Sermon for May 22nd, 2022

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Romans 12:1-8

1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.

3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. 6 We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; 7 ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; 8 the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

Spiritual Gifts (and how to give them): Teaching

Today's sermon is going to be a short one, since we have our stepping up ceremony still to come. But some of you know that I like to start off the sermon with a little bit of humor, and considering today's audience is quite a bit younger I'm going to adapt my style accordingly and tell you some of my favorite teacher jokes.

  • Why did the student eat his science assignment? Because the teacher told him it was a piece of cake!
  • What's a teacher's favorite nation? Expla-nation.
  • Why did the teacher jump into the ocean? She wanted to TEST the waters!
  • What did the ghost teacher say to her class? Look at the board...and I WILL go through it again.
  • Why was the geometry class tired? Because they were all out of SHAPE!
  • Why does a music teacher need a ladder? To reach the high notes.
  • What are ten things a teacher can always count on? Her fingers!
  • What kind of school teaches you about ice cream? Sundae School.
  • What is the difference between a Teacher and a Train? The teacher says “Spit your gum out” and the train says... “Chew, chew!”
  • Why Do Teachers Fart in Class? Because they are not private tooters.

Today we're going to talk about teaching and learning, because teaching is one of the Spiritual Gifts mentioned in the Bible. But before we talk about teaching, I want to talk about spiritual gifts. What do you think of when you hear the word "gift?" A Birthday present? A Christmas present? Something you give to another person? A Spiritual gift is like that, but it's not something you can unwrap or hold in your hands or even see! A Spiritual gift is something that God helps you to DO for other people. Something that helps other people; something that makes them feel special or loved or happy.

Some people think that a spiritual gift is like a talent or an ability--like someone who can play a musical instrument, or someone who's really good at sports, or math, or drawing pictures. Those are all good things; they ARE "talents;" but that's not what the Bible means when it says "Spiritual Gift." A Spiritual gift is something that God helps you to DO for other people, to help them--and ANYONE can give another person ANY of the spiritual gifts. You don't have to be good at something to do it--that's why it's called a SPIRITUAL gift. God helps us to do things for other people even when we're not very good at it!

So today we're talking about the spiritual gift of teaching. And usually when we talk about teaching, we think of teachers. Can you please stand up if you're a teacher? We want to thank our teachers for helping us to learn, and to be better people.

In the Reggio Emilia philosophy, which our school is based upon, parents are considered to be the first and most important teachers in any person's life--can you please stand up if you are a parent? We want to thank you for teaching our students every day, too!

But wait...can you please stand up if you have ever taught something to another person--like if you've taught someone how to tie their shoes, or if you have taught someone the words to a song, or if you have helped someone to figure out a problem? By now, I think everyone should be standing up...because it's true that everyone, sometimes, gets to be a teacher. Everyone gets to give that spiritual gift of teaching to help other people. You can sit down now!

In our school this year, I've watched so many times as our students have helped each other to figure things out--in band or music class, in all of our project cycles, out on the playground--they are all young, growing teachers as well as learners, and I think I can speak for all the teachers when I say that we learn just as much from them as they do from us.

And that's really what our school is all about, what the Reggio philosophy is all about, and I think what Jesus was all about, too. You've heard it said that in "giving we receive, and in pardoning we are pardoned." I think that also works with education: In teaching others what we know, we learn even more ourselves.

But how do you teach? How do you give that spiritual gift of teaching to another person? Do you just say lots of stuff and hope they understand? Do you just say, "Watch this! Now you do it!" Do you open your brain, pour it out into a bowl and then shove it inside another person's head? I wouldn't recommend any of these approaches as the best way to teach someone something.

The word EDUCATION is a very old goes all the way back to Ancient Rome and the Roman people, who spoke Latin. They came up with the word "educate" by putting together two even older words: EX + DUCO. DUCO means to take or pull or lead something, and EX means OUT. To take out, or pull out, or lead out.

So to educate someone doesn't mean to put things in their head that weren't there before. It actually means to help them find and draw out what was already there, already inside them, just waiting to be discovered. Think about that for a minute. You already have everything inside your brain that you need in order to solve any problem you will ever encounter. But sometimes you need a friend, a parent, or a good teacher to help you draw it out.

And sometimes you need to BE that good friend, parent, or teacher for someone else--that means being patient and kind, it means not just telling or showing, but helping your friends to figure things out for themselves and to find their own voice. It means being willing to walk with someone, or to sit and just listen. Sometimes teaching someone means asking just the right questions at the right time...and then being ready to learn from them as much as they are learning from you.

One of my favorite ways to teach is to tell stories...and then to let you figure out what you think the story means! So I want to end today with a story about a dog named Charlie.

Charlie's owner had read somewhere that if you gave your dog apple cider vinegar every day, it would help him live a long time and be healthy. But Charlie was a pretty big dog, and so every day Charlie's owner had to chase him around the house, wrestle him to the ground, pry open his mouth, and pour down the Apple Cider Vinegar. Neither Charlie nor his owner enjoyed this very much, and each day it left both of them miserable and exhausted. One day, Charlie just couldn't take it anymore, and while his owner was trying to hold him down, Charlie kicked out his leg, and the bottle of Apple Cider Vinegar went flying across the room, spilling everywhere all over the floor. Charlie looked very relieved as his owner left the room to go get some towels to wipe up the mess. But when Charlie's owner came back into the room, what did she see? To her shock and amazement, she saw Charlie, standing right in the middle of the puddle, licking up all the Apple Cider Vinegar from the floor. Turns out Charlie really liked Apple Cider Vinegar...he just didn't like someone forcing it down his throat!

Students, Families, and Teachers of First Presbyterian Elementary School, and People of First Presbyterian Church--I hope you all have a wonderful summer! Keep learning, keep teaching, keep showing up, and keep stepping and every day of your lives. May God bless you and keep you. I'm so proud of you all.