Since my teen years I have been fascinated by trumpet music, ranging from Bert Kaempfert’s Wonderland by Night to teen trumpet prodigy Melissa Venema’s hymns accompanied by the pipe organ to Wynton Marsalis’ rendition of Hummel’s trumpet concerto. Speaking of Hummel: Johann Nepomuk Hummel was born in 1778 in Hungary, the son of Johannes, an excellent violinist. Johannes very early recognised and nurtured Johann’s childhood talent, and at the age of 7 he was already a very good violinist and pianist. Recognising his son’s need for more expert mentoring, Johannes and family moved to Vienna where the famous composer Mozart was at his peak. Johannes’ and Mozart’s paths soon crossed and Johannes told the composer about his extraordinarily gifted son. Father and son were invited to Mozart’s apartment, and in spite of Mozart’s normal reluctance to take on young students, he was so impressed by the playing of the 7-year old that he insisted that Johann come and live with his family where he would be given free lessons. Apparently lessons with Mozart meant more than instruction, it was more like ‘osmosis‘ (‘an inter-mixture and percolation of fluids separated by a porous substance’ – think of fine percolated coffee!). The boy became Mozart’s little assistant, playing his piano music, playing four-hands with the master, soaking in the atmosphere of the Mozart home which entertained many formidable musicians from all over Europe. It’s interesting that Mozart taught his students even while playing billiards or bowls! And so with the continued guidance of his father, Johann Hummel became the world-renowned pianist and composer, going on to mentor other ‘greats’ like Robert Schumann and Felix Mendelsohn.
Which reminds me of Jesus and his disciples. By contrast they were very ordinary and average people, but he effectively apprenticed them over 3 years through teaching and ‘osmosis.’ Think of their instruction in Christian ethics (together with many others) in the profound Mt. ch. 5-7. At the same time the twelve enjoyed the privilege of simply being ‘with him.’ Their apprenticeship was both formal and informal – Jesus imparted his person, mind and mission over meal times, on hikes into the country-side, over a ‘fish-braai’ (barbecue), etc. In Luke’s account of the early Church we note the conclusion of the Jewish Sanhedrin concerning Peter and John (Acts 4:13): ‘When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realised that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus…’ Their discipleship was surely a process that depended heavily on trust, intimate relationship, personal exchange, rebuke and encouragement.
Consider Paul’s mentorship of Timothy (2 Tim. 2:1ff) and, even further back, that of Timothy’s mother and grandmother! (2 Tim. 1:5ff).
Think of Paul’s mentorship of the arrogant Corinthian church: 1 Cor. 4:14ff (note the repeated relational and life-style terminology), ‘I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ (NLT, ‘ten thousand others to teach you about Christ), you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I urge you to imitate me. For this reason I am sending you Timothy, my son whom I love, who is faithful in the Lord. He will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church…’
I.o.w. faith is both taught and caught. This principle is of vital importance in our own discipleship, as well as our discipling of others in fulfillment of Christ’s global mandate (Mt. 28:16-20).
This past weekend I participated in the 26th annual Bless the Nations missions consultation in Port Elizabeth. In one session I was privileged to interview 3 seniors who over decades have been examples and mentors to many in our metro. It was a kind of informal ‘Lutheran table talk’ as they told their respective stories: Giep Louw a veteran Dutch Reformed missionary in Africa and SA; Babbie Jonck, a spinster who fostered a young Indian boy and nurtured him into Christian adulthood; and Anna Gerber, one-time bookshop manager, latterly evangelist to Muslims and Hindus in our city. In the audience of young and old were seated their ‘spiritual children,’ walking in their mentor’s footsteps. I concluded the ‘table talk’ with a challenge to us as parents and grandparents to likewise influence our children and grandchildren. I also challenged all present to likewise ‘be Christ’ in the market-place and on the foreign mission-field, wherever God has placed us at this moment. Afterward many testified as to the heart-felt inspiration of this ‘table talk’ experience.
Where are you and I in this process of ‘osmosis?’ Are we ‘receiving’ from others? Are we ‘imparting’ to others? That’s the challenge to young and old, in the power of the Holy Spirit! (Acts 1:8)