- Pamela Jolicoeur
- Paul J. Dovre
- Anna Rhode â€™09
- Arland Jacobson
- Larry Papenfuss
- Polly Kloster
- Roger Degerman
- Stephanie Ahlfeldt
- Susan Oâ€™Shaughnessy
- Kristi Rendahl
- Dr. Heidi Manning
- Roy Hammerling
- Pamela Jolicoeur
- Jan Pranger
- Nikoli Falenschek '11
- Bruce Vieweg
- Dr. Paul Dovre
- Whitney Myhra '11
- Bruce Houglum
- Dr. Lisa Sethre-Hofstad
- Dr. Paul Dovre, Interim President
- Nick Ellig
- Virginia Connell
- Per Anderson
- Vincent Reusch
- Larry Papenfuss
- Carl-Martin Nelson
- President William Craft
- Dr. Olin Storvick
- George Connell
- Robert Chabora
Dr. Roy HammerlingConcordia Chapel
April 19, 2010
Dr. Roy Hammerling
Isaiah 30:20-21, ”Though the Lord may give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. 21And when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”
Isaiah 50:4, “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.”
Matthew 8:18-20, “Now when Jesus saw great crowds around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. 19A scribe then approached and said, ‘Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.’ 20And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’”
“And as he sat at dinner* in the house, many tax-collectors and sinners came and were sitting* with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, ‘Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick…’”
Hymn: Be Thou My Vision
The Wonders of the Word and the World
The other night I had a dream.
A person came to me beside a placid river
and said with a calm but stern voice, “Go and teach.”
As I stood there puzzled, the moment sadly was lost. The person turned away and I awoke; along with the night the dream faded with the morning light. And that was that.
I forgot the dream, until a few nights later, another dream, the same person along the same river.
This time I spoke first, “Tell me, what should I teach?”
The person smiled,
The wonder of the word,
the wonder of the world.”
The person left again, I awoke, the night was gone, the sun shined through the window on my face.
A third dream: the same man, the same river.
“What is wonder?” I asked.
Smiling the person said,
“Wonder is . . .
wisdom which makes you human,
truth which exposes falsehood
and drives cruelty from the heart.”
He turned and walked away and I was alone, and knew not what he meant.
I was suddenly rudely awakened by a politician spouting lies on my alarm clock radio.
I. “The Wonders of the Word and World.”
I am not one normally given to vivid dreams or visions, and I do not think that these dreams were anything more than my subconscious mind moving about images in my head attempting to deal with the stress of going through a promotion evaluation, the prioritization process, and having to write a chapel talk amidst a busy time of the year. And yet, when I awoke I was immediately compelled to write down the mysterious words, because they haunted me.
To be honest, my sleep of late has been uneasy. I keep hoping for the person to return, because I have more questions.
As I prepared for this talk, I was unable to get the dreams out of my head.
As a result, I decided to give in and contemplate what the stranger meant.
After some thought, this is what came to me.
Alas, it is the best I can do.
“Why do we teach?”
A. We Teach to Wonder
We teach out of a deeply rooted need inside of ourselves to seek and to find wonder.
Teachers are obviously both instructors and students at the same time.
Teachers cannot teach unless they have first been good students, who have learned something worth teaching. The greater the student, the greater the potential of the teacher, if . . . and only if she can find a way to communicate her insights with clarity. Teaching then is inherently an act of self-improvement that benefits the teacher first and her student second.
By way of comparison then, the best students are those who have sought after and discovered wonder.
Augustine of Hippo about the year 400 noted in his Confessions that as a student his own educational experience was rather troubled. He observed that he never really learned very well when his education was forced upon him, especially if his teachers humiliated him or used a whip as motivation. Education that is based on stern reprisal for not following a strictly prescribed program rarely moves toward wonder, but is generally lost in the wasteland of necessity. Rather, Augustine noted that he learned best when he studied out of the fruitful fields of the love of learning; he added that when he pursued truth and wisdom, wherever they led him, for their own sakes, then real learning happened.
Wonder is what enlivens both student and teacher alike, because when we wonder the arduousness of the learning process is lost in the moment of the sheer joy of having come face to face with truth.
Poor teachers and students
Lazy or bad teachers often are easily recognized by the fact that they have no wonder in them. Teaching, when it becomes a task, a job, an obligation, or simply a way of making money, -- or even simply forcing our ideas on someone else -- often is done mindlessly or mechanically. The goal is to get through the class or semester with as little effort as possible. Questions are unwelcome, inquiry is shunned, and in the end learning is lost.
Poor students refuse to wonder at what they learn because they either lack the curiosity or the will to risk losing themselves in what they study; often they live for graduation day; the day when they believe their lives will really begin. In the meantime, they don’t want to be bothered.
Who among us has not wasted an hour with a teacher who has been unprepared or unconcerned about the subject matter. No wonder gave light to their eyes or set fire to our ears. I am reminded of the title of a children’s book from some time ago, “The Geranium in the Window Just Died, but Teacher You Went Right On.”
