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Filtering by Tag: Jesus

Jesus as Teacher

Melissa Reeser Poulin

maxresdefault During Lent, on the advice of a friend, I read my way slowly through the book of John. I had told her I wanted to meditate on the mystery of the cross. I found a short commentary -- A Simple Guide to John by Paul J McCarren -- and tucked it into my bag along with my Bible, and I read passages during my light rail commute to downtown Portland, where I work as a language teacher.

Unexpectedly, I found myself meditating on the role of Jesus as teacher. Again and again, the sensitive writer of the commentary drew my attention to the many ways in which the book of John is the story of Jesus’ tireless, endless work as a teacher. John is the story of Jesus’ brilliant success, in his triumphant lesson on the cross, but it is also the story of his many failures. True, they are not his failures so much as his students’ failure to learn. Yet as a teacher myself, I found profound comfort in knowing that Jesus had mostly hard days in his classroom on earth.

Reading the gospel of John sent me into my own classroom each day with new eyes. I’ve often prayed before class, asking for Jesus to calm my nerves and keep my focus on him and on my students—not on myself. But with the words from John fresh in my mind, I started seeing teaching itself as an act of faith.

On page after page, I was seeing Jesus with new eyes. Jesus learning (learning, like us!) at the wedding at Cana. Jesus repeating the same lesson over and over again, with infinite patience. Jesus using stories and miracles to teach—metaphor both physical and verbal. Jesus teaching without degrees, without permission, without accolades and publications. Teaching in the midst of danger. Teaching in the midst of his own grief, loneliness, fear.

Over and over in John, Jesus invites those who would learn from him to admit their ignorance, and then to pay attention to their lives and their thoughts. He invites them to notice the gap between who they are and who God is, between their behavior and what they say they believe. “If you want to learn from me, you’ll have to follow me,” he says (12:26). In this way, though he is human like us, Jesus is the perfect teacher. Who he is and what he teaches are one.

Since March, I’ve continued to reflect on Jesus as teacher. I think about the slow apprenticeship of my own hard heart, the years of my wary approach to the cross and to Jesus, and how at first, I protected myself from the painful beauty of the cross by regarding Christ as one teacher among many. “I think he was a great teacher, like Buddha or Ghandi,” I said then. “He was one in a long line of prophets and teachers.”

It seems short, small, the distance between these arrogant, fearful words and the confession of faith I made years later. But the distance is huge. A canyon, a chasm. It’s an impossible journey I could not have made on my own. Grace carries me across this distance daily, nestling me into the strange reality of Jesus as both teacher and lesson, as both God and human. How grateful I am to be a perpetual student of Christ.

Does it matter if the president believes in Jesus?

Travis Griffith

Travis Griffith brings up a delicate topic that is sure to generate passionate response. We look forward to your thoughts!

Sometimes it's the little things that get me the most fired up.

While driving through the city on my way to a volunteer job where I work to advocate for children with speech delays, I saw a car with white writing plastered all over the windows.

My first thought was: 'Oh how cute.  A teenage girl is on her way to a state volleyball tournament and her friends scrawled good luck messages on her car.'

But no. As I got closer I realized the white writing belonged to an adult and the message was much more disturbing.

It said:

"America needs Jesus, not Obama."

And it was written on every window except the windshield. This raised my ire for a couple reasons.

First, I don't believe America needs Jesus. I believe some people in America do, but the country as a whole does not.

Second, to completely disrespect the president by saying his country doesn't need him is decidedly unAmerican. (Though the right to publicly state that feeling is quite American.)

The guy who wrote that phrase on his car is obviously a religious and Christian person. I wonder if he realizes this: God tells Christians in His Word that we are to pray for those He has placed in authority over us. When God gave that command in chapter 2 of I Timothy, he was not only speaking of Godly leaders but all leaders. Whether you like President Obama or not, Christians, I think, should believe he was put into power by God, and thus need to respect him.

Rather than denounce the president, why not convey a message that asks folks to pray for him?

