Daily Devotion | September 2, 2021

5th Grade Math

by Pastor Marty Tollefson

School is in session.

There is excitement in the air, maybe even some anxiety. School marks a season in life to learn and grow, to be tested and stretched, and to have fun learning about life through competition and community. I have fond memories of elementary school, middle school was a bit rough, high school was average, college was better, and seminary was the best! Now I get to live some of that again with our two daughters. It is a bit embarrassing to say, with my education, that I find 5th grade difficult! I try to make up excuses by saying, “Well they changed the rules” OR “I know the answer, but I can’t show my work.” With that said, I am still learning.

I had some great teachers, mentors, and coaches along the way. They invited questions. They didn’t have all the answers, but they were willing to struggle within the questions. They shared their world-worn wisdom. I remember my basketball coach saying, as we were dying from exhaustion, “You think this is hard, life is a lot harder.” That was a teaching moment. He was right. I am still learning.

School is in session.

Abraham and Sarah learned to trust the promise. They didn’t succeed, at first. Jacob learned about the constant presence of God in his life. He learned something that he previously did not know. Joseph learned about faith and perseverance through the school of hard knocks. Moses had to learn again and again and again that God was using him in powerful ways. He needed assurance and convincing. He got it. The Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years being schooled for the promised land. They never stopped learning.

Jesus gathered a small class together, and being a teacher, was his constant role. Class was always in session. He would teach using parables, object lessons, and he would borrow images from daily life. He utilized a multitude of teaching strategies. His students did not always catch on. At one point, Jesus says, “You don’t get it, do you?” (Mark 8:21) One gets the sense that Jesus had to grade on the curve! Oh, it didn’t look promising until his students got further down the road….

School is in session.

We, like them, are still learning. We are still learning how to give and receive forgiveness. We are still trying to reconcile with what is happening in our world with God’s grander narrative. We are still fussing with what Paul says about how “God’s grace is sufficient and how God’s power is made perfect in weakness.” We still wrestle with big words like purpose, calling, vision, and what they mean for our life. Further, it might take our whole life to learn how much God loves us. Time and context reiterate that truth again and again and again. I don’t know about you – but the more that I know, the more I don’t know. Some days I think I know the answers, and on other days, I know the thrill of being gloriously wrong. In some ways, it is like 5th grade math, I know the answer, or in this case, the Answerer, but I cannot fully grasp Jesus’ good, far-reaching, encompassing work.

Best to stay close to the teacher because school is always in session!

-- Pastor Marty



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