dsc07319{Day three in Lent 2017, and I see this mug in the cupboard. It prompts the following:}

A couple of decades ago, I served as Director of the Video Education Center at our denomination’s “graduate center for educational ministry,” the Presbyterian School of Christian Education (PSCE). Occupying two rooms in our administration building was the independently-run Ecumenical Resource Center. What a treasure!

It offered curriculum resources, media, workshops, and seminars, and individual consultation for church educators, both the pros and the volunteers. Plus coffee.

The mug’s design includes the globe, plus a now-primitive audio-visual contraption, three multi-ethnic constituents (I suspect they’d reconsider the Asian stereotype these several years later), and print resources. Four quadrants and a cross. It might look as if the cross is separating the images, but to me it’s more like they surround it.  At PSCE, we used to say that everything the Church did was “Christian education.” Words and deeds, counseling and worship, singing and meetings…all opportunities for teaching/learning. All helping disciples (learners) grow in knowledge of and commitment to the one whose cross now stands empty.

The resource center was ecumenical; that is, it helped Baptists, Roman Catholics, Armenians, Episcopalians, and everybody else nurture faith, and love God and neighbor. It turns out that, yes, the word ecumenical has to do with being “world-wide,” but at its root is the more narrow concept of “house,” a place inhabited. All of us on the Lenten path started from the same house, it turns out. So, we could say shared discipleship is housekeeping.

As the reverse side of the mug says, the resource center crossed cultures and traditions, recognizing what we all have in common, and not wringing our hands over the theology that might divide us. To be sure, we are divided that way even within our denominational closets. But in this age of shrinking churches, when budgets can’t (or won’t) support resource centers anymore, ecumenical or otherwise, crossing over cultural boundaries and valuing one another’s traditions adds strength to the very center of who we are as the people of God.

dsc07320

Crossing cultures and traditions

Back to that word “disciple.” We commonly think of that word as being a synonym for a “follower” of Jesus. But its root meaning is learner, pupil, student, or even apprentice. When modern day disciples are on their Lenten journeys, following Jesus to the cross, they (we) may adopt certain practices or disciplines. (Too bad that the word “discipline” has come to mean punishment these days. That’ll teach us a lesson!) Those practices are really learning experiences. By fasting (giving something up for Lent, we used to say), by engaging in acts of generosity, hospitality, or compassion, by devoting more time and energy to prayer or meditation — are not all of these what we might call extended “teachable moments?”

This mug thing of mine, using humble vessels to prompt some thoughts as I walk my own path toward Easter, is a learning experience for me. I was hoping it would be. My apprenticeship in housekeeping is just beginning.

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