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FIRST-PERSON: Sept. 11 prompts review of the Master Teacher’s syllabus

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Do you remember your favorite teacher? One of my favorites was Ralph Hillman, a professor of speech communication at Middle Tennessee State University. Dr. Hillman seemed to be everybody’s favorite in the speech department. He’s the kind of teacher who has a love not only for the subject matter but also for his students. Most of us thought of him as our favorite teacher because we were each convinced individually that we were his favorite student.

Dr. Hillman takes the time to get to know his students, and he encourages his students to know each other. He also wants his students to know him. He passes out the class syllabus along with a generous portion of himself. He wants the class to understand his personality and his passion for posture, public speaking, perfect pronunciation and peer reviews. Oh, I forgot popcorn! When I was a student, Dr. Hillman served fresh, hot popcorn every Friday.

As you can imagine, this made for a fun class and a friendly atmosphere. But as I recall, sometime around midterm exams, Dr. Hillman began wearing a round pin on his collar that read “No More Mr. Nice Guy.” I had a few classes with Dr. Hillman, and I understood that when he started wearing that pin, he was reminding us that as students that we needed to have a commitment to the class. There were requirements to meet, and final exams were nearing.

Dr. Hillman had enough experience to know that as the semester wrapped up, “favorite” students might begin approaching him for “favored” status. He would refer them back to the syllabus time and time again, reiterating the requirements and responsibilities of the class. When Dr. Hillman got tough, it surprised some people, but it shouldn’t have. There is a time and a place for everything, as the writer of Ecclesiastes says. There is a time for wading in and splashing around, and there is a time for diving to the depths, equipped with the gear and knowledge to survive.

Since Sept. 11, many people have wondered what time it is in America. I’ve received e-mails of prophecies from Nostradamus to Ezekiel, and I still don’t know if it’s midterms or finals. What I do know is that we were given a syllabus, God’s Holy Word, and it clearly spells out what is expected of us. Are you guilty of desiring to be the exception? I continue to hear our land referred to as a “Christian nation.” We may be enrolled, but have we made a commitment to the class? Just because your name is on the roster doesn’t mean that the teacher recognizes you.

There is a Master Teacher who came and lived among us for 33 years. The week before the crucifixion, Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ‘Hosanna in the highest!'” (Matthew 21:9).

In the streets, the crowds were blessing Jesus and proclaiming him to be their Messiah. In the temple, however, it was a different story. People were using their religion and God’s holy house as just another way to make money. All the goings-on made the temple appear as just another marketplace — full of distractions that would prohibit worshipers from focusing on God. “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers, and the benches of those selling doves. ‘It is written,’ he said to them, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers'” (Matthew 21:12-13). I’m sure that some people were quite surprised at this display of righteous anger. Is this the same man who came gently into town, riding humbly on a little donkey?

God’s Word says that we are his dwelling place. “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit lives in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16). If we are going to proclaim him as the Messiah, we shouldn’t act so astonished when he begins to clean out the temple. God will get rid of the distractions that keep us from focusing on him. You know what takes your eyes off him. And you know what you try to get away with!

There is a line from an old song by Randy Stonehill that I love. Speaking of the Lord, he sings, “He understands the human heart. His mercy is complete, but his grace was not intended as a place to wipe your feet.” If you have signed up for this course, there are some requirements. Find your syllabus. Review the course outlines. Read the book the Teacher wrote. And get ready — you will be tested on this material. There are pop quizzes every day, but keep in mind that your final answer is Jesus Christ.
Powell’s book, “Baby Boot Camp: Surviving the First Six Weeks of Motherhood,” is available at www.rebeccapowell.com. Copyright 2001 Rebecca Ingram Powell.

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  • Rebecca Ingram Powell