Category Archives: Fall 2017

Is Christmas already over?

By Jessica Lee, Class of ’20

Just five days ago, we celebrated the magical and joyous day of Christmas. For Christians all over the world, this day represents the birth of Jesus, the coming of the Messiah, the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant of Immanuel, or “God with us.”

But besides the Christmas tree you still haven’t taken down, or the wrapping paper you have leftover in your closet, or the Spotify playlist full of Christmas songs you still can’t stop listening to–has this day left a mark on you on the 26th? The 27th? And skip three more days, today?

Often we, and especially I, forget to realize the magnitude of what this day actually entails. The gravity of what this day means for us should shake us to our knees with humility, bring us to speechlessness from pure awe, and pound our heads from utter confusion and wonder.

Because you see, this day, 2000 years ago, the King above every government on Earth; the Creator of this Universe who simply spoke and things came into being; the all-knowing God who was from the beginning and is to eternity;

This God came to you and I.

And His feet walked on the very ground that we walk on today; and His lungs breathed the very air that we breathe every second; and His eyes saw the very sun and sky and moon and stars that we see each day and night. This God, whose glory even Moses could not completely behold, whose form and spirit even the highest of priests could only see in a cloud, this God became “flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14).

Ordinary people, like you and I, saw Him, talked to Him, and touched Him. Ordinary people, like you and I, ate with Him, drank with Him, and slept with Him. And ordinary people, like you and I, betrayed Him, whipped Him, and killed Him.

Can you see that this day means so much more than exchanging gifts, sharing laughter, eating food, and reuniting with family? Can you see that one day, 24 hours, cannot simply contain all the joy, humility, love, and awe that we should experience from what Christmas actually means?

Y’all, Christmas means that we are now given the absolute privilege and honor of beholding the complete fullness of God’s glory. Immanuel means that God was and is literally with us and that our pains, sorrows, and temptations are completely understood by a God who experienced and felt it all and so much more. It means that “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Christmas cannot and must not simply be a tradition to us–archaic and dead. Its significance and weight is so great that it cannot help but penetrate into all of the days following the 25th. It should and must have a meaning and an impact on us today just as powerfully as it did 2000 years ago.

So maybe we should ask ourselves, does it?

And if our answer is no, perhaps we are missing out on the grandeur and mystery of something that has transformed everything from then on to eternity. And if so, I hope we can be as bold as to ask, “God, show me Your glory” (Exodus 33:18).

Pursuing Justice as the Justified

By Christopher Kim, Class of ’19

The New Haven Green was designed by Puritan colonists in the 17th century as the center of life for their settlement in New Haven. Over the years, it has cemented its place in history as a site of deep historic, political, and cultural significance, from presidential addresses delivered to protests held during the American civil rights movement and Vietnam War. However, the uncomfortable truth today is that the Green is symbolic of New Haven’s staggering poverty rate and the ever-increasing disconnect between Yalies and New Haven residents. Flanked by City Hall and Yale’s Old Campus, the Green is seemingly the epicenter of New Haven’s homeless community. A single look outside a window is all it takes for both the mayor and Yale students to bear witness to an obvious discrepancy between them, the elite and privileged, and the other, the poor and forgotten. But neither the city nor the institution of learning that calls New Haven its home cares enough to pay attention to the plights of New Haven’s homeless population. We blindly pursue light and truth and forgo the reality that is quite literally before our eyes. So a few weeks ago, in an attempt to combat our oblivion to the homeless community, several friends and I made brown bag lunches to offer to those on the Green. This simple initiative opened my eyes to the injustice and inequity right outside my window, as we engaged in raw, poignant, and human conversations with those facing homelessness.

The conversation that left the deepest imprint on me was with a New Haven native, who was piloting a mentorship program to partner those who are currently homeless with those who had overcome homelessness. He shared brutally honest stories of young children roaming around the Green late at night, of homeless women being sexually assaulted while sleeping on park benches, and of the city bulldozing homeless encampments. He recounted a story in which he witnessed a homeless man set himself on fire in broad daylight and traumatically described it as the most horrendous, gut-wrenching sight he had seen. These stories brought to light the realities of the Green: these people were fighting against sexual assault, police brutality, and social stigma associated with mental health–issues that we Yalies tout ourselves for championing.

