Charis & Colleagues

I spent the better part of yesterday in a four-and-a-half-hour long faculty meeting. Yes, you read that right: 4.5 hours, 270 minutes, 16,200 seconds. But before you start feeling sorry for me (at least those who know faculty meetings well enough to generate sympathy), let me hasten to add…that I loved it.

Why? Because the lion’s share of the work we accomplished was the review of every student at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. Yeah, every…single…student – well over 200, btw, in case you’re wondering. Admittedly, we gave particular attention to those who were struggling in some way, so didn’t celebrate as much as we might have the majority of students who are doing stellar work as they continue to develop their skills as leaders in the church. But we did indeed name, consider, sometimes discuss, and pray for every student.

Which is one of the things I love about the school I’m privileged to lead: the kind of caring, pastoral support and formation that characterizes this place and for which I was so grateful and by which I have been so blessed by over my career.

So, yeah, a 4.5 hr. faculty meeting that was, by and large, sheer delight.

We did a fair amount of other business as well, but perhaps the other highlight of the meeting was the devotions offered by my colleague and Lutheran theologian John Hoffmeyer. John reminded us that while we most often think of the Greek word charis as “grace” – and, indeed, it is the word the Apostle Paul uses when he talks about being justified by grace (Rom. 3:24, for instance) – it is just as often more appropriately translated as “thanksgiving,” as when Paul exclaims his thanks for the victory over death God has achieved for us in Jesus (1 Cor. 15:57).

What a fantastic connection – between gratitude and grace. Indeed, perhaps grace is the peculiar gift of being able to see, accept, and be grateful for the manifold gifts conferred through our life of faith, and perhaps gratitude is nothing more than recognizing the grace bestowed upon us in any single moment, whether in the fidelity of one’s spouse, the delight one takes in one’s children, friendships that provide support and sustenance, work that offers meaning and income, or – and on this day in particular – colleagues who hold both their students and their vocations so close to their hearts.

So there it is, charis in, with, and for good colleagues and wonderful students at a school that brings all these things together on a daily basis. Thanks be to God.