July 31, 2016

“All Ye Saints and All Ye Teachers”

I went home this week to help a friend of mine plan her wedding that I’ll be officiating in September. It was good to go home, and I have needed to do that without having every last minute planned out for me.

I also took the time to speak to people from my past who I knew before I became a pastor. People I trust who know what church is like. I have a lot to learn about doing my job and figured I would learn better from people who don’t know me as a pastor or about this church. Makes it less personal. Just advice from folks who will be honest.

I need those voices in my life. We all do. We all need people who can teach us without worry about being too personal, or if they do know us that well, they can say it like we need to hear it. When you are in a line of work that takes you away from family and friends, honest conversation is one of the things you miss most.

Basically, I need a teacher.

The teachers in my life who have had the most impact are the ones who, I think, share a love for knowledge and people that are matched fairly equally. They care about individuals and yet they know that it is what collectively informs us that lets us move together.

What makes a person “smart” or “wise” or worldly isn’t how well we can make others to do what we want; it is taking what we have been taught and using it in the best ways possible. In addition to that, we have to learn how to make knowledge work for us as a whole world. Sure, those with the bigger sword are most famous in history, but the cultures and systems that lasted were the ones that were seen as smartest. That’s why our society is based on Greco-Roman forms and our math is based on Arabic systems. They were all powerful at one time, but it was their knowledge that lasts today.

We in the church hold up teachers in hopes they get some of the same love as our best leaders. We especially hold up those that took their knowledge and used it for the good of God and/or neighbor. Those who have lived good lives in that manner are what we know as saints.

The Catholic and Orthodox churches uphold a number of saints. Many of them are martyrs who died studying and upholding knowledge. The church is where many of our modern education systems were first honed. We should do our best to learn more about the saints and teachers of old for the purpose of growing our own faiths.

I think there are also saints and teachers that will never be mentioned in a textbook who are just as important. We all have people in our lives who taught us how to do certain things or who modeled what being a good person looks like. I’m sure for many of you, it is a former teacher or Sunday School teacher or family member.

I’ve mentioned before my grandmother is one of my personal saints for teaching me about manners, etiquette, style, and how to make biscuits. I also had a teacher growing up who told me that my charm and intelligence should always be tools and never weapons. Mr. Rogers told me a whole lot about loving my neighbor.

All these people – and many, many others – are my personal saints. I’m sure at least a few of you would consider the Rev. Fred Rogers, decked out in the cardigans his mother made for him, is a saint for you. What about saints here?

Every one of us needs a saint in our lives who will show us the way and teach us who to be. It is through our teaching of the faith that we will teach our children who God is, what the church is supposed to be, what being a Christian looks like.  We also need saints to teach us how to act here and now in Charlotte. I challenge the older generation to take a younger person under their wing and teach them about our history and what goes into putting on a Sunday lunch.

I challenge the younger people to seek out someone you respect and ask them to teach you. Get to know someone new this week – learn about them, pray with them, share what pains you and what hopes you have in life. I think this church could use to celebrate each other, and a great way to do that is to tell stories of the people who have really impacted your life.

Go on visits with our older members who have seen the world change over and over. Let them teach you what strength looks like or how to make good jam. Learn about this place you call home – even if you have been here your whole life.

Go ahead and try it. Meeting someone new isn’t scary after you say “Hi, my name is Nick and I know we have gone to church together for a long time but I still don’t know you.” Then you’ve made a friend and a connection. If we all go downstairs and do that with at least one person, our church will be that much more connected and our saints and teachers will do what they do best.

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