Discipline in our little school is consistent. We expect the children to behave according to the Fourth Commandment in order that at least when they are with us respect for “other authorities” might become the “habitus” of a student. Understanding why a teacher asks a student do something is not always important; doing it is. E.g., when the fire alarm sounds, there is no need to understand why we walk, not run. We simply do as we are instructed for the sake of the greater good. If a student disobeys, the disciplinary measures are swift, certain, and age-appropriate. Always, however, the final statement is an apology from the student followed by the announcement, “You are forgiven,” from the teacher. Hugs are the frequent optional.
The icon of the Prodigal Son hangs in my classroom. There have been times for its use. It graphically depicts Christ as the image of God the Father outside the church door, waiting to forgive all those who repent of their sin. Kenneth Korby once said, “Absolution is such a ‘wet’ word.” It is just that. It is a verbal Baptism, washing away all the filth of the pigsty we have wallowed in so willingly. Jesus’ feet seem to be stepping out of the frame of the icon toward the viewer. It is a sermon in picture.
Children especially resonate to visual images. This icon is especially useful when a recalcitrant one is sent to pastor. They are frightened. They don’t want to confess their sin to pastor, but sometimes it is necessary to take that step. The icon serves as a reminder that because he is ordained into Christ’s Office, pastor stands in Jesus’ place and speaks at His command. He will say words very much the same as Jesus said to that young man, “For this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” It still doesn’t make confessing sin any easier, but knowing that the Doorkeeper has open arms makes all the difference in the long walk to his study.