July 12, 2020

Adult Bible Study Online

A current connection to each week's session

The Boy Jesus
Ecclesiastes 3:1; Luke 2:39-52

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Gordon Matties’s reflections on the first chapters of Luke point to the child Jesus as Wisdom incarnate. In this “theological prologue” to the gospel of Luke, the child Jesus, like Samuel before him, “amazed” those around him with a wisdom embodied in an ability to listen, capacity to understand, and courage to speak (Luke 2:47). Importantly, as Matties points out, though “filled with wisdom” already (Luke 2:40), the child Jesus “continued to grow in wisdom,” filled more and more and more with understanding throughout his life as he listened and then spoke the sacred promise of truth, peace, and justice into the world. As Ecclesiastes 3:7b states, and as Jesus seems to have lived, “[there is] a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

I think often about the dance—and the distance—between silence and voice, listening and speech, in my life. As a woman I have experienced dismissive and cruel silencing in my professional, personal, and faith life. I have been told directly and indirectly that my voice does not matter. I hate silence. And yet, I have also known restorative and creative quiet in my professional, personal, and faith life. Rebecca Solnit distinguishes between silence as a condition “imposed” and quiet as a condition “sought”:

Silence is what allows people to suffer without recourse, what allows hypocrisies and lies to grow and flourish, crimes to go unpunished. . . . The quiet of the listener makes room for the speech of others, like the quiet of the reader taking in words on the page, like the white of the paper taking ink. [1]

The child Jesus seeks quiet right there in the temple—and later in the desert and on the boat and in the garden. The child Jesus chooses quiet, chooses to listen, and shapes his voice, which will be radical and critical and bold, out of that quiet first.

How should we, as followers of Christ, traverse the distance between silence and speech? How can we choose quiet, choose to listen for truth, so that we might go on to speak truth as Christ did before us?

I listened this week to a rebroadcast of a 2011 conversation between On Being host Krista Tippett and Vincent Harding, civil rights leader and Mennonite pastor, and I heard the wisdom of a true listener. Harding, like Jesus, committed to the wisdom of listening, speaking, and acting at a very young age, as another sacred child, and still at almost 80, he paused again and again in the conversation to ask and to listen:

[H]ow, after all the pain that we have caused each other, how [do we] carry on democratic conversation that, in a sense, invites us to hear each other’s best arguments and best contributions so that we can then figure out, How do we put these things together to create a more perfect union? [2]

How shall we live, committed to listening to the “best arguments and best contributions” of everyone around us and also to the idea that we are—all of us—made in the image of God and capable, as Matties writes, of “accessing the wisdom of Jesus” (ABS, p. 36)?

—Kerry Hasler-Brooks, kerry.hasler.brooks@gmail.com

© 2020

1. Rebecca Solnit, The Mother of All Questions (Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2017).
2. Vincent Harding, “Is America Possible?” On Being, interview, updated November 10, 2016.

Kerry Hasler-Brooks is a professor of American Literature at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania. She researches and teaches at the intersections of race, gender, literature, and vocation and has written on diverse American women writers like Harriet Beecher Stowe, Maria Ruiz de Burton, Katherine Anne Porter, Toni Morrison, and Edwidge Danticat. She lives on an organic vegetable farm run by her husband, Nathan; loves to explore in the fields and woods with their two young children; and recently joined the 300-year-old community at Salford Mennonite Church, Harleysville, Pennsylvania, where she is learning to hear and practice anew the call of Jesus to radical peace, love, and welcome.

This article supplements Adult Bible Study, a quarterly Bible curriculum for adults. Adult Bible Study provides in-depth, challenging Bible study from an Anabaptist-Mennonite perspective, written by an intercultural group of pastors, teachers, professors, and leaders across Canada and the United States. Sessions include daily Bible readings, resources for additional study, and free downloadable resources.

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