One of my former students, Kent Palmer, was once asked, “What is your relationship with Scot?” “It’s rather complicated, actually.” So, let me explain:
Kent was a student of mine at Trinity, long ago, and the course I taught was called “Jesus and Discipleship.” Teaching a course the first time and having a student who was convinced the subject was significant for pastoral life led Kent and I to a relationship that is now in its second decade. He has been my student and I have been his professor.
And he has been my pastor. And he has been a critic of my manuscripts and I a critic of his sermons. He has given me advice and I him. And he has been the father of a son who was playing baseball against my son — you could say we were rivals. And he has been a supporter of some of my ideas and a critic of others. And he has been a regular lunch companion.
And yesterday he was my golf partner, which means we were in a four hour conversation. The game of golf we played was table dressing. It was the first time I played this year. On the 10th hole I was imitating a Tiger Woods’ move of looking at my swing to concentrate on the motion of the downswing so I could get my drive to fade and, bingo, something happened in my lower right back and I was sore the rest of the day. (As I sit here it aches, but nothing serious. Part of playing the first time.) We like to play early so we don’t give up the stomach of a day.
Most importantly, though, governing all of our relationships these days is that we are friends. We sometimes talk about unimportant things; I call him occasionally and see if he can have lunch; sometimes he calls me. We chat over lunch about all kinds of things — his recent sabbatical and my upcoming one. My adult children’s doings and the various moves of his three sons. I tell him his wife has a “wicked funny” sense of humor and he sometimes asks me about something psychological because he knows I’ve absorbed some of that stuff from Kris.
Kent’s big question for me yesterday was this: “How did you get into the Anabaptist thing?” Easy answer: In 1978 I read Ronald Sider, Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger when I was simultaneously working patiently through the Sermon on the Mount and Kris was in a Bible study with some ladies from the local Catholic Worker group, and I’ve never been the same since. I’ve seen nothing that makes me want to abandon that basic orientation to what it’s all about.
Nothing like playing golf with a friend.