AMBS grads called to engage the ‘whole of life’

Annette Brill Bergstresser | Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary

Mary H. Schertz encouraged Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) graduates, including Canadian Lee Allan Hiebert of Winnipeg, to hold close “the weariness and wonder of the world and the sorrow and joy of human being” in her commencement address on May 20 at College Mennonite Church in Goshen, Ind.

“And there, in whatever exciting thing you do next . . . you will meet the face and grace of God,” she told them. “You will find sturdy hope; you will find the joy of being a disciple; you will find ways to witness to the dawn breaking upon us from on high.”

Schertz, a professor of New Testament at AMBS, connected Mary’s Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) and Zechariah’s Song (Luke 1:68-79) with a phrase from a prayer in the Anabaptist Prayer Book—“the deepest blue of world and soul”—which she described as “that elusive, ever-changing blue beauty after the stars fade, or before they emerge.”

“This deepest blue of world and soul is not something you can keep separate from you,” she said. “It fills the universe, and because you are a part of the universe, it fills you, too.”

Schertz pointed out that both Mary and Zechariah emerge from their experiences of “deepest blue” with life-changing revelations: “Whereas Mary’s song about her child imagines a world free from oppression and hunger, Zechariah’s song about his child imagines a world free to worship and serve the Lord without fear.”

Schertz recalled her last conversation with Alan Kreider, beloved AMBS professor emeritus of church history and mission, who passed away on May 8. He had encouraged her to tell this year’s graduates “to love the Bible.”

“Keep hanging out with Mary and Zechariah and all the others,” Schertz told the graduates. “Keep probing these mysteries, praying these psalms, telling these stories. Keep loving these words, because they are themselves the deepest blue of world and soul . . . containing the whole of life, and offering for the whole of life, epiphany and revelation, continuing and ever new.”

Canadian Allan Rudy-Froese, associate professor of Christian proclamation at AMBS, presented the charge to the graduates, building on Schertz’s colourful imagery and urging them to use all of their senses in engaging and experiencing God’s goodness and colour-saturated creation without fear.

“The God who speaks in blue and brown and gray and green created us with deep rivers that run through our bodies—red rivers, red blood,” he said. “Bring your bodies, your love, your passion, your anger . . . bring your red to those places that need to stop—or start—and do it in the name of the one who loved, to death.”

The graduates responded with a litany that included the refrain, “We will not fear,” and came forward to place pieces of fabric in varied deep colours among the candles at the front of the worship space.
The commencement service honoured 21 graduates, including 11 who earned their master of divinity degree.

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