T is for Teacher
Mr. Lambert. Miss O’Donnell. Mr. Marshall. Mrs. Lawlor. Mrs. Ring. The names of my best teachers are written on my heart. Though it has been decades since high school, and I sometimes need to consult a yearbook to recall the names of certain classmates, my teachers still shine clearly in my memory. But that isn’t saying enough. It isn’t just that they left a mark that remains somewhere in the back of my mind, but that they gave me something of their own passion and spirit, something that helped to shape and animate my own spirit.
The best teachers give us much more than knowledge about a subject. They give us themselves and show us by their caring that true study involves the heart as much as the head. I remember being sometimes astounded, in my youth, at the way that one of my teachers might get so excited about the lesson that he would jump around the classroom singing in French, or how another teacher might get very quiet all of a sudden, and you’d see a twinkle in her eye, while she was reading a Shakespearean sonnet. These are wondrous moments when something is communicated that transcends any lesson plan. I may be wrong, but I doubt that many lesson plans include the direction, “Now let your light shine.”
Of the 90 or so times that Jesus is addressed directly in the Gospels, he is called “Teacher” 60 times. Don’t think for a moment that this is a lowlier title than any of his others. He comes to fulfill the promise given by the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke of a day when the covenant would not need to be written on a chalkboard: “I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” He comes not just to tell us about God, as an astronomer might point to the stars, but to reveal God’s glory in the midst of our lives and give God’s own Spirit to us, so that love’s pure light may shine within us. Just as he will reach out on the cross to embrace the whole world with divine grace, so too he gathers the world into his manger, to be born anew with him as children of God.