The greatest task of the seminarian is to somehow separate the devotional life from the academic life. It is the failure to do this that causes many ministers to speak ill of their time in seminary. The fact is, as ministers we have to read scripture and know how to study it. The other side of that is we have to constantly throw ourselves into a relationship with the God who delivered us. These are two issues that don’t solve themselves.
This semester there are two pieces of scripture that I am interacting with in non-devotional ways, the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) and the general epistles (1-2nd Peter and Jude). While the rest of the Asbury community is reading the Matthew passages devotionally through our community reader, I lead the team that designs our chapel services and we are interacting with these passages three times a week in worship. I am also taking a 700 level exegesis class on the general epistles, and the class involves translating the books, writing several papers, leading discussion in class one day, and learning to interact with the text on multiple levels.
While I realize that reading scripture should never be a chore, I had to figure out a way to not look upon these passages as work. This means that I have been finding a way to read them devotionally everyday, and praying before I start any sort of “work” involving them. Instead of looking upon them as facts, or paper topics I began to immerse myself in the. It isn’t about extraction, meaning that I just go through to find small passages to pull out and use, but it is immersion-living my life this fall inside these scriptures. This is “writing scripture on the doorposts of our house” (Deut 6:9).
It started this summer when I started memorizing the Sermon on the Mount. I caught myself recognizing many life situations that reminded me of the sermon and it was a blessing throughout the day. Then I began reading/translating 1 Peter and Jude this summer. I noticed many conversations I had at work pointing to these passages, and it became almost comical how much I was citing them in many situations.
The idea of living in a text for an extended amount of time allows me to use it when I need to (work/class) but for it to never stop being a prayer that I go through throughout the day. It takes discipline, and making the decision to orient my reading towards a devotional or academic time-but I am finding that the two have started to overlap each other in wonderful ways.