Yesterday our administration announced that we would remain in online learning protocol through the end of the year. While I wasn’t surprised by the decision, there’s still something of a “shock to the system” with the news. It’s one thing to be out with a temporary mindset, with at least some hope of return. This is a little different. And while it’s a kind of shock, it also allows us to set our minds for the end, which is good.
+ + + + + + +
Yesterday I came across a sobering blog post by a professor at Bethel University concerning the school’s future. Early in the post he makes clear the difficult position his school is in: thirty faculty positions done away with . . . and that was in the works before Our Current Moment. And so Chris Gehrz tries to reconcile this “difficult time” with “Easter time, a season of joy, peace, and hope.” Ultimately, the piece is a beautiful picture of a resilient call to vocation.
How many times over the last few years have I said some version of this: “We shouldn’t just believe in the resurrection. We should live as if we believe in the resurrection”? Again and again, I’ve repeated that mantra at Bethel as part of my ongoing efforts to explain what our Pietist heritage means to us. Whether I was addressing new faculty or students gathered in chapel, I’ve insisted that Pietists — for whom Christianity is experienced and practiced more than it’s believed — should not trumpet their fidelity to the doctrine of resurrection but continue to live in fear.
We should live in hope. I still believe that.
But that axiom sure feels trite right now.
Even if we could somehow suspend our fears of an invisible contagion spreading a potentially fatal disease, many of us at Bethel are experiencing the death of dreams and ideals and relationships. Losing a faculty position at a place like Bethel means the loss of income and stability, but also threatens a loss of calling. Most of those who lose their positions will struggle to find anything like a true replacement; many will have to leave academia and seek work in a depressed economy.
Throughout the rest of his post, Gehrz weaves together moments from the biblical story that can help us see Our Current Moment in light of the good but difficult truths of the Gospel. He brings together two moments from Luke’s writings in particular that point towards “promise and purpose” and the calling Jesus placed on the lives of those who followed Him.
A promise: we will receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Nothing this week will break that promise or sap that power. “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells” in us, then “he who raised Christ from the dead will” continue to give us life by that Spirit (Rom 8:11). If there’s nothing in all creation that’s high or deep enough to separate us from the love of our resurrecting God, then whatever happens at Bethel surely won’t.
And a purpose: to bear witness near and far to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Even if I can no longer do that through teaching at Bethel, I can trust that I will continue to fulfill that commission some way, some how, and some where, with whatever post-Bethel days I have remaining.
The post, which Gehrz admits is a kind of “big talk” on his part, brings out some necessary nuance to understanding the precarious nature of our lives today, particularly if we are people whose loves and livelihoods are tied to broader institutions. The whole piece is worth a read and a re-read. As the title of his essay suggests, it is in the “nothing for your journey” call from Jesus that we might find something better . . . both for ourselves and those broader institutions.
You can read the rest of the piece here. I highly recommend it.