2021 Spring Convocation Chapel

Dr. Marjory Kerr

Please join us online as we celebrate our graduating students from the Seminary, the B.Ed. program, and Undergraduate Studies. The 2021 Tyndale University Convocation Chapel celebration will include wonderful music from the Tyndale Singers and Band, two graduating student reflections, one from Avery Coulter (Undergraduate Studies) and another from Amy James (Seminary and Graduate Studies), and a message from President Marjory Kerr, Ph.D., entitled “Joy: Shining Like Stars and Pressing On”.

The rest of the service is available on our livestream chanel.

Podcast Transcript

Good morning again.

I trust you each had a good Easter weekend. Just two days ago, we celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the resurrection that enables us to be in a right relationship with God.

His resurrection that gives us hope, joy, and so much to be thankful for, not just in the week after Easter, but always, in all of life circumstances, and that's what I want to speak about this morning.

The title I've given this message is "Joy, Shining like Stars and Pressing On."

Just about one year ago, on another campus, in a recorded message, I addressed the graduating class of 2020, and I suggested that they would be forever known as the Class of COVID-19.

That was a true statement. Those who graduated last year, from this Tyndale campus and many others, pivoted over a weekend in March to finish their last few weeks of classes, assignments, and exams in an online virtual context, and campuses all across the country did what they could to help those students finish well.

That took a particular kind of versatility from everyone involved, faculty, staff, students, administration, you name it.

In April and May of last year most of us thought, and in hindsight perhaps it's that we wished or assumed, but we thought the pandemic would probably be over by June, maybe August at the latest.

We didn't imagine that we would still be teaching, learning, working, and gathering virtually a year later.

To Tyndale University's class of 2021, you are almost there. We are proud of you.

You have completed your entire last year of studies virtually.

It has taken patience, endurance, perseverance, the ability to laugh, at least some of the time, and most likely good amounts of chocolate, ice cream, and whatever your particular comfort foods are.

But it has also been a time when you have shown what you're made of.

Your determination, your "get it done" mindset, and the flexibility you have demonstrated have formed you in ways that we can't yet begin to imagine.

We don't know what education, work, community, or any other aspect of life will look like once this long pandemic is finally over, but I'm reasonably confident that it will never again look just like February of 2020, before all of this started.

Whatever the future does become, the experience you have had in the past 13 months, on top of your previous years at Tyndale, have honed in you the capacity to persevere in faith, testing and experiencing God's presence in your lives.

You have strengthened your capacity to adapt your resilience, your ability to use technology, creatively and thoughtfully, the ability to extend empathy to others, to adjust as you go, and I hope to be kind to yourselves as well.

You are ready for what comes next and you are able to help others as they navigate the changes that will most certainly come.

You are Christ's shining stars, ready and equipped to press on.

This is what Paul's letter to the Philippians is about, joy and perseverance squarely within the context of challenging circumstances, in anticipation of what is still ahead.

There are four brief chapters to this letter, let's look at them quickly.

Chapter one, we read that Paul was in jail when he wrote this letter, and he perceives this as a wonderful opportunity for God and the Church. This is what he wrote in verses 12 to 14.

"I want you to know beloved that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ, and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear."

And then in verse 18 he writes, "What does it matter" and the "it" here refers to several difficult things mentioned in the previous verses, "What does it matter, just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true, and in that I rejoice."

Chapter two. We read that Paul stayed connected with, and celebrated, the people in his faith and social community, and he encourages them to stay strong in their faith.

The first two verses of chapter two say this, "If then, there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete.

Be of the same mind, have the same love, being in full accord and of one mind."

In verse 15 of this chapter, Paul gives the believers, his friends and spiritual family, a vision of themselves. He refers to their responsibility and opportunity, as children of God without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation "In which you shine like stars in the world".

In a few minutes we'll come back to that phrase "In which you shine like stars in the world".

Chapter three. We read that Paul takes comfort in his heritage, the legacy provided him to by family, mentors and teachers, but then he puts all of that in the context of what he has come to understand, as that which is best.

He says this, in verses 7 to 14, "Whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss, because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.

I want to know Christ, and the power of his resurrection, and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like Him in his death, if somehow, I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that i have already obtained all this, or have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own.

Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own, but this one thing I do, forgetting what is behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal of the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus."

Let's pause for a moment at the end of chapter three in our journey through these four short chapters.

Paul was in jail, but he found a way to rejoice where he was. Paul was separated from many of his companions, but he found a way to experience joy in those he was with, and to stay connected with those who were absent.

Paul was stripped of the freedoms we value, yet rejoiced. He found joy in the person God created him to be.

Let me avoid confusion. Few of us have experienced imprisonment because of our faith.

That is certainly outside of my experience.

We are among the privileged simply because we are able to live, work, and study in Canada, and as challenging as this past year has been, I am not equating COVID-19 shutdowns, and quarantines, and isolation with imprisonment, or the very real persecution and suffering that many Christians are experiencing.

Instead, in drawing on Philippians, this book that is all about joy in the middle of life as it happens, my hope today is to draw our attention, to why we have not been defeated by 13 months of this pandemic, and why the present, and for the future, we are able to experience and extend joy to others.

Joy is more than a feeling.

Joy is not as variable as our emotional response on any given day.

Joy is not the absence of concern, or sorrow.

Joy is a gift of God through Christ, and it stands in the middle of the chaos concern, goodness, excitement, anticipation and weariness that may be swirling around us.

This is the message of Paul's letter to the Philippians that we can take for our own, and this is the encouragement I want to extend to you today, and particularly to our graduating class today.

Let's return for a moment to chapter two, where Paul writes to encourage and remind his friends, the Philippians, that they are children of God, without blemish, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.

This is the same metaphor used in Daniel chapter 12, verse three, which says, "Those who are wise, shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars, forever and ever."

You have within you, because of Christ, the Christ whose resurrection we have just celebrated.

As followers of Jesus, you have within you the capacity to shine like stars in the world, to take all that has shaped and formed you, including this past year, and help others find their way via the light of Christ that shines through you.

That is the crux of Tyndale's mission statement, to educate and prepare women and men who are equipped, ready and able to serve the church and the world for the glory of God.

We hold that in balance with regard for our current circumstances, as Paul does in chapter three.

Listen again to verses 12 to 14. "Not that I have already reached the goal, but I press on to make it my own because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But this one thing I do, forgetting what is behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God, in Christ Jesus."

We press on, because Jesus has made us his own. We press on, because of Jesus.

Let's return now to the last chapter of this letter. In chapter four, we read that Paul takes joy in God's peace, which endures before, through and beyond everything.

This is what it says in verse seven. "And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Hearts and minds. What we experience, know, think, feel and understand. The peace of God is able to guard it all.

Let me close with Paul's words from chapter four, verses eight and nine, read earlier by Dr. Yousif.

"Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received and heard and seen. And the God of peace will be with you."

The Lord has risen, and these are the outcomes of the joy He provides.

Shine like stars and press on.

God bless you.

— End of transcript —