They were a strange lot. An elf, a dwarf, a Gondorian, a ranger, four hobbits, and a wizard, gathered from the free people of Middle Earth. They were gathered for a purpose, a mission, and had it not been for that, few, if any of them, would have said a word to one another. And yet, in the course of that mission, they became more than a random group of people. Through hardship and peril, they were forged together, coming into the name given to them: a Fellowship.
As bonds of common purpose grew to bonds of love, the Fellowship endured, through death and separation, each member working for and with one another. It may have been Frodo’s task to take the One Ring to Mordor, but it was the Fellowship that brought him to the foot of Mount Doom.
Trust me, I’m not just geeking out—this has a point. Last wednesday, Rev. Howard Vanderwell preached a message in chapel centred on a single word in Mark 2:5: “their.” A paralytic is borne to Jesus, through a roof, by four among a crowd, and when Jesus sees their faith, he pronounces the paralytic’s sins forgiven. Rev. Vanderwell’s message was simple, but poignant.
All of us have had people who supported us, sacrificed for us, bore us when we could not walk. None of us would be here without their faith. Rev. Vanderwell invited us to take two minutes to reflect gratefully on these people. I suspect for many, it was more than an exercise.
I would like to invite you to do something similar, but with this important difference: focus on this Seminary.
You may have only been here weeks, or you may have been here decades, but my gut tells me that you will recall someone here who supported you, even if briefly.
And my gut tells me that you will feel the sweet stirrings of gratitude.
Now I would like you to pause and think whom you have been a pillar for, and for whom you could be.
I know it’s a temptation for many (myself included) to think of CTS as a pit stop, an item to be crossed off a list. I would like you to consider that that attitude might just be a shame.
Cast your eye, literal or figurative, around you. These are your future colleagues. The people you will work for, over, with.
And they could just be that to you: colleagues. Classmates from a school you once went to.
Or they could be more. They could be to you the people who are there in the toughest times of your ministry, where ever you might serve.
They could be your source of sound counsel. They could be the shoulder to cry on.
We are a people gathered together for the Lord. We are striving together for common goals, we are tested together by common woes. But that alone is not enough to unite us.
As election season runs its course, it is all too evident that division and strife is the air we breathe. So often our culture and history has been to shun our differences and ignore where we are the same.
One party derides another. One church holds another in contempt.
And even more, we live in the age of individualism, where we are taught to shun community in favour of independence. We are rocks, we are islands, or so the song goes.
CTS is not a community of islands, thank God. But I invite us to consider that we might be more. That we can be a contrast people, evidencing God in a spiritually hostile world.
And that takes a choice, on all our parts.
To not keep our distance. To not just smile and walk away. But to choose instead to give a little of ourselves to a community of sisters and brothers in Christ. To grab a corner of the mat of someone paralyzed, and to be yourself lifted up by others.
To be a community that has fellowship with one another. Our time together here is brief, but it can be a time brimming with blessing, and a foundation for relationships that last you your whole life.
We have been called together, and it is together that we serve the Lord.
So, beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God.
Grace and peace be with you,