It is getting near the end of the semester and, as “The Substitute,” I need to grade each of the members of our Men’s Bible Study. Normally Eric our teacher (and pastor of the church that most of us attend) would do it, but he is busy training for a marathon, running here and there, and doesn’t have the time for such a menial task. He hasn’t asked me for my assessment, but it doesn’t really matter because “someone has to do it.”

There are from 12 to 17 of us (the “mean” average is about 14), all getting on in years, except for Eric and Bill, who keeps fit playing golf as often as he can afford it.

Last fall I did a short study called “Genesis 101” in which I described where we meet (Ken and Eve Ann’s house). However only men are allowed to attend the study—according to certain Old Testament laws, women have to look after domesticated animals. Hopefully, Ken will remember what we talked about and tell his wife (and the dog).

Learning is hard to evaluate because we can’t see inside of each other’s heads and written exams are not allowed. In addition, we don’t all use the same version of the Bible—despite the claim of one or two members that the King James is what Paul used and it should be good enough for us as well. My evaluations will be story-like, without official grades or, when we complete Genesis (if we do), transcripts.

First a few caveats: several of us are hard of hearing (auditorily impaired) and without written records, it is impossible to be sure that I have heard or remembered things exactly as they occurred. But we weren’t always sure we heard or remembered what Abraham, Isaac and Jacob said or did either.

Eric helps us with a review of the last two or three lessons (if I may be so bold to call them that) and some of the men bring maps and charts to help those of us who were trying to remember where we are in Genesis. A few men argued that we are now actually in Exodus but, to save embarrassment, I won’t mention their names.

We once met in an office building in downtown Waco and there was an enormous white-board on one wall. Eric would draw lines and circles on it and put names here and there. Now at Ken’s house he must resort to waving his arms about and asking us to imagine columns and lines and even two-dimensional figures. I noticed that he didn’t have enough fingers to count the twelve sons of Jacob, so also used his toes.

But I am straying from my evaluation of the men. First off, I want to commend Lane for the charts he has brought, especially those with the children of Jacob’s wives and concubines. He did ask about the difference between wives and concubines, explained somewhat by Eric and elaborated upon by various men. Most thought the wives cost money and the concubines were free, or something like that. Nevertheless, Lane gets a “high pass.”

Josh has a little book of maps and he will also receive a high pass because the maps are colored and in fairly large print.

Bob doesn’t say a lot, but what he says is notable. When he speaks, I need to sit close by to hear him. He often brings some snacks for coffee, so gets a high pass, as does Ken for preparing the coffee and greeting arrivals. He once managed hotels, so he is also making sure none of us walk out with the towels or coffee cups.

Tom comes from a long distance, much like Abraham going to the land of Canaan, only Tom does it every week. He will get a high pass for his effort and for his comments, although he, too, speaks in a low voice and I only hear about 30% of what he says. However, he is a chaplain and I know what he says must be true.

I was not going to mark Don-2 a high pass because he carries a big Bible and intimidates some of us with it. But he was a lawyer and I won’t mess with him (or Texas) so he too will get a high pass.

Down the table a bit is another lawyer cum judge named Stan. He doesn’t say much, but he attends faithfully and will get a very high pass. Bobby Don brings him faithfully, surely deserving a high pass as well.

Doug hasn’t been with us long, but his Bible is well-marked and almost as big as Don-2’s. He therefore gets a high pass.

Our leader, Don-1, drives a Mercedes, I think, and cannot be given anything less than a very high pass. He sends out emails to remind us when it is Tuesday and that we meet at Ken’s house. He and Jim regularly keep the coffee cups filled. He decides who will read the particular chapter and who will end our study with “a blessing.” Some of the blessings have now gotten almost as long as the chapter we read.

There can be no doubt that Jim also deserves a very high pass. (He also gave me tickets to a baseball game, but that has nothing to do with his grade.)

What about Joe and Bill? They were both military men and therefore must be saluted with high passes.

John often sits across from me and I note that he is always well dressed and wears a tie as well. He has tried—without success, I might add—to elevate the standard of dress for the class and for that alone there is no doubt that he must be given a very high pass.

Dave is a humble man, despite his M.D. and PhD, and there is no way that I could give him anything less than a very high pass.

Like the children of Lake Woebegone, the men in our Bible Study are all above average and good-looking. They also love Baylor basketball and football, talk little about our President, and have never stolen a towel or coffee cup.

Two of our members went to heaven last year. In doing so, both Kurt and Fred received passes much higher than any of us.

Oh, I forgot to mention what we have learned in our study. I would like to mention just one man—and probably most would agree with me—Jake, who was a curious individual: somewhat of a sneak and cheat and with a family of sons that were sometimes much like dad. Lots of sin and failures, but God commissioned and used Jake (and Abe, Ike and others) despite his failures.

We can all take comfort in that.

April 2019
Somewhere in Genesis
Still in Waco