Jesus the Teacher – and student
St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes School
10/07/14 – Episcopal Schools Week
The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales
There’s a picture in our religion room that you’ve probably seen many, many times but never REALLY seen. Do you know how sometimes you walk or drive past something every day and you don’t notice it until someone points it out to you?
This picture is a picture of Jesus but it’s not like any other picture I’ve ever seen. In this picture, Jesus is standing in front of a blackboard – (that’s kind of like a smart board only not as smart, and you write on it with chalk). Like a halo around his head are written these words: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me.” That’s the beginning of the words we heard Jesus say in the lesson we just heard. In his left hand, he is holding some of the ancient ways that people heard the word of God – a scroll and a beautiful, fancy Torah like you can still find in synagogues today. In his right hand are the tools we use today – a huge Bible like you see in churches, a sheet of loose-leaf paper, and, of all things, a laptop computer. The artist* who painted this picture calls it “Jesus the Teacher,” because he’s showing in this picture that Jesus taught way long ago and will still be teaching when our laptops and our iPads and our smartphones are long gone. Take a look the next time you come into the religion room (make a special trip sometime if you’re in the fifth grade!) and see “Jesus the Teacher.”
But Jesus wasn’t only a teacher. In the reading we heard today, he is also a student. When Jesus came into the synagogue, he came because it was the Sabbath, and that was what he had been taught to do on the holy day of rest. He was given the scroll of the prophet Isaiah – a prophet who lived 600 years before Jesus – and that is where he found the words we heard today:
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
Jesus had studied those words, and many other words of scripture, all his life. Before he could read, someone told him stories; then someone taught him to read; and others listened and debated and wondered with him about what the stories meant. All of those people, all of those stories, opened his imagination so that he recognized the work God was giving him to do.
What does all that have to do with Episcopal Schools Week, which we are celebrating today? Well, let’s look at the story and think about what we do here, at OUR Episcopal school.
The story starts with Jesus coming to his home town, a place where everybody knew his name, where he was known and loved. Our school is like a little home town – we even have a town fair once a year – where we know and care for one another.
Then Jesus entered a sacred space to worship, as was his custom. Every Tuesday, we have a custom, too. We come to a sacred space – an ordinary space made holy by what we do here – to worship God with prayers and song. In doing so, we join with countless people through the ages who have worshipped God in many ways.
Jesus read the words of the prophet Isaiah, someone who lived many generations before him. Here, too, we learn the wisdom of those who went before us, whether spiritually or in subjects like math and music and many more. We ask questions and debate and use our imaginations to find new answers to old problems.
Jesus announced to the people what his life’s work was going to be: to bring justice and mercy to the people who need it most. Sometime, in some way, each one of you will find your life’s work. Our hope, in THIS Episcopal school, is that you will find the seeds of something that will make your spirit sing, that will light you up like a candle so that you shine with the glory of God. And whatever you do, may you never forget that your true joy comes in serving people who most need justice and mercy. May you never be content unless you are doing something to make Isaiah’s words come true.
What’s happening in our school is happening in Episcopal schools all across this country, and also in Haiti, the Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela (not finished yet), Taiwan, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland. It turns out our home town is bigger than we could have imagined
Together, the 160,000 students – that includes YOU — in 1,200 Episcopal schools will make the world a better place. Together, we can keep doing the work that Isaiah and Jesus began. Together, we can BE good news for the world.
*Michael O’Neill McGrath