Friday, May 23, 2008

Roger Ferlo's Commencement Address at VTS

The Rev. Dr. Roger Ferlo's Commencement Address at VTS. Read it all HERE.

Some excerpts below:


The joy of the Torah finds its renewal not in the closed circles of the rule-bound and proof-texting sectarian and schismatic mind, but in the incarnation and restoration of Wisdom herself, in the very person of Jesus.

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.” But be careful. This is risky ground. Walk this way with caution. This same Jesus whose yoke is so much easier than the yoke of the Pharisees is also the troubling and troublesome teacher who admonishes his followers to leave everything behind and to take up the heavy yoke of the cross. To deepen the paradox even more, the very heaviness of that yoke, borne by Christ alone, has against all reason and expectation restored the lightness and delight of Torah joy in us, unlocking and revealing to us in the Word of scripture the very Word made flesh. In cross and resurrection, in the power of the Holy Spirit blowing through our midst, Christ is made alive and vibrant in us, here, now, as readers and hearers and doers of the Word, in the continuing discipline of holy reading and holy living—in the lively, contradictory, polemical, dialectical, open and open-ended community of lernen—to which all of us are called, a yoke which all of us now joyously assume as our own.


As we gather here in prayer and thanksgiving, and as some of you cross this stage, I suggest that all of us here try to regard these academic hoods not simply as the secular symbols of advanced degrees, but also as symbols of the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven, the outward and visible signs of our shared commitment to the way of the Torah that is the way of Christ, a commitment to the act of lernen that my rabbi friend cherished so deeply, a commitment to the act of loving the Lord our God with all our minds as well as with all our hearts, and loving our neighbors as ourselves. Can you receive these flimsy hoods this morning as a sign of your lifelong commitment to the life of the mind in service to the life of the soul, and not just your own minds and souls, but also the minds and souls of all whom you encounter as teachers, pastors, administrators, counselors? Will the lightness of these hoods remind you of the easy yoke that Jesus has laid upon us? In all our academic achievements, can we learn from Him the gentleness and humbleness of heart that are essential to the ministry of teaching and learning to which we have been called?

Let’s be frank, there is danger in academic occasions like this one. I daresay all of my colleagues here on this stage have experienced that danger as much as I have. I will talk about M.Div. degrees in a moment, but those of us gathered here to receive certificates of work accomplished, or MTS or MACE degrees, or D.Min’s, or honorary doctorates of divinity, might also know something about this danger. It is the danger of spiritual pride and intellectual hubris, the conviction that our educational achievements have somehow set us apart, that in earning our degrees we have been inducted into some kind of intellectual elite. Of course, such arrogance flies in the face of what the gospel insists upon when it comes to knowledge.


There will be many experiences in your ordained life where a deep resistance to learning will make itself felt. You will feel it in a popular culture increasingly hostile to the educated mind. You will feel it in a political culture where strident voices pillory knowledge and expertise as somehow undemocratic and elitist. You will feel it in a religious culture where the give-and-take of the intellectual life is perceived as an alien threat to people of faith. My hope and prayer for you as you enter the ordained life is that you will steadily resist such know-nothing religion, that you will wear the yoke of your continuing learning with passion and determination, and that you will demonstrate to your parishioners and to the larger world that the love of learning and the desire for God are one and the same love, and a life-long enterprise—an enterprise that as teacher and pastor and priest you seek to share with those you serve.


Just brilliant!

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