Jesus constantly asks questions that force people to pause, to reach down within themselves, and to discover their own deepest desires. Br. Keith Nelson encourages us to bring such a questioning approach to our experiences of worship.
Transcript: Some of the teachers that I have encountered in my life that have made the most lasting impact on me weren’t – they were teachers who had a huge range of knowledge in the field in which they taught – but they’re primarily people who knew how to ask the right question. People who were such artists at teaching that they were able to ask questions in such a way that they forced me to pause, and to reach deep within myself for the resources of knowledge and perhaps even the resources of wisdom within myself to grow as a student.
So when we think about teaching, baptizing, and nurturing new believers, or all of us believers (because in a way we’re all new, we’re all novices at the way of Christ), if we think about the kinds of questions that Jesus asked, the kind of teacher that Jesus was, we see this way in which Jesus constantly asks questions that force people to pause, to reach down within themselves, to touch the desire that animates their life, that animates their spirit, and to bring forth a response that brings them closer to God in that encounter with this master teacher, Jesus.
In the early church, there were sort of two primary stages in the initiation of early Christians that I find really compelling. Catechesis, this period that would last for all of Lent, and then people would be baptized at the Easter vigil, having been prepared in that season of Lent. And then there would be a period of time from Easter to Pentecost, during which these new Christians who had been initiated into the mystery of Baptism, and the mystery of the Eucharist, will go through something called Mystagogy. Mystagogy, which sounds a little bit like the word we have “pedagogy,” the leading or guidance of children. Mystagogy can be translated as the interpretation of the mysteries – in this sense the mysteries of Baptism and the Eucharist. But also leading people deeper into the mysteries of the Christian faith.
I attended an adult Christian formation conference once that spoke about mystagogy in the contemporary church as the loving interrogation of our faith. It truly kind of captivated my imagination that we have this loving interrogation. So one thing that I have tried with our interns here, is that liturgically the Episcopal Church is so rich, and we’re swimming in this sea of liturgy all the time. But I think we don’t always realize the ways in which our liturgy is a missional tool, if we stop to process it, to ask questions about our experience of it, and to appropriate the lessons that God may be taking us through our liturgy in our every day experience.
So what we have done with our interns is we have had a mystagogy session after the Great Vigil of Easter here at the monastery, where I simply ask our interns, “What do you remember doing? What do you see? What words did you say or sing? What did you smell? What do you remember about the experience? And then how did it make you feel, just that honest, raw question of what feelings did you have?” And then a third question, “What of God did it reveal to you, or is it revealing to you still as you look back upon that memory of that liturgical experience?”
So today you might reflect on how the liturgy on how your experience of worship has been an expression of the mission of God in your own life.
– Br. Keith Nelson
Question: How is your experience of worship an expression of God in your life?
This activity invites you to explore the Baptismal Covenant in prayer and reflection during your day and throughout the week. Each morning, write a short prayer based on that day’s question from the Baptismal Covenant. Each evening, reflect on how you are living into this aspect of your faith.