The Heart of the Matter

Rev. James A. Splitt

January 30, 2000

Deuteronomy 18:15-20 [NIV] The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, "Let us not hear the voice of the LORD our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die." The LORD said to me: "What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death."

Psalm 111:1-10 [NIV Praise the LORD. I will extol the LORD with all my heart in the council of the upright and in the assembly. Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the LORD is gracious and compassionate. He provides food for those who fear him; he remembers his covenant forever. He has shown his people the power of his works, giving them the lands of other nations. The works of his hands are faithful and just; all his precepts are trustworthy. They are steadfast for ever and ever, done in faithfulness and uprightness. He provided redemption for his people; he ordained his covenant forever ó holy and awesome is his name. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise.

Mark 1:21-28 [NIV] They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are óthe Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!" The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, "What is this? A new teaching óand with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him." News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.

What makes a good teacher? Who was your favorite teacher? Why? What makes one teacher stand out above others?

Andy Baumgartner is one such person. He was recognized not only as the Teacher of the Year for 1999 from the State of Georgia, but also out of all the finalists from all 50 states, Baumgartner was named the National Teacher of the Year for 1999 [see:http://www.ccsso.org/ntoy99.html]. As one who speaks with authority, Baumgartner states: "A nurturing classroom and school involve an environment where students feel safe to converse with peers, teachers and visitors alike, and one that encourages adventure, exploration and discovery," Baumgartner says. Also, "it should be a place where each child's needs for understanding and attention are understood and met, where they feel loved and treasured, and where there is a definite set of boundaries that are clearly stated and consistently enforced. Most of all, though, it must be a happy place for everyone."

Baumgartner is an example of one who teaches with a commanding authority. But what is it about the quality of his teaching that gives him authority. Is it his knowledge of Kindergarten? Is it all the education and academic degrees that he has? Ö Or is it something beyond knowledge? YES! Authority is more than knowing.

Jesus Christ taught with authority, not as the teachers of the law. The teachers of the law were experts; they knew the law. But that knowledge did not give them authority. Authority comes from love. Remember Paulís words in the 13th Chapter of his first letter to the Corinthian Church? (1Cor. 13:2 NIV) "If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing". The quality that won Andy Baumgartner national acclaim as Teacher of the Year had more to do with his passion and love for children and their experience of learning than knowledge that he possessed.

Jesus taught with "Love Intelligence." "Love intelligence is the basic attitude of God, the most fundamental aspect of divine reality" [Thomas Hora. Existential Metapsychiatry. P. 60]. This can be illustrated in teaching someone to swim. When I was growing up, I spent a lot of time during the summer at the swimming pool. I learned to swim, and went on to learn life saving and water safety instruction. I even worked at our neighborhood pool as a lifeguard. Most people want to learn how to swim. So you teach by giving step by step instructions about swimming. To teach someone to swim using a love-intelligence approach you would first teach him or her what swimming is and what it means to swim. Instead of figuring out how to swim, a person is taught that the essence of swimming is floating. "Floating is the quality of consciousness which is alert, attentive, and responsive to that invisible power present in the water which is called buoyancy." [Ibid. p.60]. To swim one must develop a love or a passion for floating. As a person grasps this meaning and embraces it, they will find joy and accomplishment in learning all the techniques and skill associated with swimming. Then we understand what it means when a person says, I really love swimming.

Jesus was a teacher of life. His passion for life was to bring others to know the meaning of Godís love in their life. His authority came in this remarkable love he had in teaching others to love God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength; and, to love their neighbors and as they would love themselves.

Baumgartner teaches with a passion for the childís experience of learning. He loves children into loving school, learning, discovering, and growing. You can take this model of teaching and apply it to every aspect of life.

Thereís a story about a carpenter who worked all of his life for one construction firm. He was one of the best in the business. Others came to learn from him and watch his mastery with wood. After many years, this carpenter decided to retire. When he announced this to his boss, his boss made a request that he build one last house. The design for this house would require all of his skill and finesse. Reluctantly the carpenter agreed, but half "heartedly." His effort was less than expected. He took shortcuts and used inferior wood. He just wanted to get the job done. Finally the house was done just barely passing inspection. His boss who had never been to the site or seen his work on this last house called him in to his office, thinking all the while that his employee had just accomplished a master piece. "Here, my good friend are the keys to your new house. It is my gift to you for all the years of excellence you have done on the job."

Can you imagine the feeling this carpenter must have had? The heart of the matter is the matter. It is the reason for being. God calls us into a relationship in which there is no retirement. The carpenter did not lose his knowledge or ability to perform well. He lost his passion and so he lost his authority as a master craftsman. Jesus wants us is to celebrate being in the beauty of Godís glorious creation and to be in awe of the God who loves us into loving others and ourselves. Thatís the heart of the matter. Amen.

References:Thomas Hora. Existential Metapsychiatry. New York: Seabury Press, 1977. The National Teacher of the Year Awards web site: http://www.ccsso.org/ntoy99.html].