Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Duke Divinity School's interview with N. T. Wright

Duke Divinity School's Faith & Leadership website features an interview with N. T. Wright (H/T: James K. Smith). I am encouraged by two of his sharings. First was his decision to leave his post as the Bishop of Durham to take up a teaching post at St. Andrews University:

Q: Could you tell us about the discernment process that led you to step down as bishop and return to the university?

This time last year I was on sabbatical in Princeton at the Center of Theological Inquiry. I had a wonderful time writing about St. Paul and working toward volume four in my series. I had a sense of things that were stirring that I needed to do business with and grapple with again. One or two friends said things to me like, “You’re sounding like your old self,” which rather rocked me back, because I actually thought that being a bishop was quite a good self to be.

When we got back to England in early January, it quickly became clear that my job being Bishop of Durham was going to close over my head like waves of the ocean over a drowning man. I loved that job. There was hardly any of it that I didn’t really enjoy, but there was more and more of it.

I was faced with the choice, which I grappled with until about Easter: That stuff I was doing on Paul in Princeton, was that just fun? Was that just a bit of play on the side, or was that actually something very serious that I’m supposed to be reconnecting with? And if that’s so, is it possible to combine it with the job that I’m doing?

By mid-March, to my surprise and my wife’s great surprise, I had come to the conclusion that the answer was that we had to look at the academic option. Around then St Andrews said, “Well, we are looking for a New Testament professor.” You don’t expect in your early 60s to be making that kind of major career move, but it’s hugely exciting. I feel it is a sort of new lease on life, even though there is a great sense of loss of what I’m no longer doing. But I guess life is about making choices like that.

Discovering our vocation is a life-long event. It happens even when you are in your sixties. At every phases of our life, we have to discern and decide what is God calling us to do and be.

The other encouragement is from Wright's sharing of sightings of people whose simple stuff they do in their lives reflect the glory of God:

Q: Irenaeus wrote that “the glory of God is a human being fully alive.” I wonder when you’ve seen a man or woman leading in a way that leaves a trail of glory behind.

Very recently I went to see an old friend who had been a schoolteacher, a young master at the school where I was a teenager. I visited him in the hospice, and it was clear that he only had a few days to live. His wife was there, now his widow. Her humanity was an extraordinary mixture of joy and grief. You could see it on her face, and I came out of the hospice happy. He died about three days after that, but my abiding memory was, “I have just seen a human being fully alive,” and it was this good lady -- and she will never hit the headlines.

From that to -- many, many times I have seen Rowan Williams preside over the Eucharist or preaching or quietly praying with somebody at a conference. Somebody has asked him something, and Rowan will just pause and pray with them completely unselfconsciously. You have a sense of, “Here is somebody who God has called, equipped in an extraordinary way, brought to a place where his rich spirituality and humility can be fully operative -- and thank God for that.”

Thank God for Wright. I am one of those whose perception on life is enlarged by reading Wright's works.

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