The following article was originally written for the community of Divinity Lutheran Church of Parma Heights, OH
You never really know when the things you learn in second grade will end up helping you as an adult.
This semester I am taking a class called “Jesus and the Gospels,” where we are studying the differences between each group of authors for each canonical (found in our Bible) Gospel. Each Gospel represents Jesus, the disciples and the communities in different ways, and has a very distinct style to it. For example, did you realize that the Gospel of Mark has a sense of urgency to it? We are right now in the year of Mark in our lectionary, and I urge you to be on the lookout for how often we see Mark use the word “immediately.” Immediately Jesus rises, immediately spirits depart, immediately characters go forth and share the news of what Jesus has done. There is no waiting. For Mark, things need to happen right away, and we as scholars need to think about what that urgency means in our understanding of Jesus’ ministry.
My professor for this class is the noted Revelations scholar, Dr. Barbara Rossing. Some of you may remember her as the person who wrote the book for the Revelations study group not too long ago, others of you may recognize her as being one of the editors of the Lutheran Study Bible. It seems that Dr. Rossing is a bit like the authors of Mark, because she too wants things to happen immediately. We constantly have to flip back and forth between the Old and New Testaments, and if you can’t remember the books in order, Dr. Rossing’s urgency catches up to you.
In fact, one day Dr. Rossing told us that as pastors it was our responsibility to get the books of the Bible memorized in sequential order, and to learn it fast. She mentioned that she had learned a song for memorizing the books of the New Testament, and asked if anyone had any tricks for learning the Old Testament. I tentatively raised my hand and told her that when I was in second grade my Sunday School teacher taught us songs for both the Old and New Testament. My friend Angie, who is also from the North-Eastern Ohio Synod, also knew the tunes and we were commissioned to teach our class how to sing the books of the Bible. As embarrassing as it is to be 27 years old and singing a tune I grew up with in a graduate class, I was never so grateful to have been a student of Terry Revelock as I was that day. I think it’s ironic that the Ohio girls were the only one in a class of 31 people who had a jingle for both the Old and New Testament.
We never really know when the roots of our faith are going to prove to be helpful for our lives. On that day, it was a tune I learned from my second grade Sunday school teacher. Right now, as we continue to recover from the devastating effect of the Chardon High School shooting, the memories of our faith may be one of the few things that bring us hope in a challenging time. We never know when one moment will impact a bunch of future moments, and because of not knowing we need to continue to take opportunities that will enrich our faith.
My life is a great example of this. I was raised in a church, have worked for churches, been involved in church my whole life and for the first time am recognizing that the Gospel of Mark says immediately over and over again. I don’t exactly know what that will mean for the larger formation of my faith, just like I didn’t know in the second grade that a simple song would help me connect to my classmates in seminary. But it is really special to know that our faith continues to grow and expand, and that there is always a surprise right around the corner.
Wishing you God’s Peace and Blessings,
Rev. Sem. Tina Heise
P.S. Thanks, Mrs. Revelock, and all my Sunday School Teachers, for helping my journey down this road. It means more than I can ever say.