Saturday, November 21, 2009

More on the Meltdown

Before I came to seminary I had several “priestly” friends tell me that the first year of seminary tears apart much of what you think and believe about faith and the second two years are spent putting it all back together again. Since more than one person told me this, you’d think I’d have paid better attention, but sometimes I’m funny that way. So here I was cruising through the first semester feeling like a sponge and soaking in all of the knowledge that my professors want to impart upon us … when all of the sudden I realized that this knowledge was beginning to change how I think about some things. Yeah, I know, everyone is saying “duh, they told you this would happen”, but it really took me by surprise. And, being a bit stubborn, I reacted with “I DON’T WANT THIS TO CHANGE ME!” and my New Testament class happened to be in the way and was the target of my reaction.

A few weeks ago, in a conversation with another student and our advisor, the other student said he wasn’t sure if he was comfortable doing something and our advisor responded sarcastically “and we all know that Jesus only asks us to do things that make us comfortable.” (It’s okay, we love our advisor, he really is a wonderfully wise man so his sarcasm doesn’t offend, it makes us laugh and then really think. Besides he has an English accent so everything he says sounds proper anyway.)

This weekend in one of the papers I’m working on I’m talking about how some churches focus on making all who attend “comfortable” and how in the process of trying to attract additional members, they are not only ensuring physical comfort (which I’m all for) but also spiritual comfort. The conclusion I’m coming to is that may not always be the right thing. If we only ever hear those things which make us comfortable and at ease, if we are never challenged to look inward and reflect, how do we grow?

Hmmmm, do you think God is trying to teach me something here? Let’s all join in a resounding chorus of “duh!” and I’ll get back to my papers and reading … and the journey continues …

God’s Peace, my friends!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Let the Meltdown Begin ...

Okay, so it took 9 weeks, but I had my first seminary “meltdown” today – a moment when I wanted to scream “What is the purpose if …” It had to do with my New Testament class. And, perhaps I’m a bit delusional, but I think that because I’m preparing to be a Christian priest, the New Testament is kind of important (sorry, sarcasm is part of the meltdown). So how is it, then, that we’ve spent 9 weeks in New Testament and have barely even opened the scripture? Don’t get me wrong, the stuff we have discussed, mostly 1st century culture and how the historical-critical method has created many more questions than it has answered, is very interesting. But I’m not sure how it is giving me the tools to serve God in the way he is calling me to serve. Maybe that’s the point, maybe I’m to figure that out on my own … but right now, I just want someone to go through the Gospel texts with me, allowing time for it to sink in, coaching me through an understanding of it. I mean, it’s the message of the Gospel that is important – how the life, death, and resurrection of the Son of God redeems the brokenness of humans, right? And this message has endured for over 2000 years, right? How could it do so if it weren’t for the Holy Spirit being involved somehow and isn’t that greater than any human endeavor? Where is faith? Why do we have to separate Jesus the human from Jesus the Divine? How can we do that and also claim that he is wholly human and wholly divine at the same time?

I know that I’m going to have to respond to those who seek and ask “why should I believe,” and I want to be able to give intelligent, God-filled answers to their questions. As for now, I don’t have the scholarly answer but I can tell you that in the personal tragedies that I’ve experienced in these past two years, I have felt the presence of God more real than I ever imagined possible. Through prayer and meditation I’ve heard his voice. In my cries, I’ve felt his Spirit enfold me in comfort and warmth. What I don’t know is the intellectual explanation for this … and perhaps there isn’t one. Perhaps it is something that needs to be experienced and not explained. Maybe. I don’t know. But I want to know.

God, help me to know so that I can be what you need me to be in all encounters and situations. Amen.