Listening to the endless accounts of injustice, prejudice, and discrimination and realizing my own ignorance added to my cynicism and amplified the powerlessness I felt when thinking about what kind of impact, if any, my actions could have. I questioned where God was in all this. His goodness and His love felt like distant, abstract notions, no longer things that could be tangibly felt. But in Romans 5:8-10, the Apostle Paul writes:

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!”

In the life of Jesus, we see the epitome of God’s justice. Through his sacrifice, mankind, who was running a hell-bound race, was redeemed, and the gap between Creator and creation was bridged. Through Jesus’ blood, we are saved and justified. While our pursuit of justice may seem futile here on Earth, such labor is made meaningful through God who calls us to justice and showed us infinite love by making the ultimate sacrifice. Justice has not been fully realized, but God promises that it draws near (Isaiah 51:4-5). We can institutionalize problems all we want, but they veil the underlying problem of sin. As long as sin remains in the world, we are bound to witness brokenness in the form of systemic injustice. However, in the redeeming work of the cross, we find assurance and certainty in God’s triumph over sin. We may not have the answers to all the questions now, but we can choose to place our hope and trust in the One who does.

If the crucifixion of Jesus represents true justice granted to us, we must then strive to seek justice in the light of the cross. In his article “Only Christians Understand True Social Justice,” Bryce Young writes, “Only justified Christians can seek true social justice without contorting it to keep themselves safe from judgment on their own sin.” A God-centered pursuit of justice begins with the understanding that we are not so different from the people we seek justice for. In Romans 3:23, Paul writes that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. We are all undeserving of grace, and we are all in need of a Savior. As Christians, we are justified, not by any of our deeds but only by Christ’s atoning work on the cross. Thus, our pursuit of justice must be grounded in an acceptance of our own limitations and shortcomings as sinners. When we wholeheartedly pursue godly justice, we remove any distinction between the sin responsible for the broken world outside us and the sin that corrupts us from within. We distinguish our perverted notion of justice from God’s perfect notion of justice. It is when we are pained by the things that pain the Father, which include our own depravity, that our hearts align with His and we are able to pursue justice in its truest form.  

Pursuing justice in the world also requires us to cultivate a humility that openly acknowledges that we cannot heal our own wounds, resolve our own conflicts, or be our own saviors. We need to acknowledge that as long as we live in a world of sin, the world will inevitably be saturated with brokenness and suffering. We’re not in our eternal home yet. But this must not make us complacent in our fight to see godly justice realized here on Earth to its fullest extent. We Christians, as those who know we are justified through Christ, must be the ones on the front lines fighting to champion the poor and the weak, serving as mouths for the mute (Proverbs 31:8), eyes for the blind, feet for the lame (Job 29:15), and fathers for the fatherless (Isaiah 1:17). We must engage in intimate conversation and offer every person the dignity he or she deserves as a human being. We must seek to know this city as a home apart from what Yale has to offer and as a city sought after by God. And in doing so, we reflect glimpses of God’s infinite love and serve as witnesses to the reality of the coming kingdom, which we wait for in eager anticipation: a kingdom with no more tears, death, mourning, sorrow, or pain in which the old order of things have passed away (Revelation 21:4).

 

Young, Bryce. “Only Christians Understand True Social Justice.” Desiring God, 18 Feb. 2017, http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/are-you-on-the-right-side-of-history.

Rooted

By Sarah Geach, Class of ’20

If you were a tree, you would understand. If you were a tree, you would know what it is like to have roots. You would know what it is like to have a trunk. You would also know what it is like to have branches. And leaves. And fruit. As someone coming from somewhere extremely different, extremely strange, and extremely foreign, I have a vague idea of what it is like to be a tree.

