Saturday, May 5, 2012

Another semester down, rest of a lifetime to go...

With one last exam written Thursday and emailed Friday, another round of my seminarian fool's errand is in the books.  I'm not making any promises that anything written on any exam this week is so wonderful or transformative that the church will be reformed by it (although there is one sentence on my New Testament final of which I am inordinately proud), but the task is done, and I can't come up with anything on any of the exams that will cause Union Presbyterian Seminary to revoke my scholarship and ask me to leave the school.  So, for the moment we'll call it good.

This is only a brief respite.  Union offers three days devoted to the Sprunt Lectures but launches its May term the day after.  I'm signed up for a class on the theology and ethics of food.  My curiosity factor is quite high, which is always a good way to start a class.

While not wanting to dismiss the life-changing possibilities of the May class, I inevitably am drawn to wonder what of this year's study is going to stay with me the longest or change me the most.  Of course for someone in my spot that question is almost impossible to answer.  Everything is changing me the most.  Still, a few things do stand out at the moment.  I will never look at the parable of the prodigal son(s) the same way again; the NT exercise of looking at it with certain Middle Eastern cultural perspectives foregrounded makes that story a dramatically different one.  Similarly, pretty much the entire Pauline corpus of letters (at least those that can be attributed to Paul with the most confidence) looks different now.  I have some clue about Calvin now, and I actually know who Schleiermacher is (while I may appreciate his musicality, I don't necessarily swallow his theology), and I'm reasonably sure I'm not a process theologian.  All three of those theological points of reference were quite beyond me a year ago at this time.  And I now know enough church history to state that no matter what it may look like to you, this is hardly a low point in the history of the Christian church, not for anyone but the numbers-obsessed.  And yes, I can sort of hack my way through biblical Greek, enough to get in trouble anyway.  (As far as January's course in Celtic Christianity, I can say I really, really, really want to go to Ireland and explore, and maybe a little of Scotland too, but that was already the case; the reasons are just a little different now.)

Of course, a number of classmates and friends are soon to graduate (thankfully, several more are sticking around for another year or two), and they serve to remind me that I may have jumped from one career with a tight job market to a new calling with an impossible job market.  (Yes, musicologists, my prospects are probably bleaker in this field than they ever were in musicology.)  Well, I didn't pursue this fool's errand for the job security.  And I don't call this a fool's errand for nothing.

Perhaps the one thing that has changed most, or at least has surprised me most, is the degree to which a particular creative streak might just have opened up in me.  A couple of products of that have appeared in this blog; a hymn text on the Lord's Prayer and a ... what? monologue? on Ananias.  Actually there are a couple of other bits there, enough that I created a "hopefully creative things" label for some of these entries.  They represent, however, only a small part of it, perhaps a little more than "the tip of the iceberg" suggests, but the cliche still gives you the basic idea.

There are people out there who might read this blog, you know, if they have nothing better to do, who would call b.s. on me if I said I was not a creative person.  Those people, however, mostly knew me twenty-five or thirty years ago.  It's been an extremely long time since I did anything like that for any audience at all, or indeed for any other purpose than my own private amusement.  And maybe that's all it is now, though perhaps I might call it a private "devotional exercise" rather than "amusement."  After all, wouldn't it be pretty arrogant of me to think that such stuff is going to be of any interest to anyone besides myself?

Then again, writing this blog is pretty darn arrogant by those standards.  Not to mention the whole exercise of thinking I have anything to offer the church in the role of teaching elder.

So here I am, having got a handle on many things after most of a year's work at Union, and yet feeling perhaps less certain of what I'm about here, or just what exactly my "calling" really is even as I am more convinced than ever that it is.  For the moment, I am going to go with the idea that maybe that's a good thing.  Why not?  The crazy and unpredictable has been working out so far, might as well go with it.

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