From the President – Moving Forward in Faith
A little later this month, we’ll have an opportunity as a community to give God thanks for the 150-year history and legacy of The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP) with a special Liturgy of Thanksgiving at the original site of the seminary and at a Gala Banquet that evening in downtown Philadelphia. We will have a chance to recall and recognize some of the important contributions the seminary has made over this century-and-a-half as it has faithfully educated more than 5,000 public leaders for a public church. I can’t wait, as I’m sure it will be a wonderful night, and I hope you are planning to attend also. (If you haven’t purchased your ticket yet, you can do so by clicking this link.)
As important and enjoyable as this look back in time will be, in my experience anniversaries of this nature can be a bit tricky. As we look back and give thanks for our legacy, it will be tempting to revert from time to time to nostalgia, or to compare our present struggles with the “good old days” of an earlier era. But when I read the Bible, I am always struck by the fact that the pull of its narrative is toward the future, toward the “new thing” God is doing. And so the Apostle Paul, writing to his beloved Philippians, shares with them the restlessness that is the hallmark of fidelity: “this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13b-14). We are a resurrection people, folks who believe the future is always open because it is God who holds it and calls us into it.
Along these lines, I remember very clearly a valued counselor once telling me that the relationship between reflecting on the past and making the most of the present in order to anticipate the future was akin to the relationship between the rearview mirror and the windshield: while there is value in looking back, our future is in front of us, and it’s only by looking with an open mind and heart at what’s ahead that we can be truly faithful to the legacy we’ve inherited.
For this reason, when we gather on October 16 to celebrate, we will not only give thanks for the past but will spend equal time lifting up the work of current alumni and dreaming together about what the next one-hundred and fifty years might be like. The church has never needed leaders more, after all, who are simultaneously grounded in their Christian tradition and identity even as they are flexible and innovative in their approach to ministry as we discern together the best way to walk into the future and meet those challenges and reap those opportunities that God is preparing for us. That is the work God has set us at this time, and we are eager to embrace it.
I hope you will join us on October 16, whether in person or in spirit, to give thanks for the past even as we give equal thanks to the future God is already preparing for us. In my mind, you see, this October LTSP simply enters into its next one-hundred and fifty years, and I have every confidence that the best years lay just ahead!