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Aug. 6, 2015
“San Francisco Theological Seminary: The Best in the West.” This is the tagline brought back by a marketing company to the good folks at San Francisco Theological Seminary (SFTS), who said, “Ummm, thanks, but no.”
It’s the sort of tagline that makes it sound like a football team can’t be far behind, but seminaries are not known for their football teams. Because they don’t have them!
What do they have? Mission, purpose, core values, goals, and graduates. The idea is that graduates will embody the mission and the core values. Dr. Jana Childers preached on 2 Corinthians at Big Tent last week, and brought forward the tag line SFTS ended up with:
In Christ. A New Creation.
Short, sweet, true, and identity-giving. In Christ we are all new creations. To have a tagline like “In Christ. A New Creation” allows one to sum up forgiveness, new life, purpose, mission, and proclamation all in five words. A good tagline makes very important things easier to remember.
So I was charmed at worship the next morning when Laurene Chan preached about Peter’s release from prison. An angel comes—light and all—and still has to tap Peter on the shoulder to wake him up. Peter is led out of the cell and goes to where other followers of Christ are gathered and knocks on the outer door. The servant, Rhoda, comes running, flips out because it’s Peter who everyone thinks is in prison, and runs back to the gathering to announce Peter’s arrival—without opening the door for him. Her announcement is met by doubt regarding her sanity. But she insists. So Laurene Chan asked us:
“Who is your Rhoda?”
Who is the one that runs to you and announces what you are sure can’t be happening? Who is trying to get your attention?
Rodger Nishioka, maybe? He drew our attention to the church being in an age of apostleship, of sending ourselves out to proclaim the good news instead of waiting for people to come to us. He was joking, but wished he could make an overture to General Assembly to change our denomination’s name to “The Apostolic Presbyterian Church.” We all laughed hard—which is a little sad—but Dr. Nishioka’s conviction also energized us to think differently.
And Rev. Paul Roberts asked us to think authentically. In the story of David and Goliath, King Saul offers David his armor. But the armor inhibits the way a shepherd uses a slingshot to fight off predators. So true to his talents and himself, David doesn’t take the king’s armor when it’s offered. Like David, individuals in closing worship were exhorted to “Be Yourself.”
In Christ. A New Creation.
Who is your Rhoda?
The Apostolic Presbyterian Church.
These taglines evoke the rich resources of Big Tent. I wonder what my tagline would be if I set my mind to it. I’m hoping it will turn out to be something more substantive than “Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Dark Chocolate.”
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