St. John the Hensley

My newest grandson, John Peter Hensley, was baptized yesterday.  It happened to be on the commemoration of the martyrdom of John the Baptist.  Pastor Douthwaite preached a remarkably good sermon, tying both of those events together, linking John the Baptizer with John the Baptized.  Finally, he announced that just as we have St. John the Baptist, we now have, by virtue of his baptism, St. John the Hensley.

And as if that were not enough, throughout the sermon, he also tied everything into vocation.  A sampling (Adam and Joanna being his parents; Johnno being the Australian nickname for John):

Not all heard John’s preaching as good news. And Adam and Joanna, I can fairly surely say that you will not hear all of little Johnno’s preaching to you as good news – especially when he calls out to you at 3 am, calling you to your vocation as father or mother to come and feed him, or to change his diaper. But he will call out, whether you like it or not, because that’s his vocation right now, calling you to your vocation, and so being God’s gift to you. That you may serve as you have been served. That you may love as you have been loved.

You won’t believe how good this sermon is.  You have got to read the whole thing, which has more insights than I can summarize.  The sermon is posted here:  St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Martyrdom of St. John the Baptist Sermon.

St. John the Hensley

Teachers good and bad

The California teachers’ union is calling for a boycott of the L.A. Times for publishing an expose of teacher performance.  Here are some of its findings:

• Highly effective teachers routinely propel students from below grade level to advanced in a single year. There is a substantial gap at year’s end between students whose teachers were in the top 10% in effectiveness and the bottom 10%. The fortunate students ranked 17 percentile points higher in English and 25 points higher in math.

• Some students landed in the classrooms of the poorest-performing instructors year after year — a potentially devastating setback that the district could have avoided. Over the period analyzed, more than 8,000 students got such a math or English teacher at least twice in a row.

• Contrary to popular belief, the best teachers were not concentrated in schools in the most affluent neighborhoods, nor were the weakest instructors bunched in poor areas. Rather, these teachers were scattered throughout the district. The quality of instruction typically varied far more within a school than between schools.

• Although many parents fixate on picking the right school for their child, it matters far more which teacher the child gets. Teachers had three times as much influence on students’ academic development as the school they attend. Yet parents have no access to objective information about individual instructors, and they often have little say in which teacher their child gets.

• Many of the factors commonly assumed to be important to teachers’ effectiveness were not. Although teachers are paid more for experience, education and training, none of this had much bearing on whether they improved their students’ performance.

Other studies of the district have found that students’ race, wealth, English proficiency or previous achievement level played little role in whether their teacher was effective.

via L.A. teacher ratings: L.A. Times analysis rates teachers’ effectiveness – latimes.com.

It seems that some people have a vocation for teaching.  Let’s focus on the positive.  What are traits of good teachers?  Tell about good teachers who were able to get through to you.

Motherhood as vocation

Did you know that Mollie Hemingway, the confessional Lutheran journalist, has a column in Christianity Today?  Here are some links, going back awhile: Throwing Inkwells: Mollie Ziegler Hemingway | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

I’m glad she has that forum.  Other Christians could benefit greatly from what many Lutherans just keep to themselves.  Here she is on how the doctrine of vocation can help stressed out, guilt-ridden mothers deal with “the mommy wars“:

How should Christians think about the Mommy Wars? Vocationally. You may have heard vocation used as a synonym for occupation. But Martin Luther used it to talk about every Christian’s calling to particular offices through which God works to care for his creation. We serve our neighbors as employees, yes, but also as citizens, parishioners, and family members. Through our web of relationships, we are the instruments by which God works in the world.

So, for instance, God heals us by giving us doctors and nurses. He feeds us by giving us farmers and bakers. He gives us earthly order through our governors and legislators, and he gives us life through our parents. God is providing all these gifts—but we receive them from our neighbors.

Parenting is one of the most important vocations we can be given. Yes, the obligations of childrearing are difficult, but when the duties are fulfilled with the knowledge that we are doing the will of God, our reward is great. Luther wrote that fathers should not complain when they have to rock a baby, change his diaper, or care for the baby’s mother, but instead should view each act as a holy blessing.

God has placed me as the mother of my children. So long as I’m not sinning, I am free to serve my children as I see fit. I have the responsibility to feed my children, but I can fulfill that task by slaving away in the kitchen to produce a five-course meal or by ordering out for pizza. I have the responsibility of making sure my children are educated, but I have the freedom to do that on my own or by sending them to whichever school my husband and I pick.

Sure, we all have a role to play in upholding community standards and making sure our neighbors’ children have their needs met, but we should also be careful not to intrude on others’ vocations. Just as we wouldn’t rearrange colleagues’ offices or tinker with their computers, neither should we presume to know best how they should manage their families.

So if you’re an overwhelmed mother, wave the white flag of surrender in the Mommy Wars and enjoy your vocation and the freedom it provides.

Take this job and shove it

So what do you think about that flight attendant who got fed up with a passenger whose overhead luggage fell on him after landing, whereupon he got on the intercom to cuss out the passenger, then grabbed some beer off the service car and activated the emergency exit to slide onto the tarmac?

Authorities said [Steven] Slater dropped several f-bombs on a JetBlue flight’s loud speaker Monday night, grabbed two beers, deployed the plane’s emergency slide at Kennedy Airport, and then took off.

From all accounts, the 38-year old Slater simply had had enough.

Sporting a cut on his forehead from fallen overhead baggage, Slater walked out of Port Authority Police Headquarters after the incident, handcuffed with a smirk on his face and absolutely nothing to say.

