Nov 12 2010

The Seminary Cycle

Over the past few weeks, many first-year students have been following Dr. Strawn, and his TA staff, on a journey through the Old Testament. Most recently we were lectured on the Pentateuch, tested on the Pentateuch, and many breathed a sigh of relief that we were finished with the Pentateuch.

Lecture. Test. Breathe.

Today, we turned our attention to the Former Prophets. Although we have gone through a large portion of Israel’s history – Abraham & Sarah, Moses & Miriam, Joshua & Caleb – three things remain the same. (1) The Children of Israel just don’t seem to get it. They continue in their cycle of disobedience, punishment, and repentance. (2) Theologian, Martin Noth, just won’t pipe down: he has something to say about everything! His theories go through their own cycles of being presented, disputed, and sometimes refuted. (3) For students, the time we have to breathe is very limited. By the time our tests are completed, and breaths taken, the cycle quickly begins again.

Lecture. Test. Breathe.

From Genesis to Judges, the Children of Israel engage in the same cycle of disobedience, punishment, and repentance. Judges concludes with the following verse: “In those days there was no king in Israel…” In today’s lecture, Dr. Strawn indicated that this verse sets the stage for Samuel and the monarchy. Will the coming of the monarchy change things? Will Israel finally find the courage to obey Yahweh? Will the cycle be broken? Although I have a few projections, I’ll save those projections to live with the question: Will the cycle be broken?

In many ways this question speaks to the life of this theology student. As my first semester at Candler nears its close – papers, tests, and presentations mounting – I am moved to a place of reflection. From this place, the so-called seminary cycle is, indeed, broken: I realize that this semester has been filled with so much more than just listening to lectures, preparing for tests, and gasping for air. Yes, these things have been a part of my Candler experience, thus far. But there is also a certain amount of preparing, practicing, and playing involved.

Prepare. Practice. Play.

Each week I begin by spending a few hours at my Contextual Education site, The Emmaus House.   Here, the rubber meets the road, and I am able to put the things I am learning in class into practice; playfully engaging in various activities, attempting to find out what works and what does not in various settings. Furthermore, I share my week with the best group of colleagues one can imagine. We all are engaging in preparation for and the practice of ministry, together. We even play together occasionally – occasionally meaning, every Tuesday at 8:00pm (GLEE!).

Although tests, papers, and lectures have been a part of my semester, they are not the dominant force shaping my experience. It remains to be seen if the Children of Israel will break their cycle – I’m sure Dr. Strawn will tell us next Tuesday – but I know that I have broken mine. Today I commit to a new cycle of preparation and practice, and I vow to play a little more, as well.

Prepare. Practice. Play.

Let this cycle continue on…

- Brandon Maxwell

Brandon is a first year MDiv student from Nashville, TN and a Student Ambassador.