The challenge of seminary education, of teaching and leading in schools that prepare women and men for various forms of Christian ministry, is this: We do not know what the problems of the future church will be. Every few decades, new dilemmas emerge that today’s seminary students must be prepared to confront. If we could predict what those dilemmas would be, we would teach our students to handle them, but the very nature of the unfolding of time makes such preparation impossible. Ministers simply need to be ready for anything, which means they need both wisdom and faith.
Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome were ready for one kind of problem when they went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ body. The stone in front of the tomb was likely to be too heavy for them, and they were so preoccupied on their walk by this likely obstacle that the angel took them by surprise. “Do not be alarmed,” the angel told them. But how could they not be alarmed by what they saw and heard: An empty tomb? A message of resurrection?
So often we brace ourselves for one set of possibilities, only to turn around and face challenges for which we never could have prepared. A parent worries about a decline in his teenage child's grades, only to learn that the same child is struggling with depression. A hardworking manager strives to protect some of her staff members from layoffs, only to receive word that her entire branch is shutting down. As we read in Amos 5:19, it is “as if someone fled from a lion, and was met by a bear.”
Our hope comes from our past, as well as our future. Consider the year behind you, between last Easter and today. Could you ever have imagined the adventures or the trials? The setbacks or the triumphs? If you had known what this past year was going to hold, could you have prepared yourself? Or did you simply need to live through it faithfully, each day, trusting that God had already provided for you everything that you would need?
This is the good news of Easter: Where there once was death, God has breathed life. Death and life struggled, and life prevailed. This knowledge is the root of wisdom and faith, and with wisdom and faith, we are ready for whatever comes next.
Rev. Sarah B. Drummond Andover Newton Theological School Newton Centre, MA
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