Last week we had a party. A Graduation party. Five of our students came to the end of their time on College and move on the next stage of their life journey. They have been with us for four years, and brought into the College the gift of themselves, entrusting to us the wealth and wonder of who they are.
To choose a place to study and commit to being there is an act of remarkable trust, and it requires singlemindedness, considerable cost of money and time, and an underlying confidence in the capacity of education to be informative, formative and transformative. By education we learn stuff, the stuff we learn changes us, and equips us to change the world for the better.
We try in the Scottish Baptist College to create a Collegiate community, where each student is allowed to be who they are, and encouraged to be more and more who they have it in them to be. Yes there are academic challenges and intellectual work to be done; and yes there are discoveries about ourselves, disconcerting as well as reassuring. But beyond, yet within personal development, is the unsettling but exciting sense that God is calling us to service, and saying yes to that call takes us into new and life changing territory.
It pushes us to those places where we discover the disciplines and desires of knowing God, studying theology, learning to love others and ourselves, and as ourselves.
It provokes us to reflect on who we are and what we are for, and doing this with the Bible open, in common room, library, lecture room and coffee shop.
It pushes and shoves us around by requiring that we read hard books, discuss big ideas frankly but respectfully, out of our convictions but with a mind and heart open to new truth.
It converts our suspicions into growing confidence, so that we are prepared to ask questions not as expressions of doubt or adversarial interrogation, but as ploughshares that till the soil of our minds.
It allows us, in trusted company, to pray and laugh, to be sad and pensive, to be patient and wanting to understand, as well as being impatient and desperate to be heard.
And above all it gives us safe space to explore together what it means to follow faithfully after Christ, for us, here, now.
And to find in these people, precisely these people, students and staff, a school of Christ, where learning and teaching is a sharing of truth from heart and mind, where we are supported, affirmed and accompanied.
And recognising and accepting that to do all this is to take huge risks, to be outrageously vulnerable, to make of ourselves a gift to God and to each other, because without such gestures of trust, the Church and its mission have little future.
Because risk and trust, cost and gift, need and grace, weakness and strength, humility and confidence, learning and knowing, perplexity and understanding, fear and faith, hurt and forgiveness, question and answer, I and Thou, - these and many other tensions within and between us and God, and between ourselves and others, make up the raw material out of which God forms and shapes us towards that particular and precise obedience which God asks of us, and no other.
All these students come to the end of a process which has changed forever their way of seeing themselves, others, the world, and God, who transcends our questions, defeats our cleverness, sanctifies our study, ignites our hearts and instils what one of the greatest books written on the spiritual life describes as "Love of Learning and the Desire for God."