Monday, March 8, 2010

Kiss A Teacher Today!


In 1775 on this date, Thomas Payne wrote his explosive paper, African Slavery in America.

Boy, did it upset things! It was like what happens when someone has experienced a temporary malfunction with flatulence control and releases noxious fumes into a small space. No one wants to acknowledge what has occurred and so everyone keeps on speaking as though nothing is amiss. Then someone just says it, “who ^#$#$%?”

Teachers are not just interested in making us learn multiplication tables or the capitals of the fifty states. Teachers mentor us in the fine art of thinking. Without teachers we imbibe and then regurgitate other people’s thoughts. Much of culture is just that – people drinking in the regurgitated thoughts of others, then regurgitating those thoughts back out into the ideaosphere for others to drink.

Teachers make us stop and ask, “do I really want to drink this? Is this really my own thought? What makes this thought true; just because everyone I know repeats it over and over? Does that really make it so?"

For some reason, teachers can make people very, very angry.

Socrates had to drink hemlock just because he asked too many questions and had too many people thinking at one time. That upset the upper crust of Athens.

It happens all the time. A real teacher messes up your head. It’s not usually pleasant.

I don’t like Thomas Payne, for example. He was antichristian, for one thing.

I respect him though, which is not the same thing as “like.”

He makes me answer important questions about my faith, my political beliefs and my commitment to a country in which we allow ideas to fight one another so the people who hold them won’t.

Payne was already telling the nation that was about to be born that this slavery thing was a really, really bad idea.

Six people attended his funeral.

Even so, he was, and is, a great teacher. He deserves to be thought of as one of the nation’s founding fathers.

Isn’t it amazing that our Lord used the word “teacher” in reference to himself more than any other tile?

Jesus was a powerful teacher. He made his points so clearly that to this day He is infinitely easier to read than all the people who try to explain him to us.

He was a supreme story-teller. He was not a scribe, that sort of rabbi who endlessly analyzed the sacred text and gave learned commentary on it. Jesus referred to scripture often. His public prayers were nearly always based upon the common prayers used in the synagogue. However, his words were not really rabbinical discourses. He was something like a first century Will Rogers, someone making points about spiritual life by telling tales of ordinary fishermen, farmers and runaway children.

Most of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem made fun of His style.

The people however, listened.

He was, of course, history’s greatest change agent. Western civilization’s all too gradual (but continual) liberation of slaves, women, and the poor; the care for the handicapped; respect for minorities and the powerless of society; all these social movements owe much to the preaching of Jesus. This world-changing power did not flow from political genius; it erupted from a gentle but persistent knock on the door of the human heart.

Jesus changed hearts. The men and women with changed hearts changed the world.

The Lord preached his first sermon in Caperneum. (Luke 4: 16-22) I have been there, among the ruins of that very synagogue.

The synagogue was remarkably similar to a modern church. Children remain with the adults for prayers and hymns, and were then dismissed to adjoining rooms in order to play and receive religious instruction. One can still see the marks on the floor where the children played a first century equivalent of hop-scotch. After the children were dismissed, Jesus took the scroll from its place, kissed it, unrolled it and read from the reading for the day: Isaiah 61: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me for He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” Then, after he had read his text, he said these words: “today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

From that day he kept teaching, in synagogues and open fields, mostly in the little towns around Lake Tiberias, what the New Testament calls the Sea of Galilee.

We still listen to sermons and songs based on his words. Sometimes, we even attempt to put His words into practice. When we do, the words still cause people to stop and stare.

Teachers are an enigma. The upper crusts profess an admiration for teachers but do not want their children to become one. The lower classes tend to make jokes about crazy teachers who don’t know how to tie their own shoes. We pay nearly everyone a lot more than we do teachers and then berate them because they are not doing a good job teaching our children.

Why anyone actually wants to become a teacher is a mystery.

But everyone in a while, a little boy or a little girl reads while others play, learns obscure things that interests no one else, then selects a career that doesn’t pay enough to survive.

Why do they do it?

Because the world is dark and someone needs to turn on the light.

1 comment:

pennyshire said...

Your second paragraph has me literally laughing out loud - hilarious - very vivid and familiar picture. :)