I have spent the last several days at Conception Abbey with the new create cohort, which is always gratifying as I learn of the passion for ministry that new students bring to their experience of theological education. These nine scholars have wide-ranging interests: pastoral work, evangelism, music, writing, youth ministry, advocacy for marginalized persons, and teaching, among the varied interests and capacities.
I am energized as I consider the significant impact that they can make; I am also aware that the seminary’s work of formation will benefit them greatly. Some bring pain with them, having been wounded by families of origin or families they have forged. Some have been wounded by their church and long for healing so that they may become healers themselves. The seminary is uniquely equipped to pay attention to what these bring with them, and I trust that they (and all our students) will feel tended and nurtured during their time as a seminarian at Central.
The prophet Jeremiah heard this word from the Lord:
Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words. So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him (Jeremiah 18:1-4).
This visual parable suggests that God takes interest in shaping useful lives, and human flaws do not present an insuperable challenge for God’s handiwork. Indeed, God’s profound engagement with humans as “lively clay” allows new capacities to emerge.
The epistle reading tells the story of Onesimus, once considered useless because he went on the lam from Philemon’s household. Because of Paul’s influence, he was returning with new usefulness, having become a Christian and ministering to the apostle while imprisoned. The transforming power of the Gospel is the ground of healing between these two, and Paul tenderly advocates for his new brother in Christ.
So there is work for all of us to do as we go deeper in this academic year. Together, faculty and students will fashion useful lives as we work with God in the process of formation.
Molly T. Marshall
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