Archive for July 12, 2010
My graduate alma mater is Concordia Seminary in St. Louis. In 2004, I walked away with a Master of Divinity. The classes I took there and the lessons I learned there have proved invaluable to me over the course of my ministry. They prepared me to make a solemn pledge of fidelity to the Word of God and the Gospel of Christ. And, by God’s Spirit, I intend to keep that pledge through my ministry and through my life.
Seminaries have a long and storied history in the annals of Christianity. Tradition has it that Basil of Ancyra, who gathered around him a group of students to professionally train them in Holy Scripture, started the earliest known seminary. The term “seminary” fell out of favor in the Middle Ages, but resurfaced at the Council of Trent, which mandated that a seminary be opened in every diocese:
The holy council decrees that all cathedral and metropolitan churches and churches greater than these shall be bound, each according to its means and the extent of its diocese, to provide for, to educate in religion, and to train in ecclesiastical discipline, a certain number of boys in their city and diocese, or, if they are not found there, of their province, in a college located near the said church or in some other suitable place chosen by the bishop. (Council of Trent, Twenty-Third Session, Ch. XVIII)
The council continues with stern rebukes of those dioceses which refuse to open or adequately maintain their seminaries.
Even though the advent of the modern seminary is generally attributed to the above declaration of the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century, the notion of a seminary is as old as Christ Himself.
In Mark 6, Jesus encounters a mob of hungry people. Although very few of us are confronted face to face with the tragedy of hunger because of our stations in life, hunger was widespread and commonplace in the ancient world and, indeed, is still widespread and commonplace in our world today. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 1.02 billion people suffer from hunger. In Mark 6, 5,000 of these 1.2 billion are together in one place.
So what does Jesus do? How does Jesus respond to such a pressing need? He starts a seminary! “Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties” (verses 39-40). The Greek word for “groups” in verse 40 is prasia, meaning, “seed plot.” Interestingly, this is also what our word “seminary” means. It is from the Latin word seminarius, meaning a seed plot in which men are planted to grow in knowledge of God’s Word and to be trained to share that Word with others. Thus, before Jesus feeds the masses with loaves and fish, He plants and prepares them in seminaries so that they may properly receive the blessings that He will soon give them.
By means of His Word, Jesus desires to give you a seminary education. His desire is that you are planted in groups of Christians, being planted and prepared to receive the good gifts which He has prepared for you. Time in worship, small groups, Bible study, and prayer are all seminary training! And it is in these times that Jesus comes and feeds you – not just with loaves and fish, but with the sustenance of His Scripture. And make no mistake about it, we sorely need this feeding from God’s Word. For God’s Word gives us life. As Moses reminds us, we do “not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3)! May you join with other Christians this week to be trained in Christ’s seminary!
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message or Pastor Goodwill’s ABC!