Bible, you treasure it.
I believe the Bible is so important and so true that sometimes the meaning of the story is more true than the literal story being told. I hear people mis-interpret the Bible all the time—at least from my perspective. For example, some people cite the “eye for an eye” scripture to support the death penalty. However, the Bible also says, “Thou Shalt Not Kill.” I think you must look at the overarching content of the Bible, and the arc of the Bible bends towards justice, inclusivity, love, and forgiveness.
I hope while you are here you will authentically take a shot at looking at this book, as asking the hard questions, at thinking about what is true, thinking about what YOU believe. What is the most important passage of the Bible, to you? What is the most important book of the Bible to you? Which person of the trinity do you identify with the most?
There is great diversity in the Christian tradition. You hear the same story in the Bible from different voices. Which voice speaks to you? What stories do you believe? Not believe?
The Bishop then gave the youth about 20 minutes to ask any question they wanted…anything they might have thought about and be concerned about from the Bible. Some of the questions asked were:
- If jealousy is a sin (i.e. “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife”) then how come God is described as a jealous God (i.e. “Thou shalt have no other God’s before me”)?
- What does the Bible say about two women getting married?
- What does the Bible say about people of other religions, or people of no religion?
- If God is good, why do bad things happen?
His answers talked about how we have to read the Bible in the context of when it was written and think about what the goals of the communities at that time were. The Bishop said “I never want to embrace any belief that limits my God or makes my God into something other than a loving God.” And that “We want to love and embrace people where they are.”
Speaker #2 Rabbie Debbie Steele
Our second speaker of the day was Rabbi Debbie Steele. We invited Rabbi Steele to come because our educational focus this year is on the Pentateuch, which is the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. These are also the five books that make up the Torah for the Jewish faith.
Rabbi Steele talked about how about 90% of what we read and believe about the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament) is the same, a shared belief between Christians and Jews. Some of the beliefs from the Bible we share are that God cares about all people and we’re all created in God’s image.
She said Jews don’t memorize scripture. They are encouraged to grapple with and engage the Torah, to ask the question, “How does the scripture speak to me, today?” So, she walked us through an example of this process uses Geneses 12. She chose this passage because it is where monotheism is introduced in the Bible. Chapters 1-11 of Genesis talk about how God created the entire world, and thus we need to care for the entire world. Rabbi Steele said that the Bible tells great stories but doesn’t always explain the meaning behind what is happening.
Part 1: The Biblical Text
1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. 2 I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” 4 So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. 5 Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan. When they had come to the land of Canaan, 6 Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh. At that time the Canaanites were in the land.
We read the scripture in groups of 2 or 3 and came up with questions about it. These are the questions the youth shared about the scripture:
- Where is Abram’s brother?
- Why did God pick Abram?
- Why would the Lord curse people?
- Why did God pick someone so old?
- Why did Abram have to move?
- How is one-person going to become a great nation?
- How did God “speak” to Abram?
Part 2: Departure
We explored the question, “Why does Abram have to leave?” The scripture identifies two reasons:
1. “lekh lakha” is used in the Hebrew, which means to “go to yourself,” or that Abram needs to look inside of himself. He must know himself, know what he believes is right.
2. He also must remove himself physically to separate from corrupt ways and ideas that surround him. Everyone at the time believed in Polytheism, so it would be very difficult to become monotheist in that time and place.
This is similar to many situations we face today. When we realize that “things aren’t right around us” we need to know what we believe and sometimes remove ourselves from the situation.
The Jews believe that there is no extra word in the Bible…every word is there for a reason. In Genesis 12:1, Lord says Abram must, “Go forth from your land, and your birthplace, and your father’s house” so each of these descriptions has specific meaning for Abram.
Part 3: Destination Unknown
God did not reveal the land to Abram immediately. This allowed Abram to keep an open mind and not pre-judge where he was being asked to go. It also made it a more difficult test of Abram’s faith. The youth were asked to think about whether they would like to know where they were moving or whether they would like the surprise and about half and half said each.
Part 4: Journey
“Leaving home is an important part of growth…this notion of home means, among other things, comfort—security, safety, even warmth. In many ways, symbolically, home means the womb.
You may say that home is almost the opposite of spiritual. Spiritual usually means a going out, not a staying home. There is a sense in which home is the opposite of pilgrimage, which means you are going out of home. When you go on a pilgrimage, or when you go on a spiritual search, isn’t it also fair to say that you are looking for a new or different type of home?
Home is, in one way, the safe ground, the family—warmth softness, safety, shelter. Some people, spiritually speaking, are gypsies. They are going on a perpetual search that never stops. There are also the people who are searching for another home, a higher home, a better home, a more luxurious home.
The 12 Tribes of Israel
Each of the students is assigned to one of the 12 tribes of Israel. These groups gather throughout the weekend for discussion and activities. They had to do a photo safari to learn where everything in the Cathedral is. The tribes are also assigned two Bible verses from Genesis or Exodus and they are illustrating the Bible verse. These are hung on the wall so we can see and learn the stories of the Pentateuch. They played a crazy game called “Wilderness Wanderings” made up by volunteer staff Megan Upton-Tyner. Then they all made cardboard arcade games after watching this video: http://youtu.be/faIFNkdq96U
I don’t know if I’ll be able to post again. Just in case, here are some questions to ask your child(ren) when they return home:
- What was one of your favorite parts of the experience?
- What did you experience or feel that you never have before?
- What are you coming home with? (Other than lots of dirty clothes.)
- What was life-shaping, even life-changing for you?
- What do you think will stick with you?
- How was faith and life experienced there?
- Was there a deeper part of the week? How would you describe that part of your experience?
- What challenged you?
- Who shaped your faith? In what ways?
- After this experience, what should I learn from you?
There are also a few pictures from yesterday posted on the EDOK Youth Facebook page!
~Karen Schlabach, Youth Missioner