The message on that car seems so simple and straightforward at first glance, but to me it sums up a lot of what I see wrong with Christianity today.

When exactly did the name Jesus become a term to fling around as a way to defend intolerance? I have not accepted Jesus as any kind of personal savior because I believe humanity has effective been ly taken away everything that had once so beautiful about the person Jesus was.

That's why I don't care whether or not our current president (or any future president) accepts Jesus as his or her personal savior or ever even attends church. It doesn't matter. I'd rather see presidents govern based on what they feel is best for the country, guided not by an archaic set of ignorant, intolerant beliefs but by a strong compassion and love for all humankind.

Isn't it possible that the real savior of America is not Jesus or the president, but the people who live here? When intolerance and fear are removed and replaced with love, America will move forward.

Until then we'll be stuck in the dark, trying to scare each other with handwritten messages on our cars.

Do you believe a President of the United States should accept Jesus?

Love... to all.


Travis Griffith, who left behind the corporate marketing world, choosing family and writing in lieu of “a comfortable life” financially, is a former atheist trying to define what leading a spiritual life really means. His children’s book, Your Father Forever, published in 2005 by Illumination Arts Publishing Company, Inc. captures only a fraction of his passion for fatherhood.


Note from the Web Editor: The thoughts presented within this blog post are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs of the entire Relief staff. Though there may be some differences between the journal’s theology and that of the author, we believe that the questions this author raises about faith and patriotism are important.


Michelle Metcalf

1983: In the third grade, my religion teacher, Mrs. Brandstetter, tells me a story during Tuesday night CCD class about a  woman in Mexico whose taco meat, after falling out of her tortilla at lunch, miraculously formed itself into a silhouette of the Virgin Mary. The image my young mind instantly created: small individual crumbly rounds of ground beef mysteriously and reverently moving themselves across a piece of Mexican hand-painted ceramic ware, one grainy chunk of meat at a time coalescing into feet, a robe, veil, nose and eyes. On the side table by the couch in the living room of my childhood, a small, engraved photo album. On the first page, a photograph of oil-stained window panels on an office building in Clearwater , Florida, that looked remarkably like a profile of the Blessed Virgin. A miracle on display wasn’t at all strange to my devoutly Catholic and generally superstitious family—why shouldn’t heaven and earth somewhere converge?

Once a year, we made it a family pilgrimage to gather with hundreds of people at the Holy Spirit Center just off the Norwood lateral about twenty minutes from our house to say the Rosary from lawn chairs on a hill while waiting for Our Lady of Light to make her midnight appearance.

Skeptic’s Dictionary: Apophenia (n): the experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, the "unmotivated seeing of connections" accompanied by a "specific experience of an abnormal meaningfulness." May be linked to psychosis or creativity.

2005: Hundreds gather at the Fullerton Avenue underpass on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago. They’ve come to see the Virgin Mary in the salt run-off. That same year, a pregnant couple sees the face of Jesus during their ultrasound at a hospital in Toledo. A concession clerk sees him in a nacho pan. He also appeared on the tinted windows at a hardware store in Rio Grande Valley, Texas, and, shortly before that, in a pecan tree to a Louisiana man who was barbecuing in his backyard.

We are programmed, Carl Sagan says, born with a propensity to identify the human face. It’s for evolution’s sake, so that we can make out faces from a distance using only minimal details. This is why we can recognize faces before putting in our contacts in the morning.

At the stroke of twelve, church bells rang, cameras flashed, we waited and waited.

But I saw nothing.

Type I Psychological error: (false positive, false alarm, caused by an excess in sensitivity): Often used as an explanation of some paranormal and religious claims, and can also be used to explain the tendency of humans to believe pseudoscience.

I saw nothing but the moon.

I saw nothing but the moon hanging heavy in the sky, so full that it made a glow behind the backs of the pine trees on the horizon.

*          *          *

Michelle Metcalf does believe in miracles, especially moonlight illuminating the trees. She lives in Cincinnati, OH and sometimes still prays Hail Marys out of habit, even though she is no longer a practicing Catholic.