Epiphany Thoughts

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I had high expectations when I entered seminary in Boston. I anticipated a place of great wisdom, soberness of discussion, and genuine Christian community. It didn’t take long to find out that seminary could just as easily be spelled, “cemetery.” If you didn’t have faith and knowledge of Christ before you got there it quickly dissipated. Theology and Biblical language study can be quite unexhilarating at best. Some of the upper level students were apt to try to lighten the search for wisdom, knowing that true wisdom isn’t found in books, it’s found in everyday life.

There were pranksters everywhere. For instance, on the first day of class someone switched the signs on the library’s basement restroom doors. They slid the plastic signs for the men’s and women’s restrooms and swapped them. That was sneaky and yet taught great wisdom. Another place for a search for wisdom lay in the classroom. I remember one class where we discussed endlessly what doctrinal camps we supported: Arminianism, Calvinism, pre-trib, post-trib, Pre-millenialism, Post-mil, and Amillenianism. I’m an A-mil, by the way. During one heated debate, one guy made the unwise assertion that he was no camp follower. He said that he was a Biblicist. His point was, in effect, “All the Bible scholars of the last two millennia are irrelevant. I understand God’s word without their help.” Sure, right, huh, huh.

Wisdom is built upon past traditions and present experience. The Wise Men, the Magi, were famous examples of this. They gathered information from past and present sources and acted accordingly. Too often what made seminary into “cemetery” was the disconnect between information and transformation. I remember being tripped up by this disconnect when a student of another denomination asserted to my pleasure that United Methodists would be the first to enter heaven when Jesus comes back. As I was smiling, wondering where this comment might be leading, he then added, “It’s in the Bible, you know.” I said that I didn’t so he then told me, “Yes, the Bible says clearly, ‘The dead in Christ shall rise first!’” He added, “I don’t know anyone as dead as you Methodists.” There’s a difference between a Wise Man and a wise guy!

The difference can be overcome by connecting our faith to our actions and words. “Seek wisdom,” Scripture does say but that wisdom includes sanctified “street smarts,” like surviving pranksters. True wisdom starts in heaven, like the star the Wise Men followed, but works at street level, too, where we bump shoulders with others. It isn’t satisfied with information retrieval. You can’t access wisdom by the megabyte. Wisdom is concerned with how we relate to people, to the world and to God. Wisdom is found in life decisions, not in computer chips, lexicons, or the number of textbooks read.

One day one of Mahatma Gandhi’s disillusioned followers came up to him and said, “You have no integrity. Last week I heard you say one thing, and today you are saying something different. How do you justify such vacillation?” Gandhi quietly replied, “It is simple, really, my son. I have learned something since last week.” When Gandhi learned new information, he sometimes changed his mind and altered his position. One of my resolutions for the 2010 is to be open to change!

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4 thoughts on “Epiphany Thoughts

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