05 January 2009

I Sing a Song of the Torch bearers

Yesterday at the church job (UCC) the gospel was the monumental prologue to the gospel of John -- rather, it was the prologue to the gospel as composed by the Johannian community founded by John.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

As Episcopalian Christians, how many times have we heard those words over the years. After reading the prologue, his sermon dealt mainly with explaining how the "word" was not Jesus, but was, rather, wisdom that existed at the beginning. You should have seen the look on the congregation's collective face as he gave them Borg and Spong (although they didn't know it was Borg or Spong).

I usually zone out during the sermon -- any sermon. I'm enough bible scholar and theologian to know where the preacher is headed within a minute. But before he began to "get into" the sermon, he said, I'm thankful for "Miss N."

As it turns out this woman was his primary Sunday school teacher. Then when he graduated to the next grade, there was no one to teach that class, so she stepped up to the plate and taught it. And it happened the next year, and the next, so that his entire church school education was from this woman. And then he asked a question:
Who, other than your parentes, is it who passed the torch of the gospel on to you?
I didn't even have to think about the question -- I knew as he was finishing the question who it was. For me, it was two people: Pauline Jones and Thomas Hickerson.

When I graduated from the "Cradle roll" class -- they call it nursery today -- "Sister" Jones was my teacher. But she was so much more than that: she was my adoptive grandmother. To her, I was always "my Jimmy."

I never visited her without a bible study being involved. And I visited her a lot. each time she would reach for her well worn bible and off we would go. It was never a cursory study, either; we went deep into the text, running references and seeing how other parts of the bible backed up the gospels. And an hour or three later, she would look at me with a twinkle in her eye and say, "I think it's time for a Peps" (short for Pepsi). I am the Christian I am today because of Sister Jones.

She knew more about the bible than any one hundred people I know combined. If one needed to find a particular scripture, but couldn't remembrer how it went or where it was, a telephone call to her would result in, "Honey, I know that exact verse" and she would quote it, and then add, "but you have to add the three verses before it ... " She could actually quote the entire book of Hebrews from memory! And the look on her face as she began
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds ...
The other person is the Rev'd. Thomas F. Hickerson who was the presbyter who baptized me. He said that when he was baptizing me, he felt a confirmation that I would have a vocation to the ordained ministry. He told Sister Jones this, and they set me on the path of bible literacy.

Both of these people were firlmy "old school" and both would be following Mr. Duncan, I'm sure. But they are responsible for my knowledge of the bible. And they are also responsible for my love affair with Jesus. The made sure that I not only knew who Jesus was/is, but that I had a relationship with him.

These two marvelous people have been in the Church Triumphant for many, many years, now. But every day of my life they are here with me. Each time I reach for the bible to look something up, or to read the lessons from the Daily Office, Grandma Jones is there looking over my shoulder.

My question to you, readers of this blog, is: who passed the torch to you? Please share your story with us. I believe that these stories need to be known just as much as the stories of the Martyrs and other saints of old.

My second question for you is: Are you a torch bearer? It's not just for kids, you know. Who will remember you as the person who passed the light of the glorious gospel of peace to them?
They loved their Lord so dear, so dear,
and his love made them strong;
and they followed the right for Jesus' sake
the whole of their good life long;
And one was a torch bearer, one was a priest
and one taught bible to a kid named Jim;
and there's not any reason, no, not one,
Why I shouldn't pass the torch.
Now, take a moment to go visit Thinking Anglicans for a great post and wonderful comments on liturgy called A Liturgical Christmas.