Thursday, May 12, 2011
Rejoice! It's a Bumper Crop!
Rejoice with me and with my classmates at LTSG as we graduate tomorrow!!
If you've ever gardened, you know that when you plant seeds you don't know what will happen- some will grow, some won't and some will grow but they will not look like the picture. It's part of why it is tempting to just let someone else do that work and buy the already tended plant. But even so, someone had to do the growing. Even when you have the plants you don't know what the garden will look like. The picture above is from a field on the commute to LTSG- one year the farmer seeded the entire area in sunflowers. I honestly don't think even he expected such a bumper crop.
For 43 years people planted and tended the seed in me- I was a slow grower. For my classmates, the growing schedule is as varied as the day is long, but we each have a story that got us here. In May of 2007, I was getting ready to meet with my synod candidacy committee to learn if they would approve my entering seminary. Now here I am in May preparing to graduate four years later having been surrounded by some truly amazing people, and while I always dreamed it would turn out well, it has exceeded expectations. Our class has been that bumper crop!
Four years ago I became a “Blogging Lutheran” and met a fellow blogger in the blogosphere who said he was coming to seminary. Later that year we sat across a circle from each other sharing call stories. He later created the web page that kept us all connected on internship. We came from all over the country and right next door. One fellow student came from Alaska, but turned out she originally grew up down the road from my inlaws. and our lives have grown together in many ways. I've met people transformed by outdoor ministry, a few of whom will now work with my daughter this summer at a Lutheran camp. After years of supporting the church’s ministry in Tanzania, I can now say I know a seminarian who's been there and has a passion for that global ministry. And there are some who dared to make the long trek from places like Ethiopia to here to serve the church and open our eyes to new visions. With some of my classmates I have traveled halfway round the world to walk in the footsteps of Paul, literally. I have experienced beautiful music, Easter Peep dioramas, and worship in different languages, Luther Bowl, inspiring preaching, innovative teaching and stinkbugs (the last of these I would be glad to forget).
Some were engineers, social workers, bookstore managers, athletic directors, legal types, and many more were the truly risky ones- those who came straight from college. People from many traditions who have deepened our understandings in ways we could not have seen that first August. We all got here by the Spirit because of mentors and experiences that encouraged us to hear and dare to respond to God’s call. For most of us there has been some pruning and tending, and twists and turns but as I look back to four years ago, I can see that what looked like a group of possibilities has grown into a group of people whose sense of call has grown and flourished.
I've seen people blossom and come alive as they passionately share their experiences, hopes and dreams for young adult ministry, creation care, rural ministry, teaching, chaplaincy and much more. And I've been awed by people who have been transplanted over and over again, each time on the belief that God is calling. As a commuter I realize I only scratched the surface of life here but I have seen enough to know that the church is incredibly blessed to have my classmates entering various types of public ministry. And now we are about to join the grand procession of those who will enter to leave and to serve. Years ago the group Supersonic had a song “Closing Time”- the best line of which is this:
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”
So it is for each of us. It is a new beginning for each person leaving here, as we go forth to plant and tend all over God's field.
But I hope also for a new beginning of sorts for the church.
On the horizon are more budget cuts which will decimate funding for some of the ministries that brought us here- talk to seminarians and many will tell you of how campus ministry, outdoor ministry and youth ministry were fundamental to their sense of call. Likewise funding of seminary education is always at risk while congregations long for leaders. Instead of throwing up our hands saying the scarcity is too large, let's not get discouraged. Cutting these areas is like destroying the seed corn (I heard those words from someone else) – we can’t grow from nothing.
While I would admit that God can, I am not sure that this is a test of God we should engage. The plants have to come from somewhere. They come from congregations and synods and the larger church. We all have a critical role together.
And if you need proof it's worth it, and you’re on the Ridge this week, or any other seminary, when you’re celebrating, look around and ask what the picture would look like if those seeds had never been planted. They are after all a pretty amazing group that God sprouted. And then together let’s dream of more bumper crops.