Like thousands of families this week, we dropped our children off at school. But this week was a little different. Many of you know what I’m talking about; and like me you’ve felt that strange mixture of joy, gratification, and some sadness, as you watch someone you dearly love leave the nest and head off to college for the first time!
Having attended UC San Diego, observing a Christian college orientation like the one at Azusa Pacific University was new to me. God certainly found me at UCSD by connecting me with other believers and challenging me to engage the university’s secular worldview in a thoughtful way. But it was good to see that at APU there was not only a vibrant faith community but one that was also intentionally engaging the world. We met students from many communities and countries; and I heard the faculty’s commitment to help a diverse student body integrate faith and life, see their chosen profession as a calling, and introduce students to those places of hurt that cry out for justice and the healing power of God. As a pastor I was encouraged, and I was taking notes!
At the close of Sunday’s chapel, hundreds of families went outside and with pieces of chalk drew altars on the ground that expressed their prayers in this new season. At one point Lisa invited some "unattached” students to join our circle. As they added their names to ours it was a visible reminder that God’s family is an ever-widening circle of grace. Some encouraging words that I read this morning from my bible underscored this truth: “For we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus, AND WILL BRING US WITH YOU INTO HIS PRESENCE….SO THAT GRACE AS IT EXTENDS TO MORE AND MORE PEOPLE, MAY INCREASE THANKSGIVING TO THE GLORY OF GOD” (2 Corinthians 4: 14).
Life has many transition points. Again and again we must take up new challenges, learn to grow and let go, do and dare what is right, and embrace the next thing God has in store. Yet through it all we are called to remember that in and through and because of Jesus we are standing together in the unshakeable security of God’s Family. That’s good news! As we step into the challenges and changes ahead, and invite others to join us, we enlarge the ever-expanding circle of God’s family – a circle that has claimed us by grace, and that will carry us into His presence forever!