Last week I had the privilege of offering a bible study session at the TISEC summer school. As co-ordinator for our diocese I take my turn at this. Those of us involved are invited to stay over at St Mary’s Monastery Kinnoull for 24 hours or so, joining in the worship and attending any presentations taking place while we are there. The theme this year was the Five Marks of Mission and the day I was allocated focussed on the first ‘mark’: To proclaim the Goods News of the Kingdom of God. The topic was addressed by Rev John Kafwanka from the Anglican Communion office in London.
One of the points he made was that Jesus both proclaimed and embodied the Good News. As the passage I was to work with was Mark 6: 30-44 – the ‘Feeding of the Five Thousand’, we were able to see this played out in the story. Jesus attended to the crowd that followed him by teaching them and by feeding them. He addressed both their spiritual and their physical needs demonstrating God’s abundant generosity to the disciples and to the gathered people. Did they understand what had gone on? Do we? The students explored this in an imagined debrief after the event.
In his lecture, Rev Kafwanka quoted Rowan Williams as saying that we need to hear the good news from each other. Readers of this who have worked with our congregational visitors will know that we encourage an interactive process where we all get a chance to listen to each other. At least that’s what we aim for! This isn’t just democracy for its own sake. When we make a discovery for ourselves and share it with our neighbour; when we listen to our neighbour and gain new insight, we learn in a different way. This is not to decry the sermon or the formal lecture but sharing the good news together in conversation and indeed breaking bread together whether in the eucharist or in a shared lunch allows us to hear the Good News in a very particular way.