Talk 4: Shocked by Grace
The movie ‘Babette’s Feast’ was based on a story by Isak Dinesen and is about an austere Christian religious community founded by the local minister in a remote 19th century Danish village. The minister’s two deeply religious daughters, Martine and Filippa, both had opportunity to leave the village to marry, but in response to their father’s objections, spend their lives caring for him.
Many years later he is deceased and they preside over a dwindling but faithful elderly congregation. In the 1870’s, a French refugee from the Franco-Prussian war, Babette, arrives at their doorstep with a letter recommending her as a housekeeper. For the next 14 years she serves them willingly without pay because they can’t afford her wage but they are kind to her as part of their household. Babette’s only link to her former life is a lottery ticket which a Parisian friend annually renews. One day she wins the lottery of 10,000 francs. She decides to spend it to prepare a delicious feast for the sisters and the small congregation on the occasion of what would have been the pastor’s 100th birthday. More than a feast, the meal is a sacrificial outpouring of Babette’s appreciation to the sisters for their kindness to her. She tells no-one she has spent her entire winnings on the meal, which will be a sumptuous French dinner. Due to their austerity, they agree to eat the meal but not speak of its pleasure. As they partake of the extraordinary food and drink, Babette’s generosity and gifts break down the congregations’ distrust and superstitions. Old wrongs are forgotten, love for one another is re-kindled and redemption of the human spirit settles over the table. The sisters are astounded when they discover that Babette had spent all she had.
Like Babette, we are recipients of grace, called by the Lord to lavish His grace on those we serve. Our life belongs to Christ and the pursuit of autonomy cannot be our way in the world. Resurrection speaks of new life where people can return to a right-minded view of life that sets them free. This is the life we unfold to the students, for the coming of the Gospel brings a vision of a new world, a different world, one filled with a sure hope that Christ is making all things new.
In a post-truth culture, students in our schools often lack not only belief in the basic truths of the Christian faith, but the categories to think about a Biblical world view. It is so important that the culture and curriculum of the school is permeated by the Christian faith in all aspects. In this way the community invites them to dwell in a story that turns the world upside down and sets it right way up. Students who live out their faith over the long haul into adulthood are able to steer their way through the existential issues of life because they have “woven together beliefs and behaviour into a fabric of faithfulness.” 
The learning community is to be characterised both in the class and beyond by teaching and learning that is designed to engage the head, heart and hands of the students towards the quest for the Kingdom of God. If our goal is to raise disciples of Jesus who love God whole-heartedly and their neighbour as themselves, then we are to nurture a moral framework within the class that reflects the Kingdom of God. The strange world tells our students to follow their own desires and be true to themselves, but following their own disordered loves leads to frustration and broken relationships. Decisions about both big life issues and small ones become a moral choice, when they are taken against satisfying one’s own inclinations, in order to faithfully obey a norm or standard. For God has built wisdom into the nature of the way life is designed to be lived.
Planning learning needs to provide students in age-appropriate ways, opportunities to investigate, explore and reflect on different worldviews and ways knowledge can link to their life experiences and understanding. The art of questioning that promotes thinking about ideas and their consequences lead to deeper learning. Critical thinking that enables students to be discerners of what is good, wise and right, anchored in God’s truth, builds their capacity to critique the culture in which they live. Service, opportunities to participate in the school community and beyond, enables students to experience putting others first and sends the message that authenticity is not self-focused but other-focused. As citizens of another kingdom, we identify not just as individuals, but as a people belonging to God. Love is the deepest way of knowing because it engages reality other than itself. This is the new world where Christ is Lord.
Let us consider ways we can train our students to be people of true justice, where there is injustice, to care for the needs of the poor and marginalised and to be those of truth in a world of lies. We must grapple with our students through their existential issues with a Christian apologetic and a deep active faith that interacts with the real world.
May these words encourage you in your faithful ministry to students, for you are the aroma of Christ. Let us shock this strange new world with the grace of the new creation.
“God gives us His Spirit who will enable us to proclaim and demonstrate the truth about Jesus, the truth that doesn’t fit into the old world but makes ultimate radical and renewing sense of the old world … Part of the challenge of following Jesus is to learn the difficult, dangerous but beautiful art of speaking fresh, healing truth into the world that often still seems to be ruled by Caesar’s agents.” 
“For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” (2 Corinthians 2: 15)
Grace and Peace
 Steven Garber, The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behaviour”, (Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 18
 Nicholas Thomas Wright, (Broken Signposts-How Christianity Makes Sense of Our World, 2020), 151, 154.