Chapel – Dr. Marjory Kerr

Dr. Marjory Kerr

As we start this Winter 2022 term, our President, Dr. Marjory Kerr, will bring a word of hope from the book of Hebrews to our community. Her message is entitled “He is faithful.”

Speaker: Dr. Marjory Kerr
Chapel Date: Tuesday January 11, 2022
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Podcast Transcript

Well, good morning, everyone. I'm actually kind of pleased to see as many people in our Chapel this morning as there are here. So welcome. And as has been said, already, welcome to those who are joining us online as well. It really is a delight to welcome you back to Tyndale for the winter semester, and to this our first chapel for 2020, 22. As was said a moment ago, for some of you, this is all very familiar and known. For others, it's a brand new experience, and you are still in the process, perhaps of navigating courses, requirements, and university life during COVID. But for all of us, it is a New Year with a host of opportunities to serve our community, and each other, in expectation of all that God will accomplish, as we've just been reminded by the Tyndale singers.

You know, I'm not naive. I know the Omicron variant is raging around us right now. I know we're approaching two years since COVID began. I know how hard it is. And I know how much has been sacrificed, carried and in far too many instances, lost. I know that a primary focus for all of us here is taking all reasonable steps to keep everyone as safe as we can, while continuing to deliver on our faith and academic mission as a Christian University. And I know that eventually COVID-19 will move to another stage that is much more manageable for us.

Just after New Year's Day, a cartoon came my way. I don't know who the cartoonist is, unfortunately, or even really where it came from. But the image had two characters, one apparently very anxious, the other seeming to be digging in the dirt. And they were chatting about the new year. The anxious one said, "Aren't you terrified of what 2022 could be like? Everything is so messed up." The other said, "I think it will be like flowers." The first said, "really? Why?" And the friend responded, "Because I'm planting flowers." Now, silly New Year cartoons and platitudes are often just that. Silly. But every now and then there can be a grain of truth in them. We've just celebrated the coming of Christ into our world as Saviour, Redeemer, and promised Messiah. And in another seven weeks time, we will begin the season of Lent as we journey to Easter once again. We often claim for ourselves various, various promises throughout scripture, and one of them is the promise God gave through Moses to Joshua and Israel in Deuteronomy, chapter 31, verse six, when Moses says, "Be strong, and courageous, do not be afraid or terrified because of them for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you." The "them" that Moses was talking about were the existing nations that Joshua and Israel would face. Our current "them" might be the circumstances that we face. But the point of this scripture verse, is that God is with us always, and goes with us always. And equally, we have the assurance of Hebrews chapter 13, verse eight, that Jesus Christ, our resurrected Saviour, is the same yesterday, today and forever. And that's what I want to talk about this morning. He is faithful and unchanging. And if it helps, think about planting flowers, as we spend these next few moments together.

For our core text, I've chosen two verses from Hebrews chapter 10, verses 23 and 24. "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love, and good deeds." This is the same scripture that I shared with our Cabinet last week when we returned from the holidays. There are 13 chapters in Hebrews. In the first nine chapters or so, the writer lays out his theology and his arguments for our faith. They are teaching chapters. And around about chapter 10, he shifts to explaining the practical application of the theology that he's just presented. He shifts his conversation to the "so what" of his letter. In the New International Version, the subtitle for these verses, 19 to 25 of chapter 10, is "a call to persevere" in context, it's a call to persevere because of who Jesus Christ is, and what that means for us.

