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Saturday, May 29, 2010

From Sunday school

Every week I write my son Alton who is in prison in Jasper, Florida.  These letters include happenings of the week.  I include Sunday happenings in church and Sunday school.  In Sunday school we use Upper Room devotionals for our lessons.  I am enclosing excerpts here from my letters to Alton that deal with our Sunday school.  Mitch is our teacher.
This week we talked about overcoming fear and the value of gratitude.
In Sunday school Kunte brought up several issues that we discussed.  As you may know, Kunte is slow.  When he was growing up, kids would make fun of him and pick fights.  This experience still haunts him.  We tried to help him understand that this was in the past (actually, many years in the past) and that it should not condemn him to fear in the present.  Those that taunted him have probably matured and would not treat him the same today--maybe even be ashamed of how they treated him.  Not everyone was or is his enemy.  He has had and now has many friends.  He also said that at Trade Winds where he works, he is tired of washing dishes--he doesn't want to wash dishes all his life.  Mitch encouraged him to do a good job and have a good attitude, to mention to his boss that if the opportunity came along he would like an alternative job assignment.  Mitch said that by having a good attitude and being a good worker, he would have the best opportunity to impress his boss and get a job assignment more to his liking.  (I know how ambitious Kunte is, and know how frustrating it must be.)
In Sunday school we talked about the feeling each of us has for justice. We want justice. As Kunte pointed out, that's why we have superheroes like batman and superman--they swoop down and accomplish justice. But Mitch pointed out we have to be careful about always thinking WE know what justice is all about. As Jesus says there's more rejoicing in heaven when one lost person is found than celebration over those who are already righteous. That doesn't seem just or fair, but that's a glimpse of heaven's justice. Actually, probably that is a case where love trumps justice.
Bryan was not at Sunday school. He had been Baker Acted last week. Bryan has disabilities and lived in an assisted living facility. He was typically a very angry person and something just snapped. He may not be readmitted to the assisted living facility, so we may never have him in Sunday school again. The Sunday school lessons and discussions dealt with several important ideas. The desire for material goods is strong, but we will never be content or happy unless we desire other things as well--such as a desire to be generous to others, to realize the need for patience, the importance of getting satisfaction and happiness from serving the Lord in everything we do.   We discussed how it is important to face the reality of a broken world. If we try to deny reality, sooner or later bad things will happen. I mentioned I thought my mental illness in the 80's and 90's was such a consequence (my subconscious took over and in an unproductive way made my dreams materialize--at least in my mind.) We also discussed how the church when it is true to the spirit of Christ, is bound to produce something impressive. As the space shuttle or Starship Enterprise are products of purposeful organizations (no one person alone could achieve them), so the church as an organization can achieve remarkable results well beyond the abilities of one individual or even a group of individuals unguided by the holy spirit.
Good news, Bryan was back in Sunday school.  In Sunday School Vinney (who is blind) said that he appreciates God Bombs when he is down.  A God Bomb, according to Vinney, is when someone completely changes his mood by exercising kindness and goodwill in a loving, Christian spirit.  We also discussed that manipulation of others, while it can be done in an unchristian spirit, is not always bad.  For example, the Constitution and Bill of Rights (and laws & rules generally) are a positive way that human behavior is manipulated.  Just so, we can be more effective when we exercise Christian beliefs and tools in our behavior as we attempt to manipulate or control our environment for Christian ends.  Christ, while giving us freedom, clearly indicated the way to life and sought to lead us in that direction.  When parents seek to establish a Christian home, they are intentionally manipulating for good ends the environment in which their children are raised.  In other words, it is ok to use Christian tools (such as the Golden Rule, Jesus' parables, sayings, and loving approach) to influence and change our world--this is a form of manipulation (using tools for desired ends) but it is a good one.

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