Am not sure why this experience popped this morning. Which does not make a case the “whyness” must appear.
When I got to seminary I was assigned two spots. The first was, and the Field Work Director indicated it was “the last position available,” I was connected with Milford Preparatory School as their seminary chaplain. I learned they wanted me to be there only on Sunday…during the week was not requested…and probably not wished for.
It was curious to me this preparatory school was mainly for 5th year seniors, students from Long Island who did not get accepted into one of the Ivy League colleges. So, their parents enrolled them for one preparatory school year to raise their SAT scores. It was also the case a Christian minister was an anomaly. Most, short of a handful, of the students came with Hebrew faith journeys.
Found it a delightful challenge—not overstating or being dishonest—to lead their Sunday night worship [which was mandatory] in their gymnasium. Under the basket. With the only available hymnal a Christian hymnbook. I’m sure they probably got tired of singing “The God of Abraham Praise” and “Faith Of Our Fathers.”
Still—many of them wanted to visit personally—which happened on Sunday afternoons. It was a year of being present, even though my theology…well, it wasn’t a good fit—but it was a time to appreciate, more than ever before, the Hebrew traditions and how important it is we don’t offer religious truths prescriptively. For each of us is God-created. What we do about it doesn’t, for everyone, have to center upon the presence of Christ. But it does need to be centered upon the presence of God. However that happens.
The second memory is of my Old Testament professor. Mr. Brevard Childs was a gentle soul. He presented lectures that were brilliant. And even more. I never wanted to miss his first words of each lecture. His opening prayers were so comforting and encouraging and understanding. I was blessed to have him as my faculty advisor . The visits in his office were more about how I was than whether or not I preferred the First Isaiah over the Third Isaiah. He was Professor of Old Testament at Yale University Divinity School from 1958 until 1999 and died in June of 2007.
I remember my gladness to be invited, with his other 3 student advisees, to his home for a Friday night dinner. His wife was so graceful. She understood hospitality in the best of definitions. Mr. Childs was warm and engaging.
We sat around their dining room table. Then. At 8 p.m., still at the dinner table. Mr. Childs excused himself and wished us a good evening.
Mrs. Childs explained, “Please understand my husband has a pace and schedule. He is asleep by 8:30 each evening. So he can get up at 3:30 a.m. to do his writing. That’s important to him. And to me. I hope you understand.”
Of course we wouldn’t say no. And we didn’t. It was his pattern, his rhythm and manner of living. He was a brilliant professor, a kind advisor and a gracious host. That was important. To not spend a full evening with us wasn’t slighting. It was this: give thanks for what is. And deal with it.
So, on this Thursday morning in September, I think about Milford Prep School and Mr. Childs. I imagine the Prep School is still going…maybe with the same hymnbook and population and the same gymnasium worship center. Mr. Childs was a help to me…more than perhaps I could measure at the time. God rest his soul.
What was most important…and it strikes me this morning. Each day…each and every day…is a time to be aware of what’s happening. And in it there may never be a “why did this happen?” But what I’ve learned…and if this helps any of you, I’m grateful…is that what happens to us does not have to have an understandable reason. But it always has a purpose.
And as another brilliant professor, Doug Meeks from Vanderbilt Seminary offered: “Live life as the image of God. Which means each of us is authorized to represent God.”
When we live in that manner, no matter when we rest from the day, may no one around us ever wonder if God is when we relate to each other. May our imaging leave no doubt God is. And. So are we.