I remember being in my seminary classes listening to lectures on Christology and how to properly translate biblical Greek. I recall my emotion turmoil at having to submit fifteen to twenty-pages of exegetical works. However, as my colleagues and I completed our classes each quarter, the world continued turning… In the United States, unarmed black men and women were still victims of violence, and people in black churches were being shot to death. In Nigeria, teenage girls were being kidnapped by religious extremists. Yes, in seminary, we had time for prayer when these events occurred, but soon after that, it was back to business as usual. We still had papers to write and hundreds of pages of reading to complete…
Now almost one year after seminary, I am convinced that we cannot go back to the routine of business as usual. Therefore, the purpose of this letter is to express the need for a more active voice, participation and response from seminaries and seminarians in the United Sates, using the book of Esther as the context.
God is calling us in these times to stand in the gaps for hurting people. Mordecai spoke these famous words to Esther, “And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” (Est.4:14d). His words are true now as they were then with Esther.
Let us not think that if we refuse to stand in the gap that justice will not happen, for God will raise up individuals to accomplish it.
It is important to know that we attend seminary for a reason. Not just to grow in our respective fields of study but to be practitioners of justice.
The Spiritual Component of Justice
Fasting is dedicating time, free from distraction to engage with God about a cause.
Esther responded to her uncle appeal for help by asking her community to support her quest for justice by embarking on a three-day fast, which she also observed.
Not only does God call us to work through the teaching and preaching of the word, but God also equips us to work for the mission.
The blessing is that we do not have to wait for an internship to practice our work. Start now by doing that which you have not done before.
If your in seminary near Flint, Michigan, go and serve the people of Flint. They have been without clean water for too long!
Even while in seminary, there are many opportunities to effect justice for the marginalized, the forgotten and the oppressed.
These statements do not suggest that students in seminaries have never tried to correct the injustices in the world around us. Rather, I am suggesting that seminaries and seminarians should incorporate more justice-oriented activities in the community along with our academics.
God is calling seminarians to be bold in the face of adversity. How many seminaries and seminarians are willing to proclaim that “If I perish, I perish!?”
In the book of Esther, we learn that when a decree by the king was sealed with his ring, no one could overturn the ruling. However, Esther not only courageously made the decision to contend the king’s decision and break the law to come into his presence to advocate for her people, but did it knowing it might cost her her life. She responded to the possibility of losing her life for the cause with “If I perish I perish.”
A major concern for seminarians is risking their careers. This is what we are most concerned about before and after we graduate. Those on ordination tracks want to ensure they maintain good standing with their respective committees or bishops. Or else, they want to make sure they have acquired the experience to become a full-time chaplain.
But, fellow seminarians, I believe we have come to a point in our nation when we must place the value of people over that of our vocational advancements.
When high school students can profoundly take a stand about and speak out on injustice, this shows that they will not wait for us!
While we are so occupied with the requirements to satisfy our ordaining bodies, we often miss our opportunities to serve and thereby, risk becoming irrelevant and ineffective in bringing healing and hope to a hurting world because too often, we remain as detached bystanders and spectators because we are in seminary.
Mahalia Jackson’s song “If I can Help Somebody” prophetically speaks to us in these times.
If we can help somebody as we travel along. We if can help somebody with a word or a song. If we can help somebody from doing wrong. Then our living is not in vain.
Esther did not live her life in vain, because she chose to respond for the betterment of her people.
Do not allow your seminary career be in vain. Make every moment count no matter who tries to stop you. Continue asking the hard question and challenge yourself.
What can we do for Stephon Clark’s family?
What can we do to help the high school students of this nation?
What can we do to affirm the equality of women in all spheres?
What can we do to allow the light of Christ to shine through us?
Whatever you do, do it for the gory of Jesus Christ that shines when we allow justice to “roll down like waters.”
“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24).
-Stephen L. Robertson
Stephen Lamar Robertson first responded to God’s call on his life with a passion for ministry as a Youth Pastor at Lincoln Memorial Congregational Church, Los Angeles, but now works as a Children, Youth and Family Director at Lutheran Church in the Foothills in La Canada Flintridge Ca.. He graduated from Fuller Theological Seminary, CA., with a Masters in Divinity. On February 11th, 2017, Stephen joined in marriage with Shantell Darby Robertson who is a faithful Deacon, Cosmetologist, and Kindergarten Teacher. In addition to serving in ministry, Stephen served as an educator to visually-impaired and differently-abled youth at the Junior Blind of America and Braille Institute of America. He believes “It is important to not only educate youth in the Christian Faith, but to also ensure they are enriched to achieve their fullest potential.”