Sunday, October 18, 2009

Baptisms and the ACT in Cleveland

In an entry last week, I referred to an "Eeyore problem" that I had observed around Northeast Ohio. Somehow it managed not to draw a flood of negative comments. I would hope that even if people might be tempted to agree that they will do their best to make a change. I reread the entry today and noticed that it certainly reflected more than my usual amount of cynicism. I suppose that was my point: in spite of our challenges, we should all strive to count our blessings and work toward a better future.

Church this week (and this month) seem particularly able to encourage such optimism. While the hymn "If You But Trust in God to Guide You" may be not be the most hummable, familiar tune, the text of trust and grace epitomize the hope and optimism that I always find at the heart of Lutheranism. Of course, the many baptisms in our church lately are always happy moments. We welcome a new member to our congregation and family in Christ.

I was thinking about the sharp contrast between my daily life and the practice ACT test that I administered at a public school in Cleveland this past week. Walking into city high schools can be a depressing experience, the institutional browns and yellows and fluorescent lighting, the teachers shouting for attention, and the sometimes listless or disrespectful students. However, in the midst of this setting, in a raucous room and a challenging environment, I watched a young woman in a Jr. ROTC Air Force uniform put all her effort into the ACT. She wasn't alone; in that crowd were a handful of students who were clearly focused and determined to do their best. I still haven't lost the hopeless romanticism and optimism that shine from those students.

With education and students on my mind, I was flipping through the ELW and discovered that nine hymns are listed under the heading "Education," including ELW 676 "Lord, Speak to Us, That We May Speak." To teach, to lead, to raise children, and to spread optimism (what Tillich collectively referred to as "the courage to be") all require a source of strength and inspiration, which this hymn expresses in its third verse:

Oh, teach us, Lord, that we may teach
The precious truths which you impart;
And wing our words, that they may reach
The hidden depths of many a heart.

1 comment:

  1. Often the Gospels refer to Jesus as "teacher" (or Rabbi). While teachers are called to fill a special role in our society, it also "takes a village," and part of that village absolutely must be the church. Our gifts, our prayers, our role modeling, and our votes on important national and community issues should reflect the role of every person as a teacher to all the children. I am not convinced that romanticism and optimism are ever "hopeless," however. In fact, they may be "audacious."