This is part four in a series discussing Mark Buchanan’s book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath. If you missed the previous parts, here are links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
As I was reading chapter 1, the following quote, attributed to Martin Luther, caught my attention.
The maid who sweeps her kitchen is doing the will of Godjust as much as the monk who prays — not because she may sing a Christian hymnas she sweeps but because God loves clean floors. The Christian shoemaker does his Christian duty not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes, because God is interested in good craftsmanship.
The reason that this stuck out to me is that it relates to the different approaches that instructors at Messiah handle our teaching at Messiah. Some of my colleagues open each class with a devotion and/or prayer. I choose not to. I really think that either way is fine, as long as we don’t feel that the devotion and/or prayer is what makes teaching, and learning, at Messiah different than at a secular school. If our teaching is poor, no amount of “window-dressing” devotions will fix that. If our teaching is excellent, and we exhibit Christlike attitudes and speech to our students, no lack of devotion can make that any less pleasing to God.
Fortunately, I believe that my colleagues are all good teachers, as well as good Christians. I have had the priviledge of being a student at Messiah, and taking several classes with my colleagues. I work with great people, in my department, and pretty much across campus. I have very rarely prayed with my classes, but I do intentionally draw attention to issues that I think our faith should affect, such as ethical concerns, thougths about being able to use our ability (specifically mathematical and statistical) to help those who are less fortunate and stand up for the weak. I’ve just never been able to figure out how to authentically work a devotion into my class without it seeming to reinforce the misconception that math and faith are separate issues.
This is the real issue for me. I want students to think of life as one integrated whole. I don’t want them to think that the devotion is the Christian part of class, and then we get to the real math that they are paying to learn. I want my students to understand that I don’t shut off my faith to do some math, but that they are intertwined. I love being able to make biblical references as we do work. To see the students reaction when I talk about the relation between deciding what to believe about faith, and deciding what to believe about the effectiveness of a mdeical treatment is wonderful! I want them to see that all of life can be service to God, and therefore “Christian”. Messiah’s used to have a slogan something like: “All of Life under the Lordship of Jesus Christ”. My desire as a faculty is to help students, even in mathematics or statistics, see that this is possible for them, even on the job.