Wednesday, May 09, 2012

tell and show: smoking on the seminary roof,romance by the urinal, illegal crosses

One of the classes I teach for

Fresno Pacific University

(called "Jesus and the Christian Community" in the traditional undergrad program, and "Jesus' Life and World" in the Degree Completion program) requires students to become familiar  with what Hauer and Young  (in our textbook, An Introduction to the Bible: A Journey Into Three Worlds)
call  the "Three Worlds""  approach to biblical study.

Here below is how one student  of the book summarized the "three worlds" (she has more detail here):

Literary World--The literary world of the Bible is simply the text itself, apart from anything outside the text.  We mean the world  created by the text; the words on the page, by the stories, songs, letters and the myriad other types of literature that make up the Bible.  All good literature (and the Bible is, among other things, good literature) creates in readers' minds magnificent, mysterious, and often moving worlds that take on a reality of their own, whether or not they represent anything real outside the pages (Hauer and Young ch 2).

Historical World--The historical world of the Bible is the world "behind the text" or "outside the text".  It is the context in which the Bible came to be written, translated, and interpreted over time, until the present.  In studying the historical world of the Bible, we look for evidence outside the text that helps us answer questions such as, who wrote this text, when was it written, to whom was it written, and why was it written.  We also probe the text itself for evidence that links it to historical times, places, situations, and persons (Hauer and Young 2)..

Contemporary World--The contemporary world is the "world in front of the text" or the "world of the reader."  In one sense, there are as many contemporary worlds of the Bible as there are readers, for each of us brings our own particular concerns and questions to the text.  They inevitably shape our reading experience.  We are all interested in answering the questions of whether the Bible in general, or particular texts, have any relevance to our personal lives (Hauer and Young  ch3).

The "historical world" section sounds so boring, and ...well, historical.  But most realize that grasping what the Bible meant to "them" (the original hearers/readers) in their day is often lost on us thousands of years later, as we live in another culture, day...and "world."

Since our class focuses on Matthew's gospel, we talk a lot about the geography,  political/religious climate  of Jesus' day. We deal with the reality that the original readers had the benefit of shared history; shared memory.  This even includes  "memory" of events that happened long before the disciples were born (the  Moses/Exodus motifs throughout Matthew, etc).

We consider questions like:

  • Why was the Sermon on the Mount on a mount?
  • Why did Jesus take his peeps way out of their way to Caesarea Phillipi to pop the question of who he was?
  • What might the disciples thought/felt when they was the Herodian fortress?

As exciting as these lessons are for us who teach, it can be hard for student to catch how crucial historical context is to interpreting the text. faithfully

So to model what it mighty have been like for Jesus the Rabbi and his discioles to walk around the land for teaching moments and intentional backdrops; and to illustrate in an interactive way that places and  memory matter when reading the "historical world" of the text, I take students on a  literal tour of MY "historical world."

Since I myself went to FPU (so long ago it was only an FPC), and even became a Christian due to the influnece of its hallowed grounds and  people, I have lots of stories to tell.

As one hilariously-phrased brochure announced,   "I met Jesus and his wife" while a student..

So I tell stories about events in my past at the places where they happened.
..and the students sometime feel as if  "they were there"  with me as I retell the stories "on location'"..."on sight with insight."

In fact, one of my stories revolves around  fact  that when I took this same class (so last millenium), I wasn't a Christian when I enrolled, but I was soon after the final exam  .  This testimony was featured in the Fresno Pacific magazine article featuring my  beloved professor Leslie Mark.

Here I am in this photo, studying with my brother ( Bruce Wainscott)  for the class.  To borrow John Wesley's phrase, I am "in the pangs of the New Birth" as this photo was taken.  It is a snapshot of me trying not to get converted.

I take them to spots on campus where the conversion process continued.

Every "campus tour" is slightly different.   Sometimes the lessons are in historical order (This happened to me right here, and then the next year, this happened to me in this building) , But more likely, a given  tour is in order of the sidewalks, and thus out of historical order. A  given cluster of stories I tell  is somewhat selective (much like the four gospel accounts)

Sometimes while I am walking around campus with a class, owe run into formner students of mine    I'll ask them  which stories they remember from a year or twoi ago.  This gives us a chance to compare notes on how "rememberers" emphasize or remember different details of the same event/.story..  again, much lkike the four gospel writers.

I show them my old dorm in  what was then  "Module E by the Sea"..even our phone/prayer closet which is still there.

Across the quad, I "tell and show" them Michel and Diane Bucci's  former apartment.

Michel and Diane were a French Canadian married  couple, who were students when I was.  Soon before he came to FPC, Michel was training for the Canadian Olympics, and missed the trampoline because he was showing off for a girl.

He  landed a quadriplegic..
H later  landed  at Fresno Pacific, and shared his riveting tesintiony in many venues.

Here's a photo of Mark Hill, Michael Aguila and I walking by the apartment, to talk abut how we would take turns knocking on the winddw, to see if Diane need d help getting Miche out of bed, or ready for class.

The memories are bittersweet, as Michel died a few years later..

