Wednesday, 4 July 2007

The Cry of A Seminarian: A Chapel Message Response

This is my chapel message on July 3, 2007, in response to my earlier post, The Cry of A Seminarian.

When Jesus calls the twelve disciples, he invites them to join him on a journey - a journey of living together, a journey of learning together, and a journey of discovering together. Imagine that you are one of the twelve disciples on this journey.

If I were to ask you to blog about your journey and experience with Jesus and the rest of the disciples, what would you write? What would your story be like? As for me, if I were to blog, perhaps I will share a bit on the three crises that I experience in my journey with Jesus and the other disciples.

First, I would like to highlight that my journey with Jesus is a crisis of relationship. The twelve disciples never seem to get along pretty well in many instances. They argue about who is the greatest among them (Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46). Two of them even have their mother involved in trying to persuade Jesus to give them the best positions when Jesus establishes his kingdom – one to sit on Jesus’ left and the other on the right (Matt 20:20-21; cf. Mark 10:35-41). Don’t forget, there are a Zealot (Mark 3:18; cf. Matt 10:4; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13) and a tax collector (Mark 2:14; Matt 9:9; Luke 5:27-28) in their midst too. I suspect there might be resistance to the presence of these two people in the group. Some might even question the wisdom of Jesus in choosing Simon and Matthew to be his disciples because they might turn out to be liabilities for the whole group!

Second, this journey is a crisis of faith. The disciples expect Jesus to restore Israel. After all, Jesus is supposed to be the anticipated Messiah for Israel. But Jesus’ plan for the kingdom is not only for the Jews but it includes the Gentiles as well. To the Jews, surely they would not want to have anything to do with the Gentiles. They did not want to have anything to do with the Samaritans. Remember on one occasion, they even want to call fire from heaven to destroy the Samaritan villages (Luke 9:52-55). Imagine what would have crossed the minds of the disciples when Jesus takes them into Gentile territories to cast out demons, to perform miracles, and to heal the sick. Perhaps they would have responded, “How could this be? How could the Gentiles have a share in our inheritance?”

Third, this journey is also a crisis of failed expectations. The disciples have high hopes in following Jesus. They expect Jesus to establish the physical kingdom of God (Acts 1:6). They expect Jesus to liberate them from the powers of the Roman Empire. But Jesus tells them that his kingdom is not of this world. It is not a physical kingdom. Their dream and hope for the restoration of the kingdom of Israel are not fulfilled in the way they want them to be.

A crisis of relationship. A crisis of faith. A crisis of failed expectations. I wonder whether does this somehow describes your journey as a student in STM?

For the past two weeks, I have been in conversation with several bloggers on the issue of theological education and spiritual formation (for my earlier posts, see "Another 'Sick Project'"; Follow-Up on 'Another Sick Project: Character Formation and Theological Education"; and The Cry of A Seminarian). I have also been reading some of your blogs to understand some of your struggles.

One of you blogged a very penetrating and soul-searching article. In her post, Rccnlj pours out her heart as she struggles as a seminarian, reflects on her journey in her theological education, raises many questions concerning the various aspects of spiritual formation in theological education, and expresses her desires for lecturers to journey alongside her as she is being equipped for Christian ministry.

I confess I do not know how to respond as I listen to your struggles. I wish I know how to help you in your journey. I wish I have the answers to your struggles. But I want you to know that I am listening to your struggles. I hear your cry. I hear your frustrations. I deeply sympathize with you. I am with you in this journey as I have been in your shoes before.

Perhaps I can offer my reflection on what I learn from the disciples of Jesus
  1. They continue on this journey despite the odds. At one time, Jesus asks them whether they want to leave him. Peter answers, “To whom shall we go?” (John 6:68) They do not abandon this journey.
  2. They continue on this journey by supporting one another. They remain together after the burial and on the day of resurrection of Jesus (Luke 24:33; John 20:19). They remain together in the upper room on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1).

  3. They continue on this journey by trusting in Jesus’ promise of the gift of the Holy Spirit. They wait in expectation of the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

My encouragement to all of us is this - you are not alone in this journey. Remember that the three years the disciples spend with Jesus are not easy years. But those years are crucial and necessary for their spiritual formation and preparation for greater service for the Lord. This journey that they embark is a journey that changes their lives forever. It is a journey that also changes the course of history of the world.

So I invite you, come, let us take this journey together as fellow pilgrims. Let us encourage and support one another. Let us laugh and cry together. Let us correct and admonish one another. But more importantly, let us not walk this journey alone. It is too difficult. It is too lonely. We can only take this journey together as a community of believers who despite our own weaknesses and flaws, yet resolve to help carry one another’s burden.

Will you join me, despite my flaws and weaknesses, in this journey so that together we can make a difference? So that together we can usher in the present reality of the kingdom of God in this land?

Come, join me in this journey – a journey of learning together, a journey of discovering together.

P/S. A word about the photos. They represent my journey as a theological student. They were taken in different seasons along the favourite path that I took almost daily for my walk when I was a doctoral student in Wales - perhaps the sheep in the farms would have seen my tears, sensed my frustrations and heard my struggles deep within as a theological student trying to make sense of his calling, faith, research, and future vocation as a theological educator.

1 comment:

rccnlj said...

Hey Mr Lecturer. Thanks for posting up your sharing for Tuesday's lecturer.

I think the fact that you responded by listening to our cries helped - it's good to know that our cries are not going unheard or unnoticed. I think too that the fact that you responded by sharing this sermon in chapel also helped to address our cries helped too. Of course there's more than can be done - but I guess that's what journeying together is about... Not having all the answers but learning how to help one another along the way....