“For such a time as this” – a Commencement Address

Dearest faculty and staff, distinguished guests, colleagues in ministry, families, friends: grace to you and peace from God our Creator and the Lord Jesus Christ.

In August of 2009, I was at a conference with a number of other clergy-types. Although there were some lighter moments, the topic of the conference was heavy. In attendance were people from all walks of life; some mourning change, others excited about the future. I was attending the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit, taking place in Illinois but broadcast nationwide. As each year’s summit does, the conference attempted to tackle the subject of church leadership in the twenty-first century.

There was one workshop in particular which would prove useful to me. As a matter of fact, this one workshop confirmed that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach — that I, too, might be called to service in this church. The workshop used the book of Esther to address the challenges of leadership in an ever-changing context.

So, Esther in a nutshell — an unlikely Jewish woman finds herself chosen as Queen of Persia. When she learns of a plot to extinguish the Jewish people from the city of Susa, Esther is faced with a decision: save her people, or save herself. At a critical point in the story, she receives a message from her cousin. He says, “Who knows? Perhaps you have come to a royal position for such a time as this.”

This became the theme which ran through the leadership conference. In fact, this theme became a manta through discerning my call to ministry. And naturally, this theme is at the core of my message to you today.

Like many lectures I’ve heard in the last four years, I don’t remember anything that guy said back in August of 2009. But I think we can imagine how this story speaks in our context today. We, too, are faced with hardships. We, too, are called to a life of self-sacrifice for the sake of others. We, too, are faced with matters of life and death. And yet, who knows? Perhaps we have come to this place for such a time as this.

We see a world which desperately needs to hear God’s creative and redeeming word, and yet it is a world which has little room for faith. We are facing a decline in human and financial resources, yet we are expected to maintain a church model that simply no longer works. We are experiencing signs of death in the institution of the Church, and yet we are blind to the resurrection happening in our midst.

It is in the spite of all this that I say to you – Who knows? Perhaps you have come to this place for such a time as this.

Perhaps you gave up two home-cooked meals with your family every week for such a time as this. Perhaps you took a week’s vacation from work to spend in an intensive class for such a time as this. Perhaps you ended friendships – or relationships – moving to Philadelphia for such a time as this. Perhaps you’re up to your neck in student loan debt for such a time as this.

And yet, it is for such a time as this that we are sent out into the world. It is for such a time as this that we are called to share God’s creative and redeeming word with a broken humanity.

We do not leave this place alone. We do not go into the mission field by ourselves. We have friends, families, and colleagues standing beside us. We have Christ before us. We have the Spirit around us.

Perhaps you have come to this place for such a time as this. Who knows?

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