I recently got a surprise evening phone call from a member at my former church. She had been in my Sunday school class and we had served together briefly on a church committee. Despite it having been over eight years since we last spoke, with little preamble she said, â€œI need to ask you a question.â€
â€œO.k.,â€ I said, â€œWhat is it?â€ thinking to myself that conversations that start out this way often come to unfortunate ends. And her question did catch me by surprise, but not in the way I was beginning to anticipate.
She said she thought she remembered me saying something in a Sunday school class regarding how plants grow. She asked if she was right in remembering that Iâ€™d said that plants donâ€™t actually grow toward the sun.
I laughed aloud at that unexpected question, and said that, yes, that was true. Then she asked me to explain that to her since sheâ€™d just had a conversation with her sister and had had difficulty in justifying having said that. Apparently her sister had been unconvinced even when my friend had cited the unimpeachable and authoritative source of her information. I could just hear it: â€œBut my Sunday school teacher said so, so it must be true!â€
I explained to her the reasons and causes for why what sheâ€™d told her sister was true. She listened intently and I heard her scribbling notes, imagining a follow up conversation to share the facts with her skeptic sibling. We chatted a bit, catching up with news of our families, and then she ended the conversation with a sincere and affectionate, â€œI love you! Youâ€™re still my favorite Sunday school teacher!â€
I must admit that I admired her dedication in tracking me down to confirm that little fact and to justify her confidence in its veracity (as well as mine, I suppose). And I must admit that I was astounded to hear that someone actually remembered anything I may have said ten years ago in a Sunday school class. But I found myself wondering if sheâ€™d remembered anything else Iâ€™d said over the course of time I spent teaching that Sunday school classâ€”something of more substance than that little piece of trivia. I would hope for recall of some deep theological truth, a lofty concept, a deep principle, something with a little more gravitas than a factoid about plant life.
This episode may just serve to confirm that as a vehicle for religious instruction Sunday school falls very short of its stated intent of educating people in the faith. As I often say, at best, itâ€™s benign. But it may also confirm what Sunday school really is about, namely, just getting people together to build relationships and friendships under the excuse of â€œstudyingâ€ something important. And I must confess, hard as I try, I cannot remember a single lesson the long line of patient saints who were my Sunday school teachers tried to instill in me. Honestly, I cannot recall with any specificity a single concept, lesson topic, fact, or truth from any single lesson. This surely says more about me as a student than about them as the faithful and dedicated teachers they were. But if youâ€™d ask me, I could tell you much about who they were, what they meant to me, and about the many gifts of grace they gave me, in abundance and with extravagance, along my personal journey of faith. I carry a little bit of each of them as part of who Iâ€™ve become through my Christian faith. And for that gift, I am forever grateful.
“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.” Steven Wright
Date posted: Saturday, April 28th, 2007 11:18 pm | Under category: Sunday school
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