A few years ago, I remember feeling called to keep learning and go deeper in my Faith. About that time, I saw a bulletin note promoting the Diocesan School of Biblical Studies (DSBS). I decided to sign up for one year to see how it would go. Four years later, I’m in my last year of the class and so glad I embarked upon this journey. It has made me a better person and a better educator.
The Diocesan School of Biblical Studies has helped me better understand God’s Word as a whole, rather than just seeing it as a collection of inspired, yet independent, books. The class has also made the Word of God much more real in my life. The Greatest Commandment was one of the many things that made so much more sense after reading both the Old and New Testament and attending the Bible classes. A scribe questioned Jesus about which commandment is the greatest. Jesus replied, “The first is this: ‘ Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mk 12:29-31). Jesus, being a faithful Jew, was actually piecing together important pieces from the Old Testament with His answer about which commandment was greatest. The first part is the Hebrew (Jewish) Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-5. This would have been a prayer that a faithful Jew said every day. The second part comes from Leviticus 19:18 as an instruction of how to treat others. By reading and knowing both the Old and New Testament, one can see that Jesus was sharing guidelines for living that applied to the past, present and future.
“Since my time in the DSBS, the Greatest Commandment has come to serve as a guidepost to keep me on track. Am I placing emphasis daily on my relationship with God?“
Since my time in the DSBS, the Greatest Commandment has come to serve as a guidepost to keep me on track. Am I placing emphasis daily on my relationship with God? Am I reaching out to my neighbor? My husband and I actually used a Gospel containing the Greatest Commandment at our wedding this past December to help ground us in our marriage.
The DSBS has also helped me see that loving God means being real with God through countless examples of people in the Bible speaking with God. These people aren’t always speaking in words that form perfect prayers; frankly, some of their words are even shocking. Take Jeremiah, for example, who was called to be a prophet at a young age, as a person who didn’t feel like a great public speaker, and in a time when prophets were being persecuted. In a conversation with God, Jeremiah said, “You have duped me, O Lord, and I let myself be duped.” (Jer 20:7) Reading this prophet’s words and other important conversations with God has helped me see the importance of being real with God. Prayer is supposed to be a conversation. If things are going well, I can tell that to God. I don’t need to sugar coat or gloss over with statements ”It’s just God’s will.” By being real with God, God can meet me where I’m at, and begin to work in my heart. My Faith is now driven by a genuine conversation with God.
I have become more convicted, after exploring the Bible more closely these past four years, to actually love my neighbor. Interestingly, reading the Bible has expanded who I consider my neighbor. In the Old Testament, there were actual laws set up to take care of those who were widowed, orphaned or aliens (foreigners). Ruth, for example, was a foreigner who had recently been widowed before she moved to Israel. She was able to survive because of the Hebrew law that required those harvesting their crops to leave a little of the grain on the ground. That little bit left behind fed people like Ruth. In the New Testament, Jesus reached out to those who were sick, sinners and those on the fringes of society. Loving my neighbor calls me out of myself, out of my Church, into a worldview that includes all people. Loving my neighbor calls me to service of the foreigner, the sick, the sinner, to name a few.
As I near the end of my four years with the DSBS Bible class, I am both excited and sad to be complete the program. I’m excited to not worry about making sure my homework is completed, but sad that I won’t have the structure to keep me reading and diving deeper into God’s Word. However, I am forever grateful that I took the chance and signed up for the unknown because I have been changed for the better.
Story by Sarah Aerts
Published in the May/June 2019 Issue