“It is a bold, audacious declaration, the sort of thing—would’t you know it?—Jesus would say: ‘Nothing will be impossible for you,’” said Edwin Hurley, senior pastor of South Highland Presbyterian Church, Birmingham, during Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School commencement and service of consecration May 8.
Preaching from Matthew 17:1–9, 14–21, Hurley said, “Nothing will be impossible for you who have faith; not necessarily a massive mountain size faith, but a mustard seed–size faith, small yet ready to burst forth and grow into a great protective tree or a mountain that moves, because this faith is focused not distracted.”
But faith that is not connected to Jesus Christ is not faith, he continued.
“Jesus says first of all, and most of all, you have to be connected to me,” he said. “You have to climb the mountain if you expect to move the mountain. ‘Nothing will be impossible for you.’”
How can we stay connected to Jesus Christ? Hurley offered four ways: look to him, listen to him, love like him and lead like him.
“Dear graduates, what great things will happen through you as you minister where God leads you forth from this place called Beeson with mustard seed faith,” he said. “The vision from the mountain will sustain you and empower you through the suffering in the valley where you will be called to be salt and light and mustard and honey. The tiny mustard seed of faith that will grow into a flourishing tree, providing shelter and safety for all of life.”
The service began with a welcome by Samford President Andrew Westmoreland, who said students are “Samford’s only legacy that will last into eternity.”
“You carry with you our cherished hopes and dreams,” Westmoreland said. “Love the Lord your God with all your mind, all your soul, all your strength. Love your neighbor as yourself. May the Lord bless and keep each member of the Samford University Beeson Divinity School Class of 2017.”
In his opening remarks, Timothy George, dean of Beeson Divinity School, said that the divinity school is a “community of faith and learning.”
“As a graduate theological school, we take seriously the academic part of our work. As I tell every entering student, this is not summer camp. We are also a community of prayer and worship and spiritual formation. Today, we acknowledge again that one of these dimensions without the other is incomplete in preparing God called men and women for the service of the church.”
Since the founding of Beeson Divinity School, every faculty member has offered a prayer or blessing of consecration for each graduating student during the service of consecration.
Beeson Divinity School does not have “the ecclesial authority to ordain anyone, but in this holy moment, we do commit these students to the service of the church and the work of God throughout the world,” George said.
Two students received a Master of Arts in Theological Studies degree;18 students received a Master of Divinity degree, and two students received a Doctor of Ministry degree.
Watch the ceremony.
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Kristen Padilla is marketing and communication coordinator for Beeson Divinity School.