We each go through life looking for the meaning of our calling, the purpose of being alive, the reason for taking up space in the universe. We look for connectedness to a greater purpose. I know I do. I believe that, as long as I’m alive, I have a purpose. There is a work still to be done.
There are people we haven’t met, places we need to go, tasks that yet need the unique touch of our hands. We squint to see the rich cord connecting people, circumstances, places and events—to find out the “Why?” of it all.
Above the door in his pastoral office, my husband had affixed the words of the great commission: “Go ye therefore…” Followed by the promise: “Lo, I am with you always…”
In the last few months, I have reconnected with a pivotal part of my history. Before moving to Wisconsin, we spent four years living on the campus of American Baptist Theological Seminary, now American Baptist College. Those were years of awakening, of bonding with those who became lifelong friends—all as dedicated to sacrificial ministry as we were.
Now, I am back on the Holy Hill, strolling across paths that span these marvelous fifty-three acres on the edge of the Cumberland River. Views of the city from here are breathtaking. Sometimes I stay until dusk just to watch the diamond of Music City come alive, as lights come on.
One of the people I needed to meet is Professor Janet Wolf. I am astounded by her vision of Christian leadership and of our responsibilities for community building and social justice. Every conversation with Janet has caused me to consider what Jesus told us to do. Our individual “go” and “lo.” Dr. Wolf teaches classes in the Tennessee prison—but not just in the prison, one class is on death row. As part of her Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program, she teaches “Transformative Justice” and “Community Building and Conflict Resolution.”
God’s timing is so precise. He knows what we need to experience. When I took my seat at ABC’s commencement ceremony last week, I chose a spot near the rear so that I could be a quiet observer. Dr. Wolf delivered the prayer. Her words were so Holy Spirit-filled that they were like a mighty wind blowing across everyone present on the Library lawn. I asked her to share them with me…so that they could bless you.
This prayer is for every graduate in the class of 2012, everyone who watched a child reach a milestone, and everyone who wonders if God still calls us to touch lives—in prisons or in palaces. You be the change agent God requires today.
Gracious, life-giving and holy God,
we come this day with joy and with thanksgiving.
Thank You for the gift of this day
and for all who gather here,
for the power of your presence, the wideness of your mercy
the enoughness of your grace.
Surely you are good and we are thankful.
Thank you for ABC and all who have labored here.
For almost 88 years, on this holy hill, you, O God,
Have been calling forth and raising up
Prophets, pastors, and protestors;
teachers, transformers and truth tellers,
nonviolent but militant warriors and saints.
Over and over again, on this holy hill, you, O God,
have made a way where we saw none;
you have opened doors when others slammed them shut.
You have propped us up on every leaning side
when things got hard;
and we thank you.
Thank You for those who graduate today,
each one a miracle, a sign of your steadfast love.
Thank You for their courage and creativity,
Their passion and persistence, their fierce determination
and defiant trust in your promises.
Thank You for all who accompanied them,
those who loved them and fed them,
those who supported them and encouraged them,
those who challenged and prodded them,
those who refused to let them give up or in
or settle for less.
Pour down your Holy Spirit upon us this day and always,
that we might be all you have created us to be—
Channels of healing and hope,
agents of change and challenge,
instruments of justice, generosity and joy.
In Jesus’ name.
Dr. Janet Wolf
Note: the above prayer is abbreviated. Please check back here tomorrow; I will post the prayer in its entirety.