Charge to the Graduates, May 14, 2016
By Leanne Van Dyk, President
It is the long tradition of Columbia Theological Seminary for the president to send out the class of graduates with a series of charges from the words of Scripture. There are, of course, many charges in the pages of the Bible–from the sublime, “Let anyone who has ears listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches,” (Revelation 3) to the mundane, “You shall make the ephod of gold, of blue, purple, and crimson yarns. . .” (Exodus 28).
The charges that I have selected for today address specifically the character and quality of a leader–these texts charge us to act in ways that will honor God and do good to others. Listen to these words from Scripture…
First, a sample of charges from the Old Testament:
Moses, in his last exhortation to the people ready to cross into the Promised Land:
“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse, therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying God’s voice and cleaving to your God” (Duet. 30)
The rightly famous words from the prophet Micah:
“The Lord has shown you what is good, and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6)
A fistful of charges from Proverbs:
“Do not let loyalty and faithfulness forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart.”
And – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.”
And this zinger – “Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.”
Now, a number of charges from the New Testament:
Paul’s advice and instruction to the young Timothy:
“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead. . . Preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke, and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander into myths. As for you, always be steady, endure sufferings do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (II Tim 4).
Anne Lamott once said that there are three Christian prayers – Thanks. Help. Wow. This beautiful charge from Philippians contains them all:
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, Rejoice, Let all people know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep you hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Finally, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is precious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
From that manual of Christian living, the book of Ephesians, comes these words which are a sort of summary of faithful ministry:
“I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all low lines and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4).
And finally, my favorite because it ripples out into every part of your life – your relationships, your ministry, all your ways of being in the world. Receive this final charge from Romans 15, “Welcome one another, therefore, just as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”