I am always struck when I read a warning in the Christian Scriptures. It provides a moment of clarity. It seems to me, to cut straight to the point. I get a sense for what the authors intentions are. It makes me sit up straight and pay attention.
One of the few times I preached at FPC I tried to narrate the Sermon on the Mount as a warning. I made the argument that Jesus wanted to be clear about what it means to be a disciple.
He was reminding the twelve of something he would have told them before, but he was really addressing the crowd. “If you are going to dedicate your lives to me, this is what you are signing up for,” Jesus is saying. “Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.”
James gives a similar warning to begin chapter 3. However, James is addressing a different audience and warning them of the incredible responsibility that comes with being a teacher.
James writes, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers and sisters, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” To be clear, James is in a polemical dispute about who is qualified to teach the Word. Yet, the words “Not many of you should become teachers” is a reminder of the seriousness of the task.
Not many us should become teachers, because not many of us can.
Acknowledging this gives me a great appreciation for the many educators in our congregation. You have been called to a life where too often you are underappreciated and underpaid. You persevere because teaching is more of a calling than a profession.
I am so grateful for you. We are so grateful for you.
You signed up to teach and you have been asked to be technology experts, social workers, mentors, and activists.Your concerns are frequently pushed to the side and your expertise questioned. You carry on with dignity because you love your students and couldn’t imagine doing anything other than teaching. Too often you only get the lemon rind and are still expected to make lemonade. The excellence you conjure is inspiring and almost unbelievable.
You are also mothers, fathers, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, coaches, and friends. You have been asked to give up even more time with these relations in order to adapt to an entire new form of education. We have asked too much of you and you always come through.
Not many of us should become teachers, because not many of us can continuously do the work that you are expected to do every day. Few of us can draw the ire of parents when their frustrations are misplaced. Even fewer of us can do more with less resources than you. Helping others is not a hobby or an option for you. It is what you have dedicated your life towards.
To all the teachers in our congregation, community, and world: You are amazing.
We need to do better for you as you continue to meet the challenges in order to serve and educate our children. As you begin this school year, in-person or online, there will no doubt be challenges. Unquestionably, you will be asked to adapt to these challenges and aspire to excellence.
When most of us are just trying to survive you have been asked to do so much more. All of us ‘looking in’ ought to do what we can to honor your commitment, integrity, creativity, and sacrifice.
Not many of us should be teachers. You are the few that can. Thanks be to God for your devotion.