A joyous, in-person 2022 commencement

The weather cooperated and being together in person to mark the accomplishments that led to this day provided an air of satisfaction and joy. Eleven alumni from the Classes of 2021 and 2020, who had been invited back to walk, were among the honored graduates.

Paul C. Pribbenow, president of Augsburg University, Minneapolis, Minn., was commencement speaker.

Pribbenow began and ended by quoting “the late, great icon of this institution,” Joseph Sittler, who once suggested that the whole of the Christian faith can be summed up in this liturgical phrase, “from you no secrets are hid.”

“So, now freed, with no secrets hid, what does the call to public discipleship mean for you as you commence your vocational journeys for leadership and service in this church and in the world?” he asked the graduates. Pribbenow reiterated the tie between Augsburg and LSTC due to a new accelerated public scholars program, built his address around three claims that propel our public discipleship: why place matters, radical hospitality, and practicing abundance.

Pribbenow returned to the wisdom of Sittler (and Martin Luther King, Jr.’s arc of the moral universe) as he concluded: “We are called to lean into an arc already making its way in the world, a plan already unfolding, justice demanded, love breaking in, and there we find glimpses of salvation and grace in our midst as we pursue our calls to public discipleship.”

He encouraged the graduates to face their daunting, frightening, awesome and remarkable calls by “making peace in your lives, in your families, faith communities, neighborhoods and in the world, to be reconciled with our God and neighbors far and wide.”

Turning to the lines first written by Polish Rabbi Nachman (Kaddish), he recited: Nothing is as whole as a heart that has been broken. All time is made up of healing of the world. Return to your ships, which are your broken bodies. Return to your ships, which have been rebuilt.

“We’re in good and gracious company—called by our gracious God, from whom no secrets are hid, who has rebuilt our ships, who has redeemed our lives so that we might heal the world, so that we might join in God’s loving and reconciling and justice-filled work for the world,” he said.

Prizes, degrees

Prizes for scholarship and preaching were awarded: Nathan Houstin, the Edgar Krentz Award for Biblical Interpretation; Cecilia (Cecie) Suknaic Saulnier, the James Kenneth Echols Prize for Excellence in Preaching. Both just completed their middler year.

MDiv graduates Sarah Krolak and Maeve Schurz presented the class gift of more than $8,000 to be used as stipends for students participating in Clinical Pastor Education (CPE), a requirement that is unpaid and not covered by scholarship support.

Degrees were presented to 13 MDiv students, two MAM students, one TEEM student, one Studies student, four DMin students and five PhD students.

“A New Heaven and a New Earth” was this year’s theme, based on the Fifth Sunday in Easter Revelation 21 text (1a).

Baccalaureate

Benjamin Stewart preached and presided at Saturday’s baccalaureate service, saying the day’s texts, which also included Acts 11:1-18 and John 13:31-35, call us to remember our ancestors in the faith.

“We retell these ancient stories with wonder, even as we too, now at this moment, turn and wonder at what God has been revealing to us in our time together at LSTC… in the library, over Zoom, on the EL, in this chapel, through these windows, at the lake, at ministry sites, in courtyards and colloquies and even in classrooms—even here, we’ve been met with a new heaven and a new earth.”

Referencing a previous poem in a chapel sermon, he quipped, “if you also had Billy Collins’ poem “Passengers” on your Bstew homiletical bingo card, today’s your lucky day.”

The poet, noting passengers’ vulnerabilities, fragilities, precarities, and “beholding them in a kind of love” describes our human need for someone to stand up and say a few words, Stewart said. “The poet in this poem steps back. But you, at this commencement, step forward: to where God and God’s strange love has called you, even given you a new commandment.”

Noting the bookends of the seminary years—pandemic, wars and insurrections, climate disasters and lives cut down by police violence—Stewart said, “It is an understatement to hear the world calling out, “I think it would be good if one of us maybe stood up and said a few words.”

“Jesus extends that call to you too, in a new commandment, and you’ve answered: knowledge, action, towel and basin, a word of life, bread for sharing, and a love that – even with Judas, Peter, Pontius Pilate, and the police – opens a door to the new heaven and new earth.

“God’s love brings about another world, within this one. We’ve tasted this love, we’ve been washed in it, we’ve seen it leap off the page in the classroom and the library. You have seen this new heaven and new earth here at LSTC, but I tell you, ‘you will see greater things than these.’ And now we send you off, beloved graduates, to embody that love – even book-ended in this season – to open the door for others as the risen body of Christ.”


Original article published in the Summer 2022 Epistle Magazine; written by Julie Sevig

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