July 1, 2008

"The Lord will provide..."

            One of this week’s lectionary readings, Genesis 22:14, recounts the searing story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah, the appointed place for the sacrifice of the son. As the story unfolds, God puts Abraham to the ultimate test, yet does not require of him what God requires of the divine life. God stays the hand of the father, and a ram is provided instead as burnt offering. In response, Abraham aptly names the place “The Lord will provide.”

            As a seminary president, I think a great deal about provision. I just returned from a meeting of the Association of Theological Schools. One of the speakers, Craig Dykstra of the Lilly Endowment, said the most troubling aspect of theological education in North America is the fragility of many of the schools.  Many sotto voce “amens” were uttered; he was preaching to the proverbial choir.  We know that a few seminaries have closed in recent years; others have merged with others or radically trimmed their operation in order to secure a sustainable future. Central has chosen the latter route, believing that God has a significant mission for us to continue to offer here in the heartland.

            Without trust in the providing God, it would be impossible for me to remain faithful in my calling to lead Central in this season.  While we probably will not rename Central Jehovah Jireh (“the Lord will provide”), we do have a clear sense that providence expressed through faithful donors has sustained us for 107 years. For every gift we give God thanks; for every intercession offered in Central’s behalf, we are grateful.



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