By Mandy Sayers
Pastor, Covenant UMC, Gaithersburg
We don’t know too much about Jesus’ boyhood. There’s that bit about his parents losing track of him in Jerusalem when he was 12, of course, but not too much other than that. We do know, however, that he “grew in wisdom and stature.” (Luke 2:52). He didn’t stay a babe, wrapped in swaddling cloths. He grew up and learned to walk and talk, and eventually met his ministry down by the Jordan River, where he was baptized by John.
Just as Jesus grew in wisdom, we are also called to grow and learn. As we start a new year, where is God calling us to “grow in wisdom?” How can we give thanks for all the teachers who have helped us come this far by faith? And how are we being called to invest in those coming behind us, to help them grow and learn?
I tell the folks at our church that I make a dozen mistakes before breakfast, most days, but I promise them to learn from those mistakes. I tell them I will try not to make the same mistake twice. Instead, I resolve to make new ones.
I am trying hard to learn, in this work, and in my life, so that I’ll be a “better person today than I was yesterday” (something our bishop prays about himself each day). My prayer is, if I cannot be “better,” at least maybe I’ll be a little wiser, a little more faithful, or someone more willing to take risks for the Gospel today than yesterday.
If I’m going to make a new mistake every day, I better get busy with trying new things.
Learning is the antidote to ignorance and fear. It can help us build bridges between human beings, as we learn about the hopes, needs and dreams of others. It unlocks the Divine Image in the learner, as that person goes on to create the next “new thing” God has in mind. It helps us see new possibilities and potential, and it can mediate God’s blessing in the life of another, as learning becomes clean water, or medicine or friendships between people who used to be enemies.
In the New Year, let us not just “resolve” about things. Let’s learn, and put that learning into practice, for the sake of the new world God brought us on that first Christmas Day.
By Daryl Williams
Pastor, St. Paul UMC, Oxon Hill
One of my favorite movies of all time is “Men In Black.” It wasn’t the special effects, the plot or the acting that made me fall in love with the movie. The thing that made me fall in love with it was one speech. Early in the movie, Tommy Lee Jones’ character is speaking with Will Smith’s character and says the following: “A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew the Earth was flat. And 15 minutes ago you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.”
What struck me then about that quote is the truth contained in it. The quote made me resolve that I did not want to be a dumb, panicky dangerous animal. I wanted to be a smart person. It was in that moment that I decided that I would make learning a life-long objective. I decided that year by year, I wanted to learn more to make sure that I was like the person described in Proverbs 18:15, which says, “Intelligent people are always ready to learn. Their ears are open for knowledge.”
Being always ready to learn requires three things: desire, opportunity and exposure. It all starts with desire. You have to want to learn. That desire comes from wanting to know more, so you can do more and ultimately be more.
Secondly, you have to have or make opportunities to learn; you have to find opportunities to learn. Sometimes that means going back to school, sometimes it simply means turning off the TV and reading a book or listening to a podcast.
Finally, you have to have exposure. We can get comfortable knowing the same people and doing the same things which makes our world more narrow. When we desire to learn, we have to expose ourselves to new things. We have to go to new places, meet new people and experience new things. All that exposure will broaden your world and let you learn.
This year, become a Proverbs 18:15 person. Well-up the desire, take the opportunity, and expose yourself to new things so that you can be ready to learn. The difference between who you are on Jan. 1, 2016, and who you will be on Jan. 1, 2017, is what you will learn in between.
Take the next 366 days and go learn.