With the end of the semester approaching, my desk holds a stack of exegesis papers dutifully written and presented as an offering by my Old Testament and 1-2 Samuel students at the Campbell University Divinity School. In a folder, there is a list of 17 blog sites from my “Ministry of Writing” students, who were assigned to start a blog and post at least four entries for me to peruse. Next Tuesday, I’ll add a tall stack of final exams to the mix.
I was a bit surprised to discover that it takes me 45 minutes to an hour to read, mark up and grade each exegesis paper. With more than 40 left to go and deadlines looming, it looks like I’ll be burning a lot of midnight oil.
Unfortunately, today’s paper reports that working the night shift is a cancer risk. When I took this job, I didn’t realize that it would involve such exposure to carcinogens.
At least, I thought, reading the exegesis papers gives me a chance to focus on the Bible for a while, free from worry about Baptist issues. Then I noticed some of the texts: conflict between the hypocritical Judah and his daughter-in-law Tamar (Genesis 38), conflict between the prophet Elijah and the overbearing queen Jezebel (1 Kings 19), conflict between Abraham’s surrogate wife Hagar and his real wife Sarah (Genesis 16), conflict between Jacob’s impetuous sons and their confused neighbors (Genesis 34), conflict between David’s children that he refused to confront (2 Samuel 13), conflict between David and his takeover-minded son, Absalom (2 Samuel 15-18).
They don’t seem so non-Baptist after all.
At least the papers are not without hopeful texts: Nehemiah leading the Israelites to work together in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 2), the courageous leadership of the midwives, Shiprah and Puah (Exodus 1), the hope of promises to Abraham and Sarah fulfilled (Genesis 18).
My stack of student papers brings me a world of conflict and turmoil, but with glimpses of heavenly hope … who would have thought that grading papers would so appropriately reflect the atmosphere of Advent?
[First image from my desk. The Advent candle art is from www.justpeace.org.]
Professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School in Buies Creek, North Carolina, and the Contributing Editor and Curriculum Writer at Good Faith Media.