Tonight marked the end of my first time teaching HIS290 Intro to History, our department’s new gateway course — required for History majors and minors, but also drawing some history-loving undecideds trying to figure out their next steps. For their final essay, students reflected on how their interest in the past and training as historians connects to their sense of calling.
To help jumpstart their thinking on the essay, last Monday we read excerpts from Frederick Buechner’s sermon, “The Calling of Voices,” in which the pastor-novelist advises us to “go with our lives where we most need to go [what makes us “gladdest”] and where we are most needed.” (At our course blog I also shared a critique of Buechner’s gladness/need language, by writer Laura Ortberg Turner.)
After some concluding conversation tonight, I closed by praying the prayer that accompanies Buechner’s sermon in the 2006 collection, Secrets in the Dark. May it be so for all of our students, including those who will graduate from Bethel this Saturday:
O thou, who art the God no less of those who know thee not than of those who love thee well, be present with us at the times of choosing when time stands still and all that lies behind and all that lies ahead are caught up in the mystery of the moment. Be present especially with the young who must choose between many voices. Help them to know how much an old world needs their youth and gladness. Help them to know that there are words of truth and healing that will never be spoken unless they speak them, and deeds of compassion and courage that will never be done unless they do them. Help them never to mistake success for victory or failure for defeat. Grant that they may never be entirely content with whatever bounty the world may bestow upon them, but that they may know at last that they were created not for happiness but for joy, and that joy is to them alone who, sometimes with tears in their eyes, commit themselves in love to thee and to others. Lead them and all the world ever deeper into the knowledge that finally all people are one and that there can never really be joy for any until there is joy for all. In Christ’s name we ask it and for his sake. Amen.