NOTES FROM THE INTERIM PRESIDENT
REV. ANGELA ZIMMANN, PHD
GOOD FRIDAY – APRIL 10, 2020
Dear Beloved ULS Community:
On this Good Friday, as we all continue to grapple with the ways in which the world has quickly changed, I simply ask that we pray together for those who have lost loved ones and those struggling with the myriad painful impacts of this virus.
As always, we find solace in the promise of our Lord Jesus.
Please join me, if you are able, in a worship service centered on that promise which will be broadcast from St. Luke Lutheran in Silver Spring, MD, today from 12:00 noon to 3:00PM via this link.
Seven preachers will be offering meditations on the Seven Last Words of Jesus.
I offer a meditation on the Seventh/Final Word.
If you cannot tune in, the text of the meditation is shared below. May it bring you a measure of peace.
God bless you during this Holy Weekend.
Rev. Angela Zimmann, Ph.D., CFRE
Interim President, United Lutheran Seminary
President, United Lutheran Seminary Endowment Foundation
Adjunct Professor of Homiletics
Sermon VII: St. Luke 23:44-53
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
“Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.”
The very last words spoken by Jesus.
In the first word from the cross, Jesus says “Father, forgive them.”
Father: at the beginning and at the end, Jesus calls out not to a formal God, or to Yahweh, but to his father.
It is powerful that here, at the very,very end of his life, even after Jesus has questioned God, and cried out at the feeling of being forsaken – even at the very, very, end, when Jesus realizes that no help is coming, he doesn’t turn bitterly away, but reaches to his beloved parent, surrendering his spirit into God’s gentle hands.
Fathers and sons have always had a special relationship in the Holy Land.
Even today, once a man has a son, the father is no longer called by his own name, but instead by the prefix “Abu” and then his son’s name. For example, my husband, Martin, is known as Abu-Seth: “father of Seth.”
God is known as Yahweh to the Jewish people, and the name of God is so holy that the vowels are never written down, because God is beyond us, so completely other that even the name cannot be fully known.
We will see G-dash-D for God or Y-H-W-H for Yahweh.
But on Good Friday, this unreachable God is Abu-Jesus, father of Jesus – and our father, too.
A God, a father, with open hands,ready to receive the spirit of a murdered and dying son.
The relationship between God and Jesus is so close that we can rightly think of them as two people intertwined into one being, joined by the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. And that bond between Jesus and God is a bridge for us, our way of crossing into that intimate relationship ourselves. No longer is the holy unknowable, untouchable,distant YHWH.
Now, Yahweh, God, is our Abba, our father, too, with hands outstretched to receive our lives.
St. Paul reminds us that in Romans 14:8 that “Whether we live or we die, we belong to the Lord.”
We do not have to wait until we die to commend our spirits into God’s good keeping; we shouldn’t wait until we die.While we live, too, we belong to the Lord.
Come with me again for a moment, for a last moment, to Jerusalem.
Walk with me along the noisy, crowded streets, full of people pushing and shoving, selling and buying, eating and laughing and shouting. Muslims, Christians, Jews, languages from all over the globe.
On Good Friday in Jerusalem, a person can buy just about anything to commemorate the death of Jesus. A big wooden cross. A prickly crown of thorns. Pilgrims come from the world over, all to walk the cobblestone streets, the paths where Jesus walked on that Good Friday so many centuries ago.
And I, too, when serving as an ELCA missionary in Jerusalem, wore my black clothing and walked the streets with the crowds, even carrying a large cross when it was my turn to do so.
But at the end of the day we all went home, and the pilgrims removed their thorny crowns, and laid aside their wooden crosses, and I went home, back to my little house on the Mount of Olives and put my feet up, a bit tired and hungry, a little dusty, but no worse really for the wear.
“Into your hands I commend my spirit,”says Jesus.
His Good Friday ended differently than mine did, than ours will – that first Good Friday culminated in a broken body lying in a cold, dark tomb, alone, while the world waited in silence to see if, after the end, love would win.
We say today that we know how the story ends.
We know that love wins.
But even though our Good Fridays don’tend in crucifixion, they don’t always feel like the place where love wins.
There are days, Good Fridays and Bad Mondays and plenty of other days, too, when we feel the cold and the dark and the loneliness looming toward us. And in the silence, we wait.
When will our quarantine end?
When will we no longer have to socially distance?
How many loved ones will become sick or even die?
How will we manage? How will we keep our jobs, our lives, our loves, our sanity?
Jesus who loves us, and Abu-Jesus, his father and ours, went before us and now waits with us in the cold, in the dark,in the tomb.
May our hearts be deeply comforted by that assurance, and may we have the courage in life, as in death, to commend our whole selves into the hands of our merciful God.
The take-away: we do not wait alone.We never wait alone. In the Good Fridays and the Easter Sundays of life, and in all of the days in between, God is with us.
The final word is Life.
The ULS COVID-19 Task Force has continued to monitor recommendations made by health professionals and Governor Wolf’s office regarding campus closures, whichremain in effect until further notice. Updates can be found here.
2020 Commencement Update
I wanted to update you on our alternative plans for 2020 Commencement since the cancellation of an in-person ceremony due to safety concerns related to COVID-19. After prayerful thought and discussion, the Commencement Committee has finalized plans for how to best celebrate the accomplishments of the Class of 2020. Read more.
Dean of the Gettysburg Chapel, Rev. Dr. John Largen, has announced his retirement at the end of this academic year. Dr. Largen taught elective courses on Spiritual Formation on both campuses; coordinated the non-credit degree requirements for first professional students; served as Director of Contextual Formation; and was our liaison to ELCA students at non-ELCA divinity schools and seminaries. Please join me in thanking Dr. Largen for his years of dedicated service and ministry to ULS. We wish him the very best in all future endeavors.
Please join me in welcoming Rhonda Shupp as Staff Accountant. Rhonda comes to ULS with more than 25 years of experience in accounting and finance. She has worked in the public, corporate and private accounting industries. Rhonda will be based on the Gettysburg campus.