But passenger Philip Catelinet said Slater had plenty to say over the plane’s public announcement system while he was on board JetBlue Flight 1052 out of Pittsburgh on Monday afternoon.

“He said, ‘to the passenger who called me a (expletive expletive, expletive) you. I’ve been in this business 28 years. And that’s it, I’m done’,” Catelinet said.

Catelinet said Slater spouted the obscenities after his flight landed at JFK from Pittsburgh International Airport. Airport authorities said Slater snapped after he argued with a passenger attempting to get overhead baggage before the plane was parked at the gate.

via Judge Grants Bail For JetBlue Flight Attendant « CBS New York- News, Sports, Weather, Traffic and the Best of NY.

Now I’VE wanted to do that, when stuck on the tarmac and fed up with bad airline service, but it’s strange for someone working for the airline to take such measures against his customers.  I do know that flight attendants do suffer abuse from passengers. This reminds me of a time when I was stuck on the runway at Detroit, after my flights had already been messed up. A fellow passenger started complaining about the airline to the flight attendant, saying how every time he flies this airline he has problems, how this company is one of the worst run ever, how the owners don’t know what they are doing, and on and on. The flight attendant, the representative of this company to the passenger, shut him up by saying, “You think that’s bad? How would you like to work for them?”

At any rate, Mr. Slater certainly deserves the Johnny Paycheck “Take This Job and Shove It” award.

Interesting jobs

To celebrate the doctrine of vocation and as a build up to Labor Day, let us consider Interesting Jobs.   Here is one:  Major league baseball interpreter.

An interpreter’s job can be consuming, from taking phone calls from a confused player in a grocery store aisle to helping a player’s wife get a driver’s license.

“It’s one thing to be bilingual,” says [Kenji] Nimura, who is unique in the major leagues and especially valuable because he’s fluent in English, Japanese and Spanish. “It’s another to be bicultural.”

That’s why the role has grown as quickly as the Asian influence in the majors, where this year’s 12 Japanese players, three Taiwanese and two South Koreans usually are accompanied by an interpreter.

And note that the correct word is interpreter, not translator. Word-for-word substitutions seldom work between English and the Asian languages.

“If I give a direct translation, it will sound vague,” says Nimura, born in Japan but raised in Los Angeles. “I cheat a little. It’s like a scene in Lost in Translation. As long as I get the meaning right.”

Ever wonder why the translated answer often seems much shorter than the original answer?

“American players follow the formula,” Nimura says. “Say what you’re going to say, say it, say what you said. In Japan, they don’t give you an answer until the end.” . . .

Nowhere do the cultural differences show up more than in trying to interpret what goes on in the clubhouse.

The hazing Kuroda received is unheard of in Japan. So are the moments like the day in spring 2009 that Atlanta Braves third baseman Chipper Jones wanted to pass a message to new pitcher Kenshin Kawakami.

“Tell him, I said, (expletive)’ ” a grinning Jones said to interpreter Daichi Takasue, then a 21-year-old fresh out of the University of California-Santa Barbara, where he had been trained specifically for moments like this.

Al Ferrer, the former longtime coach at UCSB who now trains and supplies interpreters armed with the knowledge to deal with coaches and game situations, laughs when he remembers Takasue relating the incident.

“He told me, ‘I bowed my head and said Mr. Jones told me to say (expletive)’ ” Ferrer says. “Ragging is not a part of their culture.”

Nor is swearing, something Guillen discovered during one of his colorful clubhouse speeches when Japanese pitcher Shingo Takatsu was on the roster.

“I saw the translator was quiet,” Guillen says. “I’m screaming to him, ‘Make sure you tell him what I say.’ The (interpreter) says, ‘We don’t have those kinds of words in Japan.’ “

via Baseball interpreters bridge gap between players, new culture – USATODAY.com.

What are some other Interesting Jobs?  Do any of you have one?

The Teutonic Knights

We’ve talked about the Hospitallers, aka the Knights of Malta and–in Bo Giertz’s novel by that name translated by Cranach commenter Bror Erickson–the Knights of Rhodes.  You have already heard of the Knights Templar, with their mysterious and allegedly occultic secrets and their alleged ties to the Masons.  There is also another order of monks who fought wars:  the Teutonic Knights.  Now they are in the news, as the remains of their original Grand Masters have been discovered in the Polish town of Kwidzyn, which was once the Prussian city of Marienwerder.  The skeletons will be buried, with great ceremony, in the cathedral, though not without controversy, the Teutonic Knights having pretty much ravaged Poland, while also using the sword to bring Catholicism to the Baltics:

The remains were discovered in the cathedral’s crypt in 2008 and identified by DNA and other testing as being those of Werner von Orseln, the knights’ ruler from 1324-1330; Ludolf Koenig von Wattzau, who ruled from 1342-1345; and Heinrich von Plauen, from 1410-1413.

Next to the coffins will be plastic replicas of what the men are believed to look – long-haired men draped in cloths – based on a 16th century mural in the cathedral, said Bogumil Wisniewski, a city archaeologist.

Fragments of original gold-painted silks found on their skeletons are being displayed separately.

The Order of the Teutonic Knights of St. Mary’s Hospital in Jerusalem was founded in the late 12th century to aid German pilgrims in the Holy Land. It evolved into a military order whose knights wore trademark white coats with black crosses. Later, they forcefully brought Christianity to swaths of northeastern Europe and ruled an area near the Baltic Sea coast in what is now northern Poland.

via Poles hope deadly knights will now bring some good.

They too, like the Knights of Malta, combined combat with running hospitals.  The order still exists, though without the military dimension to their good works.

How does the doctrine of vocation apply to these military orders?


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