And who among us has not had our minds soar to the very gates of heaven itself when a teacher brought the wings of wonder into the classroom. Or as Shakespeare once said, “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”
But how do we learn wonder?
Oddly, at this point the words from my dream come back to me.
“We need to learn the wonder of the word, the wonder of the world.”
The wonder of the word, it seems to me, are texts/words/complicated theories that flow down to us in the modern world from a wondrous river that is fed by many trickling tributaries. They are, to name just a few, the streams that issue forth from . . .
Beethoven or Beatrix Potter,
Jung or Jane Austin,
Kierkegaard or Kurosawa,
Lincoln or Lao Tzu,
Madam Curie, Mozart, or Marin Luther King Jr.,
Plato or Pasteur,
Van Gogh or Da Vinci,
Moses, Buddha, Maimonides, Jesus, Muhammad, or Gandhi,
holy precious texts and raucous Irish tunes,
all inspire wonder,
all spilling forth wisdom from one pool into the next eventually winding up in our cups called classrooms from which we drink, and are refreshed with awe.
The wonder of the world, on the other hand, seems to be the way we experience and embrace our distinctly human psychological make up, our biologically complex bodies, our philosophically sophisticated brains, our religiously troubled souls, or simply our encounter with the wonder of the cosmos, from atoms to the stars, and the mathematical complexity of existence.
To honestly engage life we need wonder if we are to learn anything worth remembering or teaching. For if all we ever learn is simple information, then computers are our better, and we are most to be pitied. Information does not make us wise, any more than being the richest people in the world would make us kind.
B. Wonder humanizes our characters and keeps at bay the tyranny of life.
We also teach, as the great Latin poet, Ovid (43 BC- 18 AD) once said, because “. . . a faithful study of the liberal arts humanizes character and permits it not to be cruel.”
Indeed, I would go one step further, a faithful study of the liberal arts, is teaching that focuses on wonder and it is wonder that helps to humanize us. For what else is wonder but a moment of insight when truth becomes visible and wisdom obvious. It is the moment when truth exposes the falsehoods of life and our dormant hibernating consciences are awakened in the warmth of spring, so that thawed they may care for not only our neighbors but even our enemies. Wonder humanizes us so that we are able not only to see but to challenge the inevitable tyrannies of life. How often have we been seduced by the false truths of setting aside the common good for our own good. When we trick ourselves with arguments that claim what is good for me is good for all, it is then that we so desperately need to be taught the wondrous truths of the word and world.
Indeed, the wonder of the word and world can be revealed in many a strange place. Harry Potter teaches the virtue of friendship, “Schindler’s List” exposes the cruelty of ideology, Einstein the mystery of the universe, and Florence Nightingale offers us the dignity of humanity.
Alas, if we open our ears today we hear a din some call life, which is filled with the harsh shrill dialogue of people across this great country spouting cruel words, and calling them virtue. The goal of promoting our own party over the good of those in need has become a dark art. Political parties, both blue and red, in particular, along with organizations of all types of focused self interests, have abandoned promoting the common good, in favor of what serves them best. And while we argue, more people suffer for the sake of rhetoric. Compassionate truth, the ability to see life as it really is, has been replaced with people promoting life as we want it. Lies slip from our lips in order to paint our opponents in the worst possible light; we desire victory at all costs; and if civility gets in the way then so be it, civility must go.
Thankfully, not all are bent towards cruelty; some refuse to abandon their consciences; some still wonder at life and love truth for its own sake and not for how it can be bent to suit their own purposes. Perhaps one of the finest musical examples of wonder is Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem”. First performed at the dedication of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in May of 1962, Britten’s “War Requiem” includes some wondrous poetry by Wilfred Owen who had lived through the Great War. Owen said, “All a poet can do today is warn.” Britten looking at the honest and horrible truth of the great wars, wrote his musical wonder as a way of exposing the terrible realities of human pride, mindless nationalism, and party spirit, which have so often in the past led to the sacrifice of our children on the altar of wars unending. This week Britten’s “War Requiem” will be performed once again, here at Concordia, and the timing is perfectly articulated amidst the current climate of intolerant smugness. As the number of the cruel-tongued demagogues increase, Britten’s compassionate truth telling and wisdom seeking is needed now more than ever. All that is left for us is hear the wonder of the words and perhaps we too may study war no more.
Alas, we need teachers and students of wonder now more than ever,
so that . . .
the truth will confront us,
wisdom will expose us,
and the word and world will unmake us
in order to recreate us,
with eyes that can truly see
and ears that can wisely hear,
in ways that the busy and the productive will never grasp,
that is to taste the wonder of the word,
and smell the wonder of the world.
The man came to me again in a daydream one more time and I asked,
“Is there hope?”
in a few poets and saints perhaps,
but wherever it appears,
wonder will not be far away.”
He left me alone,
and I was startled out of my daydream
by lies on a radio,
and the morning light on my face.