I have always been taught that it is of the greatest importance to make sure you stay rooted in something. How can a tree survive without its roots? The roots sustain the tree. They find nutrition in wormy soil, blindly grope about in the murky depths of the earth, and hope that, somehow, they will be able to make sense of the elements around them. But what happens when the tree is ripped up and replanted? There is always a risk that the tender, adventurous fingerprints of the roots, the tips that are usually so delicate and yet so courageous, will be ripped off and left behind, still caressing the grains of sand they were just starting to get to know. When you transplant, you take that risk.

You see, if the roots are not functioning properly, how will the tree survive? It cannot grow if it can’t eat. Nothing can. It cannot stretch its bony branches to the freshly painted sky, nor waltz in the wind every time she passes by. A tree cannot make fruit for others when it itself has had nothing to eat. If the tree’s bounty turns to dust as it crinkles itself up remembering the old, comfortable soils, so too do the little birdies that once visited regularly. So too does the grass that once stood to attention, erect and vivid, eager to emulate the brilliant sturdiness a tree usually brings to nature. The blades bend, ever so slowly, beaten down by the lashing rays of a sun that used to be radiant, but has become a power-hungry dictator from engorging itself on their spirits. Without the tree’s protective shady reach, the blades are helpless.

When the tree falters, so does the earth. Mother Nature trembles as her system is disrupted. Mother Nature is God’s accountant. She is responsible for adding, subtracting, dividing, multiplying. She holds the accounts of the land, keeping everything fair and equal, and working it all out in a ledger far too complex and large for humans to ever understand. Thus, when one lone tree’s roots start losing focus, so does she. What good is an accountant who forgets what one plus one is? If Mother Nature trips over her pet cat, so does the earth.

Can you see what I am trying to tell you here? Can you see that your roots are incredibly important, not just for yourself, but for everyone around you? For everyone around everyone around you. For the earth. For Mother Nature. For God. How can you expect God to carry out His plan if you choose to let your roots settle in soil He did not create specifically for them? Remember that different trees need different soils. They all have different purposes, different reasons for being, and although we all know this, we so often forget.

But what happens, then, when a tree is forced to uproot and settle somewhere else? Last May, I chose to come to America for college. No one forced me to do it – but at the same time I strongly believe that I am here simply because God wanted me to be here. So, I uprooted, sure, but I also had to go. God told me to. The next question, then, is what does He expect me to do? What does He expect a tree created for an open, sunny savannah to do in an environment of white, harsh, freezing snow? Adapt? Maybe. But it cannot change its bark in an instant. It does not have millennia to evolve. I do not have an answer to that. Sorry. I am still in the process of trying to make sense of what my bark really looks like. I do not even know if I knew what it looked like when I left home. That makes it a little bit difficult to change it! Have you ever to solve an equation with two unknowns? Not possible!

So what am I supposed to do? If I am still exploring my above-earth self, if I have just a vague idea that I used to be one way, and now I am sort-of-but-not-quite another way, how do I ensure that I stay myself? This is where my roots take on a whole new level of importance; remember what I said about the roots? About how they could lose their fingerprints when they are moved around? Well, maybe the tree needs to find some other, non-physical way of identifying itself. If I burn my fingers, and my fingerprints disappear, I am still me. If I wear makeup and dye my hair, I am still me. If I am unable to speak, I am still me. If I cannot see, I am still me. If I cannot hear, I am still me. If I cannot feel touch, I am still me. If I am paralyzed, I am still me. But if I stop loving, if I stop letting the spirit of God move in me, am I still me?

I think that I am me for as long as the spirit of God moves in me. My physical appearance may change, and some people may forget me, because all they saw in me was my face, my bark, my leaves. But the people who know my soul would know it wherever they came across it. My soul is the breath of God moving within my mind, within my body. The breath of God moves across the water, through the forests that dress the mountainside, under the curl of waves before they crash to the sand. The breath of God moves within me, constantly molding me, creating me, sustaining me.

