Reasonable

Reasonable.

Merriam-Webster dictionary definitions.
a :  being in accordance with reason <a reasonable theory>
b :  not extreme or excessive <reasonable requests>
c :  moderatefair <a reasonable chance> <a reasonable price
d :  inexpensive

When I encounter this word in our worship services, it makes me think.  It occurs in Prayer I of the Rite I Eucharistic Service (“a reasonable, holy, and living sacrifice unto thee”) and in the Prayers in the Rite I Burial Service (“a reasonable and holy hope”).  The meaning is that of the first definition above, being in accordance with reason.  It is a reminder of the three legged stool of Anglicanism: scripture, tradition, and reason.

In this vein I’m often reminded of a friend that I don’t see anymore, because church was our only connection. After years of faithful attendance and service in various offices, he told the rector he was leaving, not just that parish, but Christianity because he realized that he didn’t really believe it.  I’ve often wondered what it was that he didn’t believe – the existence of talking snakes?  Or shadows moving backwards on stairways?  Quite possibly I too don’t believe any of the things that he decided he didn’t believe.

The rector of another parish where I was for a while had the opportunity to engage another person in a similar state.  The rector asked him what it was that he didn’t believe, and on being told replied that he didn’t either, no thinking adult would.  The rector was given to observing that our faith isn’t like the Red Queen in Alice and Wonderland who believed six impossible things before breakfast.

The challenge it seems to me of adult Christian education is to transition adults from the childhood understanding of the bible to an adult one.  It’s no easy task and often thankless.  Once, on a retreat,  I was giving a talk on studying scripture.  In the course of praising the Oxford Annotated NRSV, I referred to the footnotes about the meaning of 616 and 666 in The Revelation to John; that they were equivalents in a numerological coding system that translated to Nero Caesar and Neron Caesar, respectively, and were for the purpose of encrypted communications.  One man at the back of the room became so enraged that his table mates had to restrain him from coming to the front of the room to punch me out.  This was a man in his late 20’s for whom Revelation must have been like a book of witches incantations, not anything reasonable at all.

For Education.–Almighty God, enlighten by your Holy Spirit those who teach and those who learn, that rejoicing in the knowledge of your truth, they may worship and serve you from generation to generation.  Amen.

Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 01-December-2015.

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