"A Gospel that doesn't unsettle, a Word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a Word of God doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what Gospel is that?" - Oscar Romero
The end of December 2014 brought a congratulatory word from the President of Luther Seminary. She informed me that she had recommended my name to the Board (which they voted on and approved), and that my journey as Director of Contextual Learning would begin on January 1 2015.
As I settle into this call, I am grateful for many things: great faculty and staff at Luther, competent and joyful colleagues in the Contextual Learning office, CPE supervisors, pastors and workplace mentors that guide our students, and countless congregations and faith-based non-profits who know that they are shaping future leaders of the church! The blessings are many and it is already easy to see the deep joy that comes from this collaborative work on behalf of the church. I am beginning to feel “settled.”
"A Gospel that doesn't unsettle, a Word of God that doesn't get under anyone's skin, a Word of God doesn't touch the real sin of the society in which it is being proclaimed, what Gospel is that?" - Oscar RomeroBut as I ventured outside of my office on a mid-January day, I was reminded of something else. As important as it is to get settled into one’s new routine, we belong to a wider company that believes that we (as individuals and as a community) are called to be unsettled.
Sure, in the Contextual Learning office, we may feel settled once everyone finds their contextual placements and assignments, but the fact of the matter is: once you enter a Christian community, the real work, the unsettling work, is just beginning.
Martin Luther King Day was a special time on the Luther Seminary campus this year. It came with a wonderful day-long event marked by prophetic speeches, songs, worship and workshops and a community meal. We are grateful for the challenging words shared by Christena Cleveland, Alika Galloway, David Preus and Peter Rogness.
“The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.” - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Cleveland shared many insights. Among them came a call to revisit why, as Dr. King once said, Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week in America. She reminded us of the resounding refrain of the Apostle Paul’s and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s teaching, imploring people to turn away from their own self-interest in order to see and to serve the other.
Cleveland also opened our eyes to Greg Boyle’s refreshing paraphrase of the Beatitudes:
"Rather than say, 'Blessed are,' replace the word 'blessed' with, 'You're in the right place.' As in: 'You're in the right place if you're with the poor in spirit. You're in the right place if you're with those who mourn.'"
The imagination and imagery was rich and compelling on this day. Sermon and song brought forth the powers of grace and gravity. And yet, as this company of friends and strangers gathered together to remember Martin Luther King’s legacy and to make a joyful noise, I believe that as we went our separate ways, we would leave with words that would still linger, words that were truly unsettling.
Among these thought-provoking words were a series of Dr. King's quotes in the closing litany for the day:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”
“The contemporary church is often a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. It is so often the arch-supporter of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent and often vocal sanction of things as they are.”
In closing, as I venture into a new call in the Contextual Learning office, and as we (the seminary, the students and faculty and wider church partners) venture into our own unique callings, may we find the call and the courage to be unsettled.
Venturing outside of our offices and buildings will often bring us beyond the comforts of routine and that which appears to be settled in our lives.
Venturing out: Let this practice be a part of your routine, as I will seek to make it mine. For, it is in being unsettled, that we often find the stirring and generative work of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Go with great faith and great courage as we join in the unsettling work of God with us!