Attentiveness: Many Languages
Christian Weddings and wedding banquets are unique opportunities to see into a person’s life and learn more about their spiritual formation. If you are going to enjoy a wedding banquet it is best to put on your extrovert self, for you will meet many people from different periods of a person’s life. There are lots of questions followed by special stories that bring us closer together and encourage our faith.
Last weekend Nancy and I had the joy of being invited to the wedding celebration of one of our MACO students, Beshoy to Diana. Both are from Egypt, and the celebration was held at a local Coptic church. Several guests were Beshoy’s fellow Gordon-Conwell students whom I knew.
These were students who struggled together (and alone) during the pandemic. Now, with in-person celebrating, there was much joy. Looking at their picture above, I was struck by how our seminary offers a glimpse of the eternal reality on which our vision is based: many languages, one lamb, and no tears (Revelation 7).
The photo represents many countries and languages: India (Hindi), Korea (Korean), the Philippines (Tagalog), Germany (German), Singapore (Mandarin and Malay), China (Mandarin), Guatemala (Spanish), United States (English), and of course Egypt (Arabic).
Watching the fellowship with expressions of joy and thanksgiving, I was encouraged to continue to emphasize reaching out to diverse communities to prepare for ministry, mission, and counseling. I was also encouraged to continue to work on hospitality for all races, languages, and nationalities at Gordon-Conwell. It is a concern we must be attentive to until Jesus returns. Our very human, sinful nature would have us do what is easy and fall back into patterns of being with people just like us. Cultural diversity requires some work. Not a lot of work, really, but it doesn’t usually happen naturally. It must be intentional. Celebrating this marriage reminded me of the importance of staying attentive to diversity and hospitality, for the sake of the Kingdom and our seminary’s vision.
My second pleasant lesson from this wedding banquet came from sitting at a table with four other ordained priests/pastors. Three were Coptic abunas (fathers) from Egypt. The other pastor was a Gordon-Conwell graduate from the United States who does marriage counseling and marriage workshops. We all immediately connected because we have officiated weddings, and we all care about Jesus being glorified in marriages. We talked easily about caring for families and thanksgiving as the foundation for a marriage and for the Christian life. We found common discourse about the centrality of Jesus, Holy Scripture, worship, and being faithful in resistant and even oppressive cultures. Many of their parishioners came to the United States as religious refugees.
“And I looked and there before me was a great multitude, from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, standing before the throne and before the lamb . . .” (Revelation 7:9). If this is where we are going (and where we are going to spend eternity), we lean into this future joy now in our communities and in our seminary.
Dr. Scott W. Sunquist, President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, is author of the “Attentiveness” blog. He welcomes comments, responses, and good ideas.