I just submitted my last assignment for my MA in Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. Though the prompt was simple enough-- "tell us what you learned in seminary"-- this essay might have been the most difficult of my academic career to write, just because I'm not sure how I could possibly answer this question (in fewer than 300 words). Here's what I said:
We serve a God of justice, mercy, and peace who is at work making all things new, moving all creation to new creation, and the Church joins in that mission empowered by Christ’s resurrection and emboldened by the Holy Spirit. As a local church pastor, my call is to pray faithfully, study scripture diligently, preach the gospel boldly, administer sacraments regularly. Poet Mary Oliver says the instructions for living a life are “Pay attention. / Be astonished. / Tell about it.” Paying attention to God’s work in the world sparked my passion for the intersection of theology and culture, which shaped my graduate studies at Fuller.
Theology & Culture was a foundational course in cultivating a theologically grounded perspective for engaging culture, particularly through the lens of a community living in exile. Jeremiah 29 became central to my articulated calling to God’s mission: “Build houses... Plant gardens… Seek the welfare (shalom) of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”
As I continued exploring this call to seek the shalom of our city, Theology & Film helped me celebrate the beauty and creativity of our culture as a gift from God. Contemporary Culture & Evangelism emphasized rich, compelling, new ways our generation is engaging the story of God and the work of God in the world. In Perspectives on Social Ethics we returned to the theme of seeking the shalom of our city through engaging public discourse with a holistic Christian ethic, modeling a third way in a dualistic, divided society. Theology & Ethics of MLK and Women’s Theologies emboldened me in the work of shalom through engaging social justice and advocacy-- transforming structures to more closely align with God’s reign of light, love, peace, and justice.