Students tell me that can never walk through that
section of campus without a tear in their eye..even years later ( Mission accomplished, they are now part of my historical world, and share a memory of an event they were not at)

On a lighter note, but just as significant  tot my historical (hysterical) world, and most tours:

I suggest  to students that there out to be a hoistiral marker plaque on the men's room in Sattler Hall..because back in our day ...the most beautiful girl I had ever seen (before we got married or even dated) cleaned that room as part of her on-campus job (the "Sparkle Crew"). I knew that, so  I would often  be out early in the morning. ostensibly for  prayer walk, but in reality as more of a stalk..hoping I'd run intop Sonya.  One day we had a delightful conversation as I helped her clean a toilet.

The rest is history.

Until recently, the story students teased me about most was the time when Sonya uttered those words that no lovesmiiten college student wants to hear:

 "I think we should just be friends."

click to read all about this artwork

Where does a guy go after hearing that?  As a new Christian, how dis I respond/grieve/rebel//"backslide?"

I tell students this particular story at a particular place, so I can  literally point, so they get the point and picture.

What do I do?  (Historical present tense)?  Devastated, I go across the street from campus to the grocery store (I point to the store) and buy a pack of cigarettes (50 cents?), and  walk back to campus to climb to the roof of the seminary  house....  and lie there and smoke!

And while students laugh  with (at!) me as they envison this; , looking up what is now w the "patio" of Tim Neufeld's office),  I can quickly append another story.

Years later, near same spot..

I point at the street  where a girl jumped in my car and.... let's just say, made me an offer I could refuse.

Suffice to say this story affords a great chance/segue  to talk about  Jesus' temptations!

But now the story everyone wants to hear  about is the following.
This story has just entered a second life,  as recently the university finished  a  wonderful new m sign..

The official  FPU Facebook page published this photo of it, comparing it  (right) to the old sign from my day  (left).

The only problem with the caption on the left is that, unlike it assumes, the sign did not look like this from 1962-1989/

That's my fault.

The sign was indeed there all that time.

But the cross you see on it was only on it for a few hours, and very few ever saw it.
Many heard all about it, though...

There's quite a story here.

In 1984,  the college decided the  school sign needed to be replaced..  An exploratory committee was put together to make proposals  about what it should be made of, what it should include, etc

One of the early decisions that was released (leaked?) was that nowhere on any eventual new sign should there be anything "conspicuously Christian."

Now, one can understand  reasons for that (particularly understanding the Mennonite Brethren tradition which sponsored the school has long been more concerned about  quiet, humble, practical and radical  discipleship  and Christian action, rather than just words...and well, signs.

But that phrase tripped up some of  us students..  especially new Christian like me.

We were a Christian school, why not let it be known?
So we came up with a plan.

A subversive one.

And right or wrong, we carried it out.

We would subvert the dominant paradigm...or at least convert the current sign.

I enjoy taking my current students to the scene of the crime, and telling the story.

Without telling anyone, we commissioned two of our number (not to mention  any names: Mark Hill and Randy Richmond) to use their carpenter  gifts and craftily craft  a nice wooden cross.

One night we snuck out (in fatigues and camouflage,  no less), eluded security ,,,and attached the cross to the sign.

In the morning, we posted signs in the cafeteria (Alumni Hall) saying "Have you seen the new sign?  It's the work of the "Cross Committee'.  We wanted to stir up conversation, and hopefully impetus to reverse the "nothing conspicuously Christian" decision.

We soon found ourselves mildly disciplined . and then  brought into/dialogue with the administration.   They seemed  open to our concerns,  and promised to consider them... long as we didn't pull another  prank, no matter how prophetic it was.

Several years later, as the college became a university,  a  new sign was  added  (including a Christian motto)

And then this year,  an even newer and larger ...and conspicuous>..sign was constructed.

Note that at  not one, but two places, a pretty  conspicuous "founded in Christ" appears.

I have no idea if that had  anything with the Cross Committee. of nearly three decades ago.
I's like to think so, but I doubt it.

Yes, I love the new sign!

So I I posted a photo of the new sign on my Facebook,  and soon current and former students of mine..., as well as friends I went to college with, even members of the renegade Cross Committee....began  teasing me afresh in the comments.

Graham Dyck, a member of the committee,  even dug up and posted some photos (see them here)  of our middle of the night adventure..  I had never seen them before, and they had never posted anywhere.

Graham posted:
Graham Dyck Lest anyone think the underground cross committee is a hoax, here is the photographic evidence.

Facebook friends got a holy kick out of that!

But then a few says ago I see on the official FPU Facebook page, the double photo I posted above.
The photo on the left was Graham's photo (someone  official had obviously seen it in their feed  but not gotten that it was part of a rebellion.  They assumed that's how the sign  always looked ...when actually it only looked like that  for a few historic hours..

Graham commented:

That is way too funny. I love that the caption provides the time frame as 1962 to 1989, a whopping 27 years. The cross was on the sign for one day from about 3:00 am until maintenacne showed up at 7:00 am and took it down as their first order of business. Anyway, we "remember the past with gratitude" even though few can actually remember that part of the past.


Mike Lebsock  (went to school with us, and here's a pic of Sonya and i in his apartment back then) thinks Steve Wiest (facilities team back then) may have a picture of his workers taking the mystery cross down that morning.

We'll see..

Just don't tell him I had anything to do with it (:

It was all Mark's idea...

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