As I get older and less sure of what type of soil my roots need, the more I become aware of the essence of who I am, which cannot be changed. I have – we all have, I think – the breath of God flowing through us and giving us the flutterings of life. As God’s beings, our roots evolve from something that no amount of change can change: God. Because we do not know Him completely, no one, no matter how much they argue, can negate Him. Thus, no amount of uprooting and wrong-soil-ing and harsh light can destroy our access to the constant source of nutrition: God.  We need to be conscious of where we let our physical and emotional roots explore, because they will grow, and they will discover, and sometimes the things they discover will nearly destroy them. But the most important roots of all are the ones that stem from and grow into God. The beauty of these roots is that they grow between me and Heaven.

But it is up to us to explore them. I like to think that they are already there, already ready to feed us and sustain us, and all we need to do is be willing to feel them, touch them, get to know them. The bridge is built, but we cannot see it yet. Our roots are in God, but none of us knows yet what they look like completely. I think that they are the sort of roots you can only really see from Heaven. Once they have been fully explored and led you to Heaven, you can look back on them and see them in the fullness of time and space.

In the meantime, though, we have to trust that the roots are actually there. Sometimes it is very easy to get so involved in exploring the other types of roots – the physical sensation ones, and the emotional ones – that we forget the most important ones, the ones that cannot be destroyed. This is not to say that you should not explore. Not at all. All roots serve a purpose. But be careful what you feed them.

Response to Sutherland Springs Shooting

By Christian Olivier, Class of ’20

I am writing this right after the news report flashes across my computer screen. It is 2:32 p.m. on November 5, 2017.

“Mass shooting reported at Sutherland Springs church in Texas.”  

Disaster after disaster I managed to keep a straight face. While hurricanes ravaged my home in the South and my friends in the Caribbean, as wildfires burned the California coast to dust, and as the crack of bullets and smell of gunpowder permeated the streets of Las Vegas I managed to solemnly read, pay my respects, and carry on with my life. This… This was the gut punch that knocked the wind out of my lungs as I come to grips with the fact that all of this horror happened in three months. Three months of our lives that I will have to explain to my children. I will have to tell them why we remember August 25th, September 20th, October 3rd, and October 8th – and now November 5th. I will have to explain to them why there is so much darkness. I am forced to bring children into a world where the movies are not safe, where our streets are not safe, where our homes are not safe, and where our church is not safe. Our church- the place of refuge where we go to praise the God who gives us the breath in our lungs and the sanctuary where our problems and desires are laid on the altar.

The fear and anxiety that once gripped me has now become hate. I want to hate the shooter who decided to end those precious lives and tainted my place of worship. I am looking up to my God with my fists clenched asking him why does this happen and how can He let it happen. How are we supposed to praise Him behind these stained glass windows where the ringing of praise bells is overshadowed by the ring of bullets, echoing off of our once great sanctuary?

My brothers and sisters, if I can at all be a voice for the love that is left in the world, we cannot let the history books say that the sound of our praise was drowned out by the growl of hate. We cannot let evil acts define the body of Christ. Let these lives lost not be a time for us to take a moment and come together in solidarity; no, let this be a battle cry. We worship a God who entered a world of hate in the same form that you and I share, and his sacrifice is the only reason that you and I still have air in our lungs and have feet pressed against the pavement. Friends, let us use these feet to walk to every church, to every street corner, to every inch of this globe, and love until our legs give out. Let us praise a God whose blood first stained the altar, and share his love that first saved the world. Let the history books say that these lives were not lost in vain, because the body of Christ would not retreat when faced with hate. Let us be those who hoped in the Lord- the people who would soar on wings like eagles, would run and not grow weary, and would walk and not be faint. Let every act of love shared to those around us be our D-Day. Let every time we walk into those wooden double doors on Sunday morning be us storming the beaches and proclaiming that we are here to stay. That Love is here to stay.

For the lives lost in First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, I promise that wherever I am, you are there. The news has not released your names yet, but I promise that I will not fear walking through that church door and finding my spot in the pew, because you weren’t. I promise to not let today cast a dark shadow over my faith. I promise that your bravery in living will not be forgotten.