My Charge to the 2012 Graduates of Asbury Theological SeminaryMay 23rd, 2012
We live in a world which if it were reduced to a jar with a label on it, that label would probably include the word impossible. We live at a time when almost everything around us is framed by impossibilities…
● Peace among Israelis and Palestinians…impossible
● An America where the threat of terrorism is a distant memory…impossible
● A congress where Democrats and Republicans engage in healthy, respectful dialogue and work collaboratively across the aisle for the good of America…. impossible
● A world marked by cultural stability where it is safe to walk the streets at night and crime is low…impossible
● A society where a man and a woman in their twenties with their whole lives in front of them, stand at the altar of a church and pledge their entire lives to one another – to be faithful until death separates them – and actually do it… I’m afraid too many people would say, nah, …impossible
Most people live in a world of impossibilities… As Thoreau put it we live “lives of quiet desperation.” Hope is low…expectations are lower… suspicion reigns…cynicism is on the throne…and truth itself is on the scaffold.
Yet, here you are, graduates, poised on this day to go out into this very world framed by such impossibilities. I charge you, therefore, class of 2012, to remember that the gospel of Jesus Christ is what transforms the impossible into the possible. Indeed, it is the incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus Christ which totally reframes the world and all of human history. It is these two great singularities – incarnation and resurrection – which reframe a world of despair and cynicism into the larger frame of hope and promise. This old creation is broken and wounded, but you know that the New Creation is already breaking in! You are its heralds and ambassadors. You are capable of thinking thoughts that the world cannot think. You are capable of sacrificial acts which the world cannot fathom. You are capable of dreaming dreams in a world that only knows ever-maddening nightmares. You can think about possibilities.
The whole ministry of Jesus was framed by impossibilities…incarnation and resurrection…a virgin birth and an empty tomb. Someone once said, Jesus came into the world through a door marked “no entrance,” a virgin womb. He left through a door marked “no exit”, a tomb of death. Two great impossibilities made possible in Jesus Christ. Nobody had ever walked through those doors before. In Jesus Christ, the world’s greatest impossibilities are made into possibilities.
Graduates, you would have under-heard the gospel if you believed that the incarnation and the resurrection are mere isolated historical events. They are historical events, but they serve to re-frame and re-order the whole of human history even today.
You can go out into this world and in Jesus Christ see the impossible made possible. You can work for peace, because the prince of peace is the Risen and Ascended Lord. You can re-engage in government and live free of bitterness and cynicism, because the government rests on his shoulders. You can wage holy war against crime, because God’s love for the world is always greater than Satan’s hate of it. You can boldly rescue men, women, and children from human trafficking, and the downward spiral of drug addiction because “the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and all those who dwell therein.” You can sit with husbands and wives who walk into your office and say “we have given up, our marriage has no hope.” And you can say, without blinking, God still has the last word in your relationship. You can preach the gospel to lost sinners and believe afresh in the power of God’s redemption because the cross is still the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. I charge you to go forth as ambassadors of hope! Do not get caught in the net of despair. Do not get trapped in the web of cynicism. Do not get swallowed up by all the impossibilities. Instead, be in Christ, where all impossibilities can be reframed by the hope of Jesus Christ.
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