Charge to the PLTS Graduating Class of 2004
Chapel of the Cross—May 15, 2005
Today I want to say two things; I want to charge you with two tasks. Those who know me as a permanent inmate of this institution can safely predict what these two charges are. Here they are: preach the gospel, and love your people.
Whether you become a pastor or deacon or professor or teacher or youth leader or chaplain: first, share the gospel! The gospel is the story of Jesus we tell with its significance; and the significance is that God is gracious. Our world needs to hear first that there is a God and, even more importantly, that this God is gracious.
There are many pictures of God in the gallery of religion and politics. God is frequently imaged as the moral task master, the one who sets the standards for human conduct and then frowns and fulminates at our failures to live up to those standards. God is frequently imaged as the wrathful warrior, sending suicide bombers into crowded market places and sending smart bombs to to turn quiet cities into fire and death. But the picture we want you to paint in your ministries is not a God who looks like us; rather, paint a picture of the cross. And with this cross draw our attention to the mystery of grace present in the cross. Tell the story of Jesus so that the grace of God shines through, so that the world sees its existence and destiny wrapped up in the love of God. If you don’t preach the gospel, we can’t rely on anyone else to do it.
Second, love your people. “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). If you’re going to love your people, you’ll need to spend time with them. Lots of time. Time in their homes, where they work, at their schools, in the coffee shop, walking the hospital halls. Not in your office. Not on the phone. Not behind a computer screen. Not filling out forms. Not pretending to go through the motions of looking like a pastor. Rather, time in partnership, time in sharing, time in being present. Love your people!
When in a few hours most of you will leave PLTS and return only seldom to this location, never again to precisely this community, you will take with you a part of us who remain. The faculty and staff and board have prayed for you, worked for you, grown a few years older with you, and some have even died while you’ve been getting your education. Your ministry is an extension of our ministry. Nothing will fulfill the mandate of PLTS more than to have you in decades to come, wherever you are placed, finding yourselves preaching the gospel and loving your people.