professor of Bible, religion and philosophy, 1993-present
When Jo-Ann Brants students pick up a Bible, she wants them
to see layers and depth of meaning like never before. She wants
them to be surprised and delighted. She also wants it to change
Some of Brants students enter her classroom having delved
deeply into their dog-eared Bibles. Others have barely passed In
But no matter their level of familiarity
with the text or growth in faith, she sometimes sees unwillingness
to get out of their comfort zone to uncross their arms
and lean forward when something newly meaningful emerges.
There is the passage from Ezekiel that echoes in John, eat
the scroll and taste the sweetness. We are asked to stand
in judgment of our lives, and we often see we have missed the mark,
but the taste should still be sweet, Brant said. We
are called out of ourselves into a sense of urgency and transcendence
to realize that God expects more of us than we think. I hope
students feel compelled to climb out of their skin because it is
Part of her task is to help students see the Bible with new eyes
those of a young adult, not those of a child. For example,
kids often learn the Old Testament as stories, but in
her Introduction to Biblical Literature course, students examine
deeper theological implications that shed light on modern life choices.
Gods promise, as told to an Old Testament
community in exile, is in the future. Christian communities today
can relate to those messages but can also see God moving through
history and there is no reason to think God isnt moving
in the same direction and can be known, Brant said. We
can turn stories for children into powerful messages for adults
to take up the challenge to be a light in the nation.
College is a journey into finding yourself, Brant said; some students
expect a mountain top spiritual experience each day.
One of my goals is to teach them to find God in the wilderness,
she said. Students are leaving support structures they know,
and while we want to find deliverance and sing songs of joy we need
to learn also how to lament, to wrestle with God, how to petition
and get on our knees and say, I need. I want to give
them the awareness that they may feel in the wilderness
for a while, but that they can find strength in themselves and in
The New Testament can reveal surprises, too, and issue a call that
she hopes will resonate with students who look to others to consider
the big questions. However, she also wants to challenge
students, to allow them to struggle some as they develop their faith.
In the Biblical Literature course, Brants second assignment
asks students to look at a parable as more than simply an allegory
for interpretation. When Jesus told them, they prompted people
to do radical things with their lives or respond vehemently,
Brant said. If faith is trusting in God and letting go of
where we tend to put our sense of security money, power,
politics, weapons then trust in Christ means believing that
death has no dominion. If the forces of the world destroy us, there
is resurrection. Then we are always called out of our resting points
and into the next challenge. We cannot give enough or risk enough.
Faith is a constant demand.
Brant brought a longtime interest in Christianitys Old Testament
Judaic roots as well as postdoctorate work on Jesus and the New
Testament to her teaching post at Goshen College. She had taught
at Canadian Mennonite Bible College after graduating from the University
of Alberta and earning masters and doctorate degrees at McMaster
University. She shares the challenge of faith to the entire campus
through the colleges Calling Authentic Leaders for Life project,
which funds retreats and workshops, chances to discover gifts and
promotes Christian service. We want to call students to leadership
within the church in broad ways, focused on community, model of
service and active congregational life. There are many ways to be
leaders, she said. That is another radical call.