Extraordinary Gifts for Renewal!
A Message from President Dr. Wendy J. Deichmann
In this season of gift giving, the United community celebrates the amazing resources God has provided for new life in Jesus Christ and renewal of the Church through the Holy Spirit. These extraordinary gifts make possible fulfillment of the mission of United: to recruit and educate faithful leaders for the mission of Jesus Christ in the world!
Let’s start with the gospel itself. We can only begin to count the times and places the good news of the incarnation of Jesus Christ has already brought hope and new life to God’s people. God loves you so much that God sent Jesus for your salvation! God loves me so much that God sent Jesus for my salvation! God loves the world so much that God sent Jesus for the world’s salvation! What gift could be better than the gift of salvation? Extraordinary though it may sound, the gospel of Jesus Christ is our most fundamental gift and resource for renewal. This is why theological education for renewal has as its focal point and purpose the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Similarly, the core doctrines of the church that have been carefully hammered out by ancestors in the faith and preserved in the creeds and confessions are excellent gifts for renewal. Who is God? What is the nature of God? Really, that awesome? Wonderful beyond our imagination? What can be done about sin and hopelessness? God in Jesus Christ came to earth and lived among us? How can we learn about God and salvation? What about all the times we’ve messed up? What is the Church and what is its mission anyway, and why should I be a part of it? Are you serious that God can redeem and renew me, us, them, everybody and everything? In the study, reflection and theology that stem from core doctrines we, the Church and the seminary have received excellent gifts for renewal!
Can these dry bones live? The Bible is full of renewal! Can a Nehemiah orchestrate the rebuilding of a devastated city? Can the sick be healed, the hungry fed, the oppressed liberated, the sinner forgiven, the Gentiles saved and one dead three days be raised to live again? The Bible is the Church’s primary resource for preaching and teaching the gospel. It is full of insights and inspiration for renewal. We can only begin to count the ways the gift of the Holy Bible can be leveraged by the Holy Spirit and God’s people to bring hope and renewal to the Church, and salvation to the world! What better gift for Christian renewal than the Bible?
What do a band of first century Jewish Christians, a German Catholic priest named Luther, an English family named Wesley and a non-violent Baptist North American preacher named Martin King have in common? They were agents of renewal in the life of the church, with enormous impact upon the world around and after them. History is replete with examples, methods and insights of those who courageously restored integrity and brought renewal to the church, and hope to the people of God. Our ancestors in the faith faced unimaginable odds and through them the Holy Spirit accomplished what was, from a human standpoint, impossible. In church history we may receive a gift of learning what has already been done to foster renewal in the life of the Church!
Holiness of heart and life – Much has been said lately about holy conferencing as a means of grace—unfortunately without much connecting to hearts and lives. This effort to retrieve an authentic Wesleyan approach to meaningful conversation is a good thing. We should remember well that for the Wesleys, holy conferencing was always accompanied and undergirded by cultivation of true holiness of heart and life. The gift of Wesleyan piety provides an extraordinary model for cultivating spiritual growth, mutual accountability and mission in small group models with sustained spiritual discipline and effectiveness. We, too, may use this gift to prepare ourselves to invite the Holy Spirit to do its extraordinary work of renewal in and beyond us!
Witnesses of faith and its fruit—Sometimes we find ourselves in a faith-deficit and need to borrow faith from each other. This, too, is a gift, one that can go around as a blessing and come back around to bless us again. The community of faith and its witness to the work of Jesus Christ is one of the most powerful resources for renewal. When I see your faith in action, it inspires me to go and do likewise. When you are down, it is my job to pray for you and to do what I can to encourage you and offer you hope in Christ. In the local community and across the global Church we are in this faith together as witnesses to Christ empowered for God’s purposes by the Holy Spirit. Thank you for the gift of your faithful witness, for the hope, peace, love and joy that God offers to us through each other, God helping us!
God with us – Most of all, the gifts of God’s love, presence and help serve as the very best resources for renewal—for me, for you, for the Church and for the world. We cannot expect a “quick fix” for all our woes, many of which have been in the making for a very long time. This is okay; because it is into this world historically fraught with trouble God has come through the gift of Jesus, the Christ, to bring hope, new life, peace, love and joy for all who will receive it. When all else fails, there is still God, God with us, and this God is able to meet all our deepest needs. Thanks be to God for the abundance of God’s extraordinary, life-giving gifts!
Our celebrations of Advent, Christmas and the New Year are already blessed by God. My prayer is that we will find ourselves in all seasons enjoying the blessings of new life and renewal through the gifts of God’s abundant love and grace in Jesus, the Christ!
Wendy J. Deichmann, President
United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio, USA