A spiritual look ahead at ’09
What does it mean to love God’s created world? And, what impossible, or even possible things, are you dreaming of and what obstacles are looming for you in this world at the beginning of 2009?
Lee F. Snyder, EMU interim provost, asked these questions of the campus community at a convocation service Wednesday, Jan. 7, the opening week of second (spring) semester at Eastern Mennonite University.
Speaking with an enlarged image of the Earth projected on to a screen behind her on the Lehman Auditorium stage, Dr. Snyder noted that “this globe suggests the infinite mystery of God’s creation. But, it also represents a sphere with boundaries and – we now acknowledge – increasingly scarce natural resources.
“We refer indirectly to the world in the university mission statement, ‘EMU educates students to serve and lead in a global context.’ By that we suggest that we have a responsibility, a God-given mandate to relate to the world in some particular way – by serving and leading,” she said.
“Here at the beginning of 2009, from a magnificent, but scarred and scorched earth, we honor the God of enduring love; of unstinting mercy and grace. We raise our heads for a few minutes from the computer screen, we pull the head phones from our ears, we look up from our text messages, we push the book aside and think about the God of the Cosmos; of those vast reaches of space and time; God the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. For God so loved the cosmos,” Snyder continued.
“As we begin the year 2009, we simply remind ourselves that the cosmic God also gets very personal,” Snyder said. “It is neither presumptuous nor arrogant to stand back from this magnificent image of the planet and see ourselves as part of an ineffably beautiful but needy world – as significant partners with God in the work of peace and reconciliation.
And, there is something you can do now,” the provost told the assembly. “Students, take this opportunity for study and vocational preparation as the only world you inhabit at the moment. Discipline yourself in your work, ask questions, open yourselves to possibilities which might take you in new directions.
“Our responsibility is to be attuned to the ways that each of us personally is being called to be involved in God’s project of loving the world,” Snyder added.
“My prayer for you students, particularly, in a time of economic fears and unabated violence around the world, is that you would be willing to live on the edge of uncertainty while remaining compassionate and curious; that you would be propelled by a vision of healing and hope for the world which still receives God’s love.”
The service concluded with a commissioning and prayer led by associate campus pastor Byron Peachey for EMU cross-cultural groups who will spend second semester in Central America and India, respectively.
Kim Gingerich Brenneman, professor of psychology, and her husband, Bob Brenneman, are leading 24 students on a semester-long seminar in India, where they will explore the country’s history, government and culture, study and interact with the differing religions and learn fundamentals of the Hindi language. They will live with host families and keep daily journals.
The Brennemans led EMU’s first semester-long cross-cultural to India the spring of 2007.
Ann Graber Hershberger, professor of nursing, and her husband, Jim Hershberger, will lead the 22 participants in experiencing the world of Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras. Students will spend significant time with CASAS (Central American Study and Service), a cross-cultural study program in Guatemala.
The first two months, members will live with families in Guatemala City while learning Spanish and studying the culture, history and current issues including immigration, trade and economics. Special focus will be given to relating to and understanding the Guatemalan/Mayan Anabaptist churches. Students will then participate in a service-learning opportunity in rural Guatemala or Honduras.
– Story by Jim Bishop