Last weekend I made my yearly pilgrimage to SBL, the Society of Biblical Literature. I don't think I realized how mentally tired I was when I left. I returned feeling a bit refreshed and thankful for all the blessings of my life.
In the academic Dean's role, I spend most of my time academic problem solving and whack-a-moling the unpredictable daily stream of minutia that is the stuff of an academic institution. IMO, a good Dean is a servant of the greater good. Wayne Schmidt has an amazing ability to see possible ways that the Seminary can serve the Church and the minister in the trenches. The Seminary faculty are excellent at enriching pastors and lay leaders in our programs with down to earth, practical insights with an underlying depth.
The Dean, as I see it, keeps the two in good communication--the vision and its implementation--and helps make it happen academically. He or she helps make the vision of the leader happen academically, while empowering the faculty to thrive. I've been with enough other academic Deans to understand why the average tenure is about five years. I saw a fellow Dean at SBL and had to smile when I saw that distant look on his face. :-)
But I digress. SBL is an odd animal. It is full of individual scholars at various stages of their academic lives. Some are trying out their wings for the first time, trying to build a resume, trying to get some scholarly street credit. There are papers, papers, papers. I suppose most of them are not too memorable. Many of them are preposterous. Sorry, I just don't think Mark was originally written in Aramaic.
But some are quite memorable. Sometimes you get to witness an event that people talk about for a long time. I probably arrived too late to catch the ones this year, such as the review of Bart Ehrman's new book, How Jesus Became God, or the smack down between N. T. Wright and Doug Campbell.
The book hall is both amazing and depressing. For me it's a chance to realize how far behind I'm getting with my particular areas of interest and to wonder why I would even think about writing another book when there is already such a torrent of ink, most of which is smeared. Of course I will anyway. :-)
I paused to ask what one thing I came away with this time. I think it's a commitment to finish in the next month a scholarly book on Hebrews I have been overdue to finish for way too long a time. I've made good progress even today.
It is always nice to see old friends, people who also speak your first language, the language of the Bible in history. I suppose about 60 or 70 percent of that language is not immediately helpful even for a minister. I don't know. You don't have to know Greek to comfort someone who is dying. :-)
Still, it's nice to be able to talk about the bottom part of the iceberg with individuals who are both interested and conversant with such things. It's nice every once and a while to be with friends who are so much on the same page with you that you can pretend that everyone else in the world is crazy.
It was nice. I didn't present, so I didn't have that pressure. There were plenty other meetings and activities. I spent some time with my sister Juanita and my brother-in-law Ed Garcia, who pastors in Vista. And who can sneeze at San Diego when it's freezing outside here in Indiana? I saw Skyline, looked across the border into Mexico, and flew home.
How sweet it is to come home after a long journey! Thanks be to God!