For the past year I have had the opportunity to meet some fine young people who come each week to the Learning Club’s tutoring project. The Learning Club has five or six tutoring sites throughout the city, but at this one, the student scholars live on-site in a housing development for grandparents raising their grandchildren.
I held a number of part-time jobs growing up, working in lots of low-level departments in businesses, factories, and shops. Wherever I worked, one thing was always the same. My co-workers would eventually get around to saying, “Nobody appreciates what we do. If it weren’t for us, this place would fall apart.”
In the gospel passage describing Jesus’ return to Galilee, Jesus is in a take charge, electric mood. Imagine sitting in church and an altar boy walks up to the podium, reads from scripture about the coming of the Messiah, and then proclaims to the congregation that “this scripture is fulfilled this very day in me.”
Stand by Me is a great film about the joys and trials of growing up as a boy. One of the heroes and the narrator of the tale is Gordy Lachance. His older brother was a star athlete and his parents’ obvious favorite. Now the older brother has died, and in their grief, Gordy’s parents have totally lost sight of their younger boy.
Their company’s presentation to the new client wasn’t ready. Another day—even four or five more hours—and they could have had it in the right shape. But her partner said, “No, we’ve got to go. We can’t be late, and we can’t postpone again. This is it. Let’s go.”
I hemmed and hawed, tossed and turned, stared into my coffee, kicked the same pebble down the sidewalk. What to do, which way to go, how to know. If only I had a crystal ball. If only God would just tell me what he wants. I think at the heart of most worry is hope—a wish to discover God’s will and by extension, be happy. I
A friend shared this story with me: “I had really goofed up. I had hurt my wife badly. She was angry at me, but mostly hurt. And I knew it. There was nothing I could do to undo what I had done.
Why did Jesus need to be baptized? Certainly he had nothing to repent, and he was already filled with the Spirit. So why did he bother? Perhaps it was for the same reason that doctors-in-training record their experiences as patients and lawyers in mock trials with law students serve as judge and jury.
Growing up in the '50s, I was surrounded by simple immigrant traditions. Food was always a symbol of love. I could count on one hand the number of times we ate in a restaurant, fancy or fast food. Ours was the home that others came to for celebrations with often more than 30 people gathered for a feast.
With the possible exception of Samson pulling down the house on the Philistines, the story of the Magi was my favorite Bible story as a kid. It’s just got so much going for it: mysterious royalty, treasures, a miraculous star, and best of all—camels!