31 July 2010

Publish or Preach: The Teaching Ministry of Werner Lemke, an appreciation

I received word a couple weeks ago, via facebook that Werner Lemke had died of a heart attack while visiting family. Dr. Lemke was a giant of a man both physically and in a spiritual sense. From the first moment I talked with him I knew I was in the presence of an individual with the gift: the consummate professional, the apex of scholarship, the gentlest of human beings. He scared the hell out of me - in a good way.

CRDS was a loose ship when I arrived, except in Dr. Lemke's class. If class started at 10:00am, it started at 10:00am! If the assignment called for 100 pages of reading, you found a way to read 100 pages. The impetus was not fear but respect. You knew the man had poured his heart and soul into the lesson and he deserved the same from his students. If you opened up just a bit he filled it to the brim and then some. I can produce sermon after sermon on the book of Jeremiah from his Jeremiah class. He didnt beat it in or drill it in, he simply loved it in. He was an amazing teacher.

Then there was his briefcase. It looked like something from 1920s Egypt, it was huge and looked like it had been through war and back (given his life experiences it may have well been). It was cavernous and held a small library, papers, lectures, sermons, pens, and at least four sandwiches (this is all speculation but I bet I'm not too far off). I have looked in vain for a duplicate, perhaps it is fitting that there is only one in existence.

In class one day I asked why he stayed at CRDS all of these years. He replied that he had many opportunities to leave but his calling was to teach. The other opportunities carried a simple expectation: publish or preach. He chose neither, he chose to teach. Thank you Dr. Lemke for teaching. You were a great man and will be remembered always as so.

No comments: