Monday, February 18, 2013

Running Amok

Many people know that I was a school teacher for 16 years before entering the ministry.  I taught a lot of things and in a lot of places before finally settling down to being a minister.  I taught several times in elementary schools, teaching 5th grade three times, 2nd grade, 3rd grade, and even 1st grade (that was a huge mistake and I was tricked into doing it so I lasted a year in that job and then went on to bigger and better things).  I had the distinction of being one of the few teachers who mistook a tornado drill signal for a fire drill.  Hearing the bells, I lined up my group of 5th graders and began marching them out to the playground away from the building to protect them from the imaginary fire.  Looking around, I saw no other classes of children walking out too.  I told my class, "I guess no one else is participating today" and we walked back into the building and started our lessons again.  I was so embarrassed to find out that the imaginary tornado would have swept us all away if we had walked into it as we did.

Teachers are often like that, called upon to protect their charges against unseen danger.  The brave teachers in Newtown, Connecticut who gave their lives as they protected their students were examples of what it means to be truly called to the teaching profession.  Teachers routinely do what is needed so that their students will be safe and cared for.

I know a teacher who once taught special needs students in a rural Texas school district.  She had her students in a fenced in area outside one day when a stranger came by and began talking with her.  This man asked the teacher if he could come inside the yard and pray for one of the students saying that the believed God will heal the student if he prayed for him.  The teacher refused his offer and told him that he had to report to the school office and talk with the principal if he wanted to do anything.  The man walked away and said he would pray for him from a distance.  The teacher reported this incident to the principal but the man could not be located.

Jesus was often called "Teacher" by his followers and by others inquiring of him.  He wanted to guard his disciples and others who followed him.  In Luke 13 he compared his relationship to them as "a hen gathers his brood under her wings."  Jesus the Good Shepherd also called himself the mother hen.  In the same way that a hen will spread her wings so that her chicks can hide under them in the face of danger, Jesus used this term to describe the relationship he had with humanity.  The stopper, though, was in the last phrase of that same verse, "and you were not willing."  The mother hen could have her wings spread to provide a hiding place for the chicks but they had to run under her wings in order to find shelter.

Humanity is like that.  Humans are always seeking a place of safety from life's woes but few too many find the place of shelter in the arms of God.  "All we (like sheep) have gone astray; we have all turned to our own way..." (Isaiah 53: 6ab)  Whether humans are compared to chicks or sheep, we have all run amok  going here and there and rarely finding the shelter we truly have been seeking.  We all have our own ideas of how things should be and do not truly want to conform to the will of another who may have their own ideas.

Jesus, the Great Teacher, must have become very frustrated at times with the humans he knew best, his own disciples.  There are so many instances recorded in the Gospels where he attempts to teach them lessons he thinks they should know but they come across as thick headed and slow.  He tells them again and again how things will turn out in the end but they do not want to hear the dreadful news he must share.  Who can blame them for not wanting to think about their teacher leaving them?

Jesus lets his followers know, however, that even that old fox Herod cannot truly conquer him.  Jesus says he will continue to minister today, tomorrow, and on the third day he will finish his work.  Jesus seems to allude to what his life and ministry is about, bringing good news to humanity and bringing resurrection to all as the final work of grace he will complete.  Rome could not be the final word over him.  He would bring the message of salvation for all of humanity through his resurrection from the dead.

We all run amok, every one of us to our own ways.  Jesus is patient with us, though.  He will guide us with his staff as a good shepherd would.  He will spread his wings around us to protect us, as a mother hen would do.  He will teach us what we need to learn, as a good teacher does.  The journey continues with Jesus to guide us.    

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