So, in these verses, on the basis of all that has been said in the previous part of Hebrews, the writer makes several statements about how this should impact what we do. And we're going to look briefly at just two of those statements. First, in verse 23. I'll read it again, He says, "Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful." Here's how that reads in the Message paraphrase. "So let's do it. Full of belief, confident that we're presentable, inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip on the promises that keep us going. Because he always keeps His word." Circumstances, the events of life, may sometimes feel like they're just piling up against us and perhaps against our faith. But we are urged in this verse, to hold unswervingly to the hope we have through Jesus Christ. So in this new year, with all its challenges and opportunities, Jesus calls us to continue to hold unswervingly to the hope we have in Him. And then in the next verse, verse 24, we see that it's not, the hope is not just for ourselves, but it's for others as well. So in verse 24, and I'll read it again, it says, "let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds." The message paraphrase puts it this way, "let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out." What does that mean, in practical terms? I think there's probably many possibilities, but I'll share just two of them. First, we can encourage each other, and we can raise the bar for each other as we walk in grow in our faith. You know, I was always a good student, but I was never a great athlete. In high school gym classes, I ran better, and farther, and faster when I was paired with a strong runner who was out in front of me, than when I was matched with someone who had the same level of skill as I did when it came to running. We can raise the bar for each other as we walk in our faith. But second, we can also show each other Christ, by how we engage with each other, and how we engage with those outside of Tyndale, because as Christ's image bearer, we represent Christ to each other, and to those around us.

So in these two verses of Scripture, the writer is reminding us, first of all, to hold on, and secondly, that we are Christians not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of others. And so we are called to encourage, motivate and spur each other on because of God who is faithful and his promises to us. Over the last year, we've been working on developing a new strategic plan for Tyndale, and in November, Cabinet and I engaged in six different conversations with staff and faculty about the draft plan. Similar conversations are going to be happening with our student councils fairly soon and I'm looking forward to them. But an overarching theme of this new strategic plan, is the vision of Tyndale as a flourishing Christian University in all that we do, and for all those we serve, both directly and indirectly. That includes students, staff, faculty our neighbours, the extended community, the broader church, etc. And within that vision of a flourishing Christian university community, woven through, there is a theme of hospitality. Hospitality, not just as a warm welcome, or act of kindness, as important as they are, but hospitality as a spiritual, theological expression of who we are, and how we've defined our mission as a Christian university.

As sometimes happens, and maybe it happens to you as well, when I'm thinking about something in one context, it often pops up in other contexts, and I've learned to pay attention when that happens. So during the Advent season that we've just gone through, I was following the daily reflections that are published by "Lutherans Connect" for at Advent. And this year, the theme for Advent, was Advent as hospitality. And it explored the biblical examples of hospitality, given or denied, throughout Scripture, based around stories of individuals, some of the prophecies, the Christmas story and the early church. I couldn't help relating these Advent readings to the work we're doing with our strategic plan. I truly believe that we can't be a flourishing Christian university if hospitality is not evident. But hospitality is not just giving. It's also learning to receive, being comfortable or maybe uncomfortable, as both host and guest. It's assessing how our words, actions, and the very work we engage in, express hospitality. It's understanding that scripturally, hospitality extends God to those who are around us. Hospitality makes a pathway for God's grace. It includes asking what hospitality looks like in the middle of rising Omicron numbers. When practical wisdom and public health guidelines tell us to limit our engagement with others. It's looking to see who's not at the table. Whether the table represents a shared meal, shared social or professional relationships, or shared decision making. Who's not at my table? Who's not at your table? And why should it matter if someone is missing? Our hope of unity in Christ is experienced, and evident, through mutual respect and hospitality. Its hospitality, that in the long term helps build sustainability, because we cannot flourish as a Christian University, if we're not engaged in the flourishing of others. More personally, we can't flourish individually, if we're not engaged in the flourishing of others. A simple cartoon suggesting that planting flowers will change the course of 2022 can be easily dismissed. But perhaps the image of planting flowers can also be a useful analogy to encourage, and remind us, of our call as followers of Jesus, and what it means to be a flourishing Christian University community.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, remembering as the Tyndale singers just presented, He is working all things together for our good. Let's pray.

Father, God, we thank you for your presence among us. Thank you for the writings of your people through the centuries that encourage and inspire us in our walk with you. Thank you for your goodness, in the blessings during the hard times, and just in the daily experiences and routines that we all experience. As we begin this new year and a new semester and look ahead with both hope and concern, help us remember to invite you into our circumstances, recognizing that you are always present, faithful and unchanging, so that we can hold fast to our hope in you and hold that hope out for others. Amen. And God bless you

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