Last Lectures, Commencement and Calling

On May 20, Calvin Theological Seminary will hold a commencement service honoring 126 graduates who completed various certificate and degree programs.  We join together to give thanks to God for these students and this significant step of training and formation for them.

Prior to that, Professor of New Testament Dean Deppe (completing 19 years of teaching at Calvin Seminary) and Professor of Philosophical Theology John Cooper (completing 32 years of teaching at Calvin Seminary) shared their passion and knowledge through a “Last Lecture.”  (See the links to these lectures here.)

How are “Last Lectures” and Commencement connected?  On the surface, we have students who are “commencing” their ministry while these professors are “finishing” their teaching ministry.  I would invite us to go beneath that surface to understand not only the connection between “Last Lectures” and Commencement, but also our own lives.

Last month, I recounted taking a recent trip to Luther sites on a Reformation Trip.  As a lover of history, I wonder what happened before October 31, 1517, when Martin Luther is said to have nailed his 95 Theses that was a spark for the Reformation.

As a lover of people and their stories, I wonder what started Dean Deppe and John Cooper on their teaching ministry.  I wonder what causes people from across the world and from different cultures to seek training at Calvin Seminary.  The answer is calling.

Calling is developed in various conversations and contexts, but calling is what ultimately links together students in their commencement and professors who are retiring.

One of the significant pieces of advice that I received and which I pass on to others is to keep remembering and returning to your calling to be sustained in ministry.  Circumstances of life will change.  Ministry success and ministry failure will always be present.  There are ups and downs in life, but what can sustain a person in ministry is to remember and recall their calling.  You don’t have to be a pastor to know the value of knowing your calling.

There is a lot of good conversation today on “Faith and Vocation.”  People are wondering what more there is to a job than a paycheck.  Vocation and calling are categories that help people understand how their work connects to God and is also consistent with His calling them to be Kingdom builders in various spheres of life.

So: what is your calling?  How do you frame how God has gifted you and formed you for His purposes?  You don’t have to be a student on commencement or a retiring faculty member to be a person of calling!