The Classroom

Lk. 20:9-19

In l949 I moved from Illinois to Connecticut. As an outsider, I was acutely aware as to how people related. I quickly identified who was the class president, who was the homecoming queen, who the class organizer, who the renegade, and who were the loyal spear carriers of the social structure of my high school. By and large these were good kids. One went on to be a classmate at Yale, another president of a university, and another a prominent businessman. Most of our classes were uneventful. There was, however, one class, which I have never forgotten: History 101.

Our regular teacher got pregnant and dropped out. So we had a succession of substitutes. Because many of the students had grown up together, there was a synergism that was eerie. As each teacher tried to teach the class, first one person would interrupt, then another. Books were dropped and papers shuffled. There was much coughing and general harassment. I dutifully lugged the orange textbook home and memorized it. Our tests were totally trashed by the unruliness of the class. I probably was the only one who felt cheated in that I was not learning what I knew I should be. One by one each teacher was driven from the classroom. Finally a permanent teacher was hired from another school system. She was a spinster, homely, fat, with coke-bottle glasses. She also had a real love of her subject and tried desperately to inspire my peers.

Now we had one fellow who was similar to The Fonze on Happy Days, except that our student wasn’t nice. He openly defied the teacher, ridiculed her, and badgered the other students. No matter how much she cajoled and pleaded, the teacher could not control her rebellious class. She was reduced day after day to tears. Mr. Jones, the principal, would appear from time to time, fire a few warning words, but to no avail. Finally, he expelled several of the students and, in effect, shut down the class. The teacher quit her profession. Shortly thereafter, I moved to Mission, Kansas.

Jesus told a similar story - the parable of the wicked tenants of the vineyard. A man planted a vineyard and leased it to tenants. At harvest time he sent servants to collect his share of the produce. The tenants beat up each servant. Finally the landholder sent his son, whom they killed. The tenants thought they could keep the land for themselves after the landholder died, for there would be no heir. The landholder killed the tenants and gave the land to others.

The lectionary prayer, which accompanies this parable, speaks of our unruly wills and affections that keep us from hearing and obeying God’s will. Time and again God seeks us out to participate in His will and in His life, what we call the Kingdom of God. When we reject His overtures, by violating His commandments and our covenants, we do so at our peril. Amen.