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- 07/21/17--09:00: Unplanned Blessings | Mark Labberton
- 07/24/17--10:02: Benediction: Visiting Friends
- 07/24/17--10:26: Benediction: Lord, Have Mercy!
+ President Mark Labberton reflects on the ascension in Luke 24:50-53, preaching on God meeting us in our incompleteness, a chaotic public culture, and receiving unplanned blessings that we can give to the world.
This audio is a recording from Fuller’s All-Seminary chapel on June 8, 2016
Music at the beginning and end of this audio stream is taken from a recent album entitled REVERE I RESTORE, created and recorded by members of the Fuller community under the leadership of Ed Willmington, director of the Fred Bock Institute of Music at Fuller’s Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts.
At least once a week David Stassen spends his day visiting friends at Fuller’s Pasadena campus. Getting up early, he walks 15 minutes to the corner of Allen and Orange Grove to board the number 40 bus. Exiting at Walnut and Los Robles, he begins his rounds at the offices of Student Life and Services, Disability Services, Building Services, Archives Bookstore, Coffee by the Books, Communications, Marketing, and Admissions—and sometimes others.
David’s visits date back to when his father, Glen Stassen, began teaching ethics at Fuller in 1997, and have continued steadily even since his father’s passing two years ago. “Fuller is a pleasant place to be and a good place to hang out,” David says. “I enjoy being able to be with so many good people who are here.”
Those good people include Bethany Fox, director of Student Services. David, who is fluent in German, helped her translate writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for her PhD. Moreover, his passion for transit systems and technology have translated into specific travel advice for her, which she reciprocates with dinner recommendations. For six years, Bethany did her PhD work under Glen Stassen, and, after his passing, “it was good to be able to talk about my own grief with David and have him talk about his grief, too,” she recalls.
David’s mother, Dorothy, who works in the Hubbard Library, explains the unique relationship between her son and the people at Fuller he visits: “His community,” she says, “is Fuller and our church.” She notes that David was completely silent until he was three, but “you’d never know that because he’s a great talker now!”
David stops by the Communications, Marketing, and Admissions office where he occasionally helps Vice President Irene Neller brainstorm for press releases. “He’s a Fuller encyclopedia,” says Irene. “He has a wealth of knowledge about all of the presidents.”
One of David’s favorite stories is when Irene threw a surprise party for his birthday. “That was kind of a neat little thing, that they thought it would be nice to throw a little party for me!” he recalls. “That made me feel, I don’t know, appreciated.”
The chance to be of some help is what gives his visits purpose, which becomes clear as David elaborates: “I’m the kind of person who’s always trying to be helpful to other people. I like to come up with solutions for things. If they like it, fine; if they don’t, fine. But I’m always trying to be helpful in one way or another.”
Kyrie eleison. Translated “Lord have mercy,” this short prayer has been spoken by Christians for centuries. Recently Julie Tai, director of chapel, adopted the words as her own—“it is my intimate and fragile prayer,” she says—and brought the prayer to life as a hymn.
When the Brehm Center for Worship, Theology, and the Arts sought new music for a worship recording project, Julie worked with Ed Willmington, Fuller’s composer in residence, to record the song. What had been a quiet prayer of mercy was now a lament for “the vast amount of suffering, injustice, and pain in our world we see and are responsible for.”
On Fuller’s Day of Prayer in Pasadena, on the steps of Payton Hall Julie and the chapel team placed photos, names, and stories of lives lost in the black community due to systemic violence. Around the images they placed signs from a local protest, including one with the two words Julie had been praying for months: kyrie eleison. At the end of the day, Julie found she couldn’t take the memorial down. “This is something we need to learn to pray for,” she told herself, so she started tending the prayer station, sustaining an unexpected memorial in the middle of campus.
Weeks passed. When it rained, Julie gathered coworkers to clean the photos. When the candles burned their wax, she replaced them. When debris covered the names and stories, she swept the steps. Soon, the chores became a spiritual practice: “As long as this is on the steps, we can’t ignore it—it’s an intentional disruption,” Julie says. “Are we willing to seek justice and pray for these communities who have lost loved ones?”
Over time, students have congregated on the steps, lighting candles and sharing stories. Local children have picked flowers from around campus to place by each photo. Inspired by the display, staff members have engaged difficult conversations about racism. Neighbors just passing through have stopped to read stories or relight candles that have blown out. Grief and offense, stories and lament—these and much more have been encouraged within the clearing the memorial has created.
“We are dealing with real fears and prejudices we didn’t even know we carried in our hearts,” Julie says, reflecting on the months since she lit the first candle at the memorial and since she first turned her lament into music. “We need spaces for conversations that lead us into deeper prayer and commission us to act.”
Lord, have mercy!
+ Hear Julie’s hymn “Kyrie Eleison” on REVERE | RESTORE, a worship album by Fuller Seminary students and alumni created through the Brehm New Music Initiative.