For many Christians, the Sunday sermon is their only Christian teaching in the week, but we can learn new things in many other ways. Think, for example, about all the creative ways in which young children are helped to learn.
Think back to when you first became a believer – or the time when you started looking seriously into what it means to be a disciple. What helped or hindered you?
Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognising him. And he said to them, ‘What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?’ They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him, ‘Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?’ He asked them, ‘What things?’ They replied, ‘The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.’
Then he said to them, ‘Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?’ Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.
Do we ever have all the answers? Have we ever changed our minds about what we believe? There are many mysteries in our faith that even seasoned Christians struggle with. In some ways, faith is both instantaneous and involves a life-time of learning.
The dining hall is buzzing with conversation. Young people – fashionably dressed – are talking excitedly about their hopes for the future.
We are at the Church of Myanmar’s national youth conference, put on each year in the capital city Yangon. In attendance are 80 young people who were invited because they achieved high grades. The two-week conference acts as both an incentive and a reward for hard work in school, and is part of the church’s strategy to help young people reach their potential.
In the first week of the conference, there are workshops on Christian ethics, politics, spirituality, church history and sociology. In the second week, the students are sent to a diocese, not their own, so they can see the church in action in another part of the country. And, for a further 25 selected students, there will be an opportunity to undertake a church placement helping with community work.
The Most Revd Stephen Than Myint Oo, Archbishop of Myanmar, explained: ‘We need to build the capacity of our young people. They need to know about development, climate change, and other issues.’
The conference is just one initiative. The church is also keen to encourage informal education by encouraging the older generation to sit down with young people to share their wisdom and knowledge.
Conference attendee Crystalbell Lwin Myo Thu, from Yangon, is 17. She wants to go to university to study engineering.
‘I like the fun and the fellowship,’ she says. ‘The conference is a chance to make friends and learn about each other. It’s also a chance to think about our future.’
Stephen Orion, also 17 and from Yangon, hasn’t yet chosen what subject to study at university or what he wants to do after graduation. However, he is already busy volunteering with a local campaigning organisation.
He says: ‘The conference is interesting because we’re from different parts of the country so we speak different dialects, but we all get along anyway.’
Conference co-ordinator Naw Ladinee explains: ‘Putting the conference together is hard work, but it’s worth it to let the young people know that God is with them.’
Where there is church, there is mission! As water flows from a spring, so mission flows from the heart of God. The church is a channel for God’s ‘living water’. So we turn our attention to building up our church, and especially new believers.
Lord Jesus Christ, you called your disciples,
Baptised them, and encouraged them along the way.
Grant us clarity in our teaching,
Openness in our learning,
And commitment in our responding to your call.