It has been so much fun watching all the graduation excitement. I am blessed to have a number of sojourners this year that are graduating from my alma mater, Emory University’s Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, GA. Following their journey there has been filled with joy. There is something about a community’s ethos, rhythms, and ways of life together that does not change throughout time. As I watched the newsfeeds on facebook, the quotes, the pictures, the stories. It reminded me of my own graduation 10 years ago.
I have to say it’s really hard to believe that it has been that long!
It seems like the other day that I was immersed in that community of learning, struggle, and growth. Talking theology, complaining about the church, and dreaming dreams for my own contribution in the future. The rhythms of worship, prayer, study, and life together strengthened our souls in ways that I did not recognize at the time. It was a time to get to know who I was, to meet God again and to learn about my role in the community of faith. Class by class, conversation by conversation, paper by paper, text by text I was being shaped into a public theologian. A “god talker” for the common good.
More importantly I was being shaped into a gatherer of people on behalf of God’s kingdom. These gathered people could indeed make a difference in a neighborhood, city, nation, and world. My role was to be a truth teller, story sharer and ritual leader. At each of those moments pointing toward the larger and mysterious reality that is God in the world. In some real ways 10 years later I miss that community. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t miss the papers, the deadlines, nor the mac and cheese or ramen noodles. I guess I miss the community that we rehearsed week after week.
For 10 years now I have been attempting to live into the theologian-pastor I have been shaped into. At each stop, I’ve learned something new about God, God’s people, and my own human condition. Each community has shaped me into a more deeply rooted pastor. But also each community has made me dig deeper into the well that was dug long ago through the halls of Bishop’s Hall.
On graduation day 2005 I had no idea what my sojourn would bring. No idea that my faith would be tested, my theological understanding stretched, my perseverance developed. No idea that 10 years later I would be more thankful for the foundation received by professors, mentors, and most importantly by my friends!
The study of God is still needed in the world today. We must continue to shape pastoral leaders into faithful public theologians. Into a people who are connecting the great story of faith to our continued shared work towards the common good, towards human flourishing. Continue to shape pastoral leaders into a kingdom imagination, into a healthy use of power and authority, into a call for God’s people to be peace-makers (makers of shalom) in for the life of the world.
I keep on going to the deep well that was dug long ago . . . I keep on reading, preaching, conversing, making space, and saying prayers. When the difficulties of pastoral life arise I remind myself that there has been a long line of faithful servants that have gone before me and have faithfully led God’s people. When things are going well I ask myself if maybe I should be more courageous, bolder if I’m really calling God’s people to our God-call in our city?
Most of the time though is spent living alongside God’s people constantly being reminded to stay close to the well that is theology and allow the Holy Spirit to sanctify my meager attempts to talk about God, to share good news, and to lead God’s people faithfully: a practiced, public, pastoral, theology.
Coming Soon: Ten Years as a Pastor: What I Wish the Very Young Man in the Picture Would Know