I recently joined the LSTC Snow Crew as a way to make some extra money this winter. Having been out of town for the January storms, Friday’s snowstorm was my first opportunity to be involved. So Saturday morning found me huddled in the Maintenance Shop at 7:30 am, awaiting instructions. 7:30 is, in my humble opinion, way to early to be anywhere, especially on a Saturday. There were a good number of us, so it only took about two hours to clear the walks. Still it was a long two hours. Snow shoveling, especially sidewalks, is hard work. The cold morning air bit at my face; my back was tense from the cold and the exertion. After a year off of shoveling, my body was not prepared for a morning of hard manual labor. I came home, took a hot shower, and spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch drinking tea and reading an obscure book about the life of Paul, feeling tired but grounded.
Seminary is an intellectual activity. As seminarians, we are trained to be theologians, theology literally meaning words about God. We think a lot. We think, and we talk, and we read, and we ponder. We are taught to challenge assumptions, to ask tough questions, to grapple with texts and draw meaning from them. Hard work, absolutely, but mentally hard. Hard work that can be done from one’s couch.
Ministry, on the other hand is a physical activity. Ministry is an act of presence. It requires taking ones body and placing it amid other bodies in the dirt and muck of the world. It is walking with people in their living and their dying. We worship a God, after all, who took on a physical body, a God who still comes to us in the very physical elements of bread and wine and water.
A classically Lutheran answer, but pastoral ministry seems to be a both/and. We need both intellectual and physical pursuits. There will be days where my knowledge of Paul Tillich’s concept of symbol will be absolutely essential. And there will be other days where all that matters is that I know what to do with a snow shovel. Glad I have both.