An ordinary school day at the seminary begins with each student putting on a cross-emblazoned cape. Capes fluttering, the student body paces the hallowed halls of the seminary, chanting in Latin for a full hour. After reciting Luther’s Large Catechism by heart in perfect unison, the students begin class. During the school day, students study the Bible without opening it, because they have it memorized. They pay attention perfectly, ask probing questions, and laugh at all the right times. When class ends, they leave the seminary with their halos glowing even more brightly than before.
Or not. A holy ordinary day at the seminary looks a lot more ordinary than holy most of the time. Yes, everyone is dressed up in suits and ties and they all sing as loudly as they can in chapel every day, but the students definitely do not have halos and they do not have the Bible entirely memorized—yet.
A student may arrive early, on time, or sometimes late for his 7:30 a.m. class. He’ll carry his books and laptop in a backpack or briefcase and be prepared with a thermos filled with coffee or tea. (If he’s really on top of his game, he has also muted his phone. If his phone makes noise during class, he’ll have to bring donuts for everyone the next day.) During his four 50-minute classes, he’ll learn about church history, Christian doctrine, different books of the Bible, and how to be a pastor. After classes, he’ll eat lunch with the rest of the student body in the cafeteria, then head to his part-time job before doing homework in the evening. The next day, he’ll do it all over again.
The everyday routine of a seminary student looks pretty ordinary, but a closer look reveals God’s gracious hand behind it all.
The only reason an ordinary young man wants to study to be a pastor in the first place is because he knows that he is holy in God’s eyes through what Jesus has done. The support of God’s holy people makes that studying possible, in ordinary ways made holy by Jesus.
A student may arrive at school wearing shoes donated (and polished) by a local pastor, a tie donated by a family in Canada, in a car given to him by his supportive family. He can afford to pay tuition to study the holy truths about God and to put coffee in his thermos only because of the gifts God’s people provide him with financial aid. The notes he takes, the questions he asks, the homework he does—all of these seemingly ordinary things are holy in God’s eyes through Jesus. Each of his classes, from 7:30 a.m. on, help him to know the truth about Jesus better and to better share Jesus with others.
Through each holy ordinary day, God is preparing seminary students for a ministry that may look much the same. The routines, the work, and the people may seem ordinary, but they will be holy in God’s eyes through Jesus.
We don’t need to wear cross- emblazoned capes to know that.
Julius Buelow is a 2018 seminary graduate.