Sunday, January 09, 2011

Old and New

by Jenny

The first week of J-term came and went like a Minnesota winter storm. We covered hundreds of pages of reading, took a quiz, and started working on our first project. My head was still spinning after 3 days of studying philosophical terms for the quiz, and I even dreamt about them that night!

In the midst of it all, I’m trying to take some time to reflect. The “Christological doctrine” I’ve chosen to work on is the atonement, specifically, how Jesus’ death fulfills the New Covenant prophesied in Jeremiah 31:31-34. One theme within this that keeps striking me is that of the continuity of our past, present, and future. I often hear people at Luther talk about how they were surprised to be called by God into ministry, or how drastically their life has changed since coming to seminary. I’ve even heard past careers referred to as “former lives,” as if one’s identity completely changes upon coming to seminary.

I think there is a tension of both “old” and “new” in the two Covenants of the Bible, as well as in our lives. Being moved by God’s gracious promise was definitely a reality to the people living before Christ, and Jesus came in fulfillment of God’s promise to Israel. Yet there is something new about God’s interaction with humanity in Christ—as Jeremiah 31:32 says, the New Covenant will not be quite like the Old.

Thinking about my own story, I definitely see the time I spent between undergrad and seminary as crucial to my formative journey of faith and preparation for ministry. And looking back, I can see God’s wisdom guiding my path—I choose a philosophy major in college not knowing what I wanted to do later on, but after Friday’s quiz, I see how entirely relevant it is to theology.

Yet there have been many changes—leaving a job to start seminary, spending less time with family, friends, and hobbies, etc. And this past September, I knew it was time to leave the church I had been at for 5 years so that I could have a new type of ministry experience in a different church. It’s challenging to change. Like my old, worn-out slippers that I can’t stand to part with (even though I got identical new ones for Christmas), we sometimes have trouble accepting that moving into the new requires us to let go of the old. It’s not that our past ceases to be part of our story, but it can’t be the last word in how God will move us today and tomorrow.

God surprised many people by coming to earth as a baby and by dying on a cross. It was the same God that the people had known for generations, yet moving in unexpected ways. Are we open to God moving us to new things, in new ways? This is my challenge for this year—same God, new adventures.


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