DEVOTIONS AT CONCORDIA COLLEGE BOARD OF REGENTS
May 12, 2018
Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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.
These words are from the Apostle Paul, and that fact might surprise some of us—that such lovely, lofty, compelling words could come from someone who left behind other passages that puzzle, befuddle and even offend some of Paul’s latter day readers.
St Paul just might be the most psycho-analyzed of all the characters in the New Testament.
There’s always someone who thinks it would be a good idea if Paul would lie down on a therapist’s couch, to sort out his manifold biases, probe his often self-obsessed ponderings, or untangle his complex personality.
Though he’s regarded as the author of fully one third of the New Testament writings, Paul always challenges careful readers to wonder just what exactly made him tick? Where did Paul’s disturbing attitudes toward women, his harsh views on same-sex relationships, his deeply fraught understanding of the relationships between Jews and Gentles—where did that all come from? And what about that mysterious “thorn in the flesh” he spoke of as both blessing and curse? What was with that?
Why, despite such wonderment, do we keep coming back to Paul, drinking deeply from the fathomless well of his vision for the life that is opened up in Jesus Christ—crucified and risen for the life of the world?
Perhaps it is simply because right in the midst of passages that some find off-putting we also stumble across passages like this one from the letter to the church in Philippi: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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.”
Sometimes the Apostle Paul baffles us or troubles us….and other times his soaring rhetoric, so effusive with the glad tidings of the gospel, stops us dead in our tracks and widens, deepens our vision of all that God is about in Jesus Christ.
I believe there is a particular word here, my friends, for those of us who are called for a season to help this college of the church tend its life and mission. Paul invites us to ponder another sentence, so dear to our hearts: The purpose of Concordia College is to influence the affairs of the world by sending into society thoughtful and informed men and women dedicated to the Christian life.
This sentence reflects anything but a narrow, constricted definition of Concordia’s mission. It bespeaks rather an expansive, freeing, beckoning vision….due in no small part to the very nature of the Christian life our college seeks to foster.
That last phrase, “dedicated to the Christian life” opens up more options and opportunities than we might imagine, because (following St Paul’s logic here in Philippians 4) there is no truth that is not God’s truth, no honor whose source is not in God, there is nothing pleasing—no beauty worth noticing--that is not God’s beauty, no justice that does not flow from the same God we know best in Jesus Christ.
We need to be this kind of college of the church….not just because the church wants it that way…but because the world needs us to follow this particular path. Lord knows there are more than enough narrow, pinched, stifling, tribalistic ways of being faithful nowadays. God calls us to something richer, wider, more liberating, more embracing.
So, my dear friends, as I take my leave from you, grateful for eleven years of accompaniment on this board of regents, I commend to you both today and in all the days to come…I commend to you these words of the Apostle Paul: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, 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.”
Let us pray: Eternal God, bless all schools, colleges and universities—especially our own dear Concordia College—that they may be lively places for sound learning, new discovery, and the pursuit of wisdom; and grant that those who teach and those who learn may find you to be the source of all truth; through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.” (ELW, p. 78, prayer for “Schools”)