Fuller Seminary, Jim Wallis, and me

This week’s SEMI (Fuller’s student publication) features an interview with my boss, Jim Wallis, and an article by me telling some of the story of how I ended up at Sojourners. For those of you at Fuller, pick up a copy and let me know your thoughts! And if you’re not in Pasadena, drop me a comment and I’ll email you an electronic copy.

Also, for Pasadena friends, Jim will be speaking at All Saints Church tomorrow (25th) at 7pm. Go say hey!

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Rest in peace, Ruth

Vuong-photo.jpgI got a call this afternoon letting me know that Ruth Vuong, the beloved Dean of Students at Fuller Seminary, passed away unexpectedly and suddenly this morning. I was privileged to have been able to work with Ruth a little last year, and she really was a shining example of God’s grace to all around her. While we only got to work together for a few months, one didn’t need to have spent much time with her to know that she was a real gift from God: wise, humble, gracious, loving.

My prayers go out to her husband, Thuan, and her daughter, Sreymol.

You’ll be missed, Ruth. The world is a better place because of you, and we thank God for the time we were able to know you.

“Homeless at Christmas”

These poignant and challenging thoughts come from my friend Kurt:

He was born to an unwed teenage girl.

Born in substandard housing.

He was first greeted by some of the most marginalized people in his culture.

Under fear of death by a powerful politician, this boy and his family fled to another country and lived some time in exile.

The man who raised him was not his birth father.

He spent his most significant adult years as a wandering teacher without a permanent home.

He was executed by a coalition of religious and secular leaders afraid of his revolutionary ideas.

This one, born homeless, has become the one who offers hope to the world.

As we get ready to celebrate Christmas, it is good to remember Jesus’ earthly beginning, and his self-emptying, servant stance. Jesus reached out to the marginalized throughout his life. Jesus cared for those who were aliens and marginalized following the grand tradition of the people of Israel who once were aliens themselves.

Jesus is Emmanuel: God with us. He is still God with us. He has stepped into our neighborhood and everything changes.

He stepped into the messiness of our lives — so as his followers, we must step into the messiness of our world.

Bono of U2 spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington a few years ago. He called attention to the poor and the vulnerable in our world. In that talk before then President and Mrs. Bush, King Abdullah of Jordan, and other politicians and religious leaders, he said:

“God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house. God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives. God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war. God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives … and God is with us — if we are with them.”

May the celebration of Jesus’ birth stir us to look beyond ourselves and towards others.

Merry Christmas!

Speaking at Commencement

Here’s the video and transcript from my little speech at Commencement last Saturday:

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). “Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked” (Ps. 82:3-4). “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24). Feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, take care of the sick, visit those in prison, for “just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:31-46). For all humanity is made in the image of God—male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27).

These verses have come to mean a lot to me. You see, it was during my time at Fuller that God lit a fire in me—a passion, a vision, a calling to do justice, to see justice done. I began my time at Fuller in Fall 2006 in the Master of Divinity program, thinking that I would follow in the footsteps of my two brothers and go into fulltime pastoral ministry. But in the years since, through the classes I took, through the friends I made, and through the conversations and encounters I had, God tweaked that a little. And so, about a year and a half through, I switched to the dual MA in Theology and Cross-Cultural Studies, realizing that while I maintain a love for and interest in seeing the church impassioned and empowered to do justice, I also have a calling to see this justice done outside the church, to work in conjunction with non-Christians as well as Christians toward seeing the kingdom of God here on earth.

It was at Fuller that I began to ask questions like, what does this justice look like when over 45 million people in the United States alone are without health insurance? What does this justice look like when there are twenty-seven million slaves around the world today in bonded labor or in forced prostitution? What does this justice look like when there are still a billion people in the world living in extreme poverty? What does this justice look like?

This fall, I’ll be moving to Washington, DC to begin a year-long internship with the social justice organization Sojourners. It’s an opportunity rich with potential and promise, and I’m excited to see the things I’ve learned here at Fuller worked out in practice and in policy. To work out what biblical justice—God’s justice—looks like, and to see it done. To work out what it looks like to be our brother’s keeper and our sister’s keeper. To be a voice for the voiceless, an advocate for and a friend to those whom Jesus called the least of these. Because as the prophet Micah reminds us, “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I’m sad to leave Fuller, but I’m excited because while the challenges to seeing this justice done are great, God is already at work in our world, doing what he does. And me? I’m with him.