The greatest privilege of my life is the sacred calling to help in the training of men and women for places of Christian ministry. Asbury Theological Seminary is brimming with dedicated Christ followers who are training to serve Christ within the context of historic faith and, in particular, within the grand Wesleyan stream of the church. I have served Asbury for a decade now, so I have had the joy of seeing around 1,500 graduates walk across the stage, receive their diploma, and go forth to serve the church.
One of the great traditions at Asbury is a special chapel just for new students. Each Fall we receive over 500 new students, so it is quite a ceremony seeing so many of them packed into Estes Chapel, eager to begin their journey. I preach a sermon titled, “Scholars on Fire,” which has become a standard way of framing who we are and what defines us as members of the Asbury community. However, the real climax of the service is not the sermon, but what happens at the conclusion. We set up a large “Christ the King” cross at the center of the chapel. This is one which displays Jesus on the cross as the ascended Lord. The new students are asked to gather around and literally take hold of the cross as if their lives depended on it. Then several of our key leaders such as Jessica LaGrone, our Dean of the Chapel, Donna Covington, our Vice President of Formation, and Nicole Sims, our Director of Community Formation take turns praying for these students. I also join them in that prayer. Then, years later at the end of their seminary journey, we have a special chapel just for the graduates. They once again gather around the cross at the end of the service and lay hold of it as they had done when they arrived, and we commission them for service to Christ and his church.
This year I prepared a special sevenfold prayer which I prayed over them at the service which takes place the evening before graduation. The prayer I prayed this year is reproduced here. While it was written for graduates, it is a prayer which is fitting for any Christian who wants to serve Christ wholeheartedly. This is my prayer not only for them, but for myself, and for each of you.
May the Triune God fill every part of your being, which once was occupied by sin;
May your heart be fully re-directed towards holy love, where once was only the tyranny of the mis-directed heart;
May your mind be fully awakened to the light of the gospel, where once dwelled only the shadows of doubt, and the clouds of fear.
May the gravity of holy love be stronger than the gravity of the self-oriented life;
May all the means of grace flow abundantly in your life, so that the journey of your life may truly be the upward call of God in Christ Jesus;
May all you have learned in this course of study become another altar from which Jesus Christ is praised, the church strengthened, and the grand mission of the gospel extended!
May your hands and feet be linked seamlessly with your heart and mind; so that your whole life will be a sacrifice of praise, and an expression of God’s covenant love and mercy to a lost and dying world.