Advent, seminary, and preparation

Posted Dec 11, 2013 | The Discipleship Project

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By Sarah Frische-Mouri


Sarah Frische-MouriThe season of Advent is upon us. It’s that special time in the church year when we ideally create space in our lives to prepare ourselves for the arrival of the Christ child, the liberator born into the form of a vulnerable baby. The anticipation builds and builds for that Christmas morning on which we can celebrate with our communities and families that God has come to walk with us, and we rejoice that through this child we can come to better understand God’s vision for the world.

Preparation is sometimes not easy and often takes dedication and intentionality. Seminary is an extended period of preparation for some very risky work, and I have found that it has been important for me during this time of preparation for ministry to deeply reflect upon why I am on this journey.

There are beautiful imaginings in the Bible passages we read during Advent that give us a glimpse of what God’s vision is for the world. In Luke, we read what is known as Mary’s Magnificat, her celebration and witness to what God has done. She declares in Luke 1:52-53, “[God] has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty” (NRSV). Her celebration is not just about what God has done for her but about what God is doing for the world. We see an image of a world turned around, filled with hope, peace, love, and joy.

Seminary is a time of preparation for students as we explore the ways in which our ministry might contribute to the transformation of the world as a more loving and peaceful community. In thinking about the images upon which we meditate during Advent, I’m reminded of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s emphasis on the creation of the beloved community, which I’ve been learning about and reflecting upon in a class I’m taking on the theological ethics of King. For King, the beloved community was about people intentionally living together in true community, fully integrated, valuing the dignity and worth of all human beings, and responding to God’s love. King lived with hope that the beloved community could become reality, the full flourishing of humanity in the here and now.

The institutions we have created and in which we participate often work against God’s vision. Our churches and church-related institutions are often just as guilty of this as other institutions. How do we as the church model what it means to live as the beloved community? How do we live into the vision where the world is more balanced and we recognize God’s love for all?

It is not easy work. It involves risk. Even when systems of privilege and power are confronted with the injustices they perpetrate, they hold on to their power. Rev. King took the risk of living into a world that could be rid of racism, poverty, and war, and it cost him his life. As students preparing for ministry and taking seriously this call, it can be overwhelming, and we can wonder how it is that God has called us to these particular paths. I think the Christmas story reminds us that God works in very surprising ways to help make God’s vision a reality.

This past September, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu lectured at Butler University in Indianapolis.  The occasion was the announcement of the creation of the Desmond Tutu Center, a joint project between Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis and Butler University that will prepare leaders for the risky and important work of peace, justice, and reconciliation. During his lecture, Archbishop Emeritus Tutu talked about the surprises of the Christmas story, saying, “You look at God’s son. Can you imagine what it must have been like in Bethlehem if you were walking in the street in Bethlehem and you saw this baby, this Mary and Joseph. And she [said], ‘Who’s that?’ You said, ‘Oh, that? That’s God.’ God chose a couple who could not even rent a room in the inn. Our God.” (You can view the full lecture at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHcQSwTsV78#t=4222).

God chose a baby and an unwed couple who could not even rent a room. As we wait this Advent season to celebrate the arrival of that baby, we prepare ourselves to rejoice, and we prepare ourselves to do the risky work it takes to live into God’s vision for the world as the community God calls us to be.

Sarah Frische-Mouri is a fourth year M.Div./M.T.S. dual degree student and a member of the first cohort of The Discipleship Project. She is a member of the United Church of Christ, and is the daughter of two UCC pastors. She is currently working with Open Table UCC, a new church start in Brownsburg, Indiana.

The Discipleship Project is a groundbreaking approach to theological education at Christian Theological Seminary that is inspired by Jesus’ pedagogy in the New Testament gospels. To request permission to repost this content, please contact centerforpastoralexcellence@cts.edu.

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