By Rev. W. Ryan Hall
RiverTree Family Church
Apollo Beach, Florid
Doctor Sommerville was intoning in his NPR-quality voice about the Kingdom of Wessex. His eyes were dancing as he described Alfred the Great’s abrasive qualities. He paused in the middle of a story that was not especially gripping to our group of university sophomores when a hand jumped up.
Excited with the engagement, Dr. Sommerville called on the student who asked what we were all wondering, “Is this going to be on the exam?” Visibly deflated, the old professor of medieval England returned to the material on the class syllabus. The answer was clearly, “No.”
Dr. Sommerville had so much more to teach us than was ever going to be contained in his lectures. He loved his work and the gift of teaching what he had learned. He was looking to excite us with his life work. Most of us were just looking to get through the class with a passing grade.
During those college years, I attended a retreat where one of the leaders carried his guitar around playing music that awakened our hearts. I felt alive as he played. I became energized to be like him.
I saved up some money and found a consignment guitar and set about learning to play. I would play chords out of a book, but that was dry and lifeless. Then I would ask some friend who played to help me. Inevitably that one would agree to help and then sit there jamming and riffing and leaving me to marvel at such skill and lament my own lack.
Two different teaching styles--the same frustrating outcome. The common denominator is a poorly motivated student. Jesus is an excellent teacher. His lectures or sermons are engaging and inspiring. His example is moving and compelling. So often, I approach the gift of Jesus’ divine instruction with the same limp attitude I approached guitar or medieval England, “Just tell me what I need to know. Just show me how to do it.” Essentially, “Just make it easy for me.”
The teaching Jesus offers in lesson and example is vital. He truly is the way. But the way is not easy. It is not quickly picked up by absorption in some class. Jesus’ example invites us to a deep level of surrender. It requires profound commitment. But the answer still is not merely found in informed assent or increased effort. The aim of Jesus’ teaching is not simply so we might engage the lesson, but rather so we would embrace the teacher.
Prayer: Master and Teacher, show me the way. Give me an eagerness to learn, not just with my mind, but with my life. May I follow you in all things. May I never be quite satisfied with what I have already learned. May I always find peace in embracing you and the new thing you are always doing. Amen.
1. How do you make it difficult to learn the lessons Jesus is teaching?
2. What lesson have you been struggling to learn?
3. What would it look like for you to fully embrace the teacher today?