What I learned at the Refectory at Fuller Seminary…

What I learned at the Refectory at Fuller Seminary…

I am currently hanging out in Pasadena, CA with my mom. We are attending a conference at Fuller Seminary around the theme of culture care. For those of you who may be wondering what on earth that means, here’s how the Director of the Conference, Makoto Fujimura, defined it: “Culture care is a thesis for the thoughtful stewardship of culture that we seek to bring to the theological, spiritual, and cultural formation we offer at Fuller Seminary, as well as to catalyze its principles beyond our walls.” Here’s another one that my mom heard in one of her workshop sessions: “Culture care is artistic gift that reaches across boundaries with understanding, reconciliation, and healing.” Honestly, even with those definitions I find that my own understanding of it is still taking shape. My current working definition is: “Culture care is acknowledging that God has gifted humanity with the potential to creatively bless and enhance our communities by the nurturing and sharing of that art within us.”

As a follower of Jesus, I am pretty sold on the fact that he revealed the heart of God to us in the form of His embodied truth, goodness, and beauty. He crossed margins to make that evident to both the religious and those who would be unwelcomed in religious circles. He was and is walking, living, breathing culture care. If we follow him, then we join in that work.

So here I am at this conference, feeding my soul on these life-giving and fascinating concepts. I proceed go to lunch at “The Refectory” with my mom during a break. (This is essentially Fuller’s student commons.) Pleasantly surprised by the cheap tacos on the menu, I walk my tray of food to a table and begin to chow down. All of a sudden, I find myself being stared at by a man with glasses. It was a little odd, so I keep munching my food hoping he’ll go away. My mom and I exchange a puzzled look. After swallowing I see that he is still standing there, and I ask him if he needs something with just the slightest tone of irritation. He said no and that he just wanted to say “hi” or something to that effect. Then I watched him walk on and introduce himself to several others around the room. With some he sat down and chatted, and others he simply said hello and kept moving. I wasn’t sure what his story was, but I didn’t take the time to investigate further, nor did I really want to.

Fast forward to this morning while I am in a session where a student has encouraged us to take a moment to think of something we need to repent of. Cue the acoustic guitar dude who plays us a song while we are supposed to be reflecting, and all I can think of is how my gut reacted to that social oddity I met briefly yesterday. In my mind (or maybe it was the work of the Holy Spirit?) I hear the dialogue, “What if that was Jesus? He came up to you looking for acknowledgment and you blew Him off. He was just trying to welcome people by bringing a little culture care to the table, and you found him irritating. You had no patience for Him.” I was reminded of that verse in Matthew 25:37 where Jesus is preaching about the righteous who ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give you something to drink?” He tells them in verse 40, “Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.” The beautiful guitar music plays on and I repent for blowing off the least of these.

The question is not whether this man was truly Jesus. I think there was the generosity of Christ in Him, and sometimes that takes people aback. Clearly, I was taken aback by it. What is sobering is that, in the midst of a conference highlighting the value of culture care, I missed an opportunity to practice it or possibly be blessed by it. True, the whole situation was odd. Maybe this guy hangs around there all the time and is known and loved by the locals. Maybe he is a constant source of irritation. All I know is that when I was asked to repent of something this morning, that is what came to mind. The larger message for me is the challenge of awareness. If I am trying to live into the idea of culture care, I need to be ready for the God moments that cross my path. I have to live a life that is willing to be interrupted by His agenda.

Some of the learning from conferences take place in the sessions, some in the conversations that happen between the sessions, and some while you are eating tacos in the lunch room. Thanks be to God.

5 thoughts on “What I learned at the Refectory at Fuller Seminary…

  1. Your experience with the guy with the “unusual social behavior” dragged up a memory from my past that has periodically haunted (probably just bothered) me for the past 40 years. I was a junior in college and took a girl on a date to a nice seafood restaurant in downtown Boston and a street person, disheveled and unkempt got my attention when he asked for help. Somehow he had sustained a gash to his forehead, about 1 inch long. It was before med school but I could tell he was going to be OK. I suggested that he or I call the police for a ride to the ER. He didn’t want the police involved.
    I didn’t know what to do. We were all dressed up and didn’t want to get dirty or bloody. I had no way to bandage it.
    40 years later I am not sure what I should have done, but since then I have become a better Christian citizen.
    I don’t think we should beat ourselves up by these experiences, but try to see the poor and downtrodden as ” Jesus”. Actually we should treat everyone that way. We get better. We learn to become more loving. We learn from our experiences.

  2. Karis: I can SOOO relate to that story. One night as I was getting into my truck, after unplugging it from the outside socket (diesel: in single digit temps, good to keep it plugged in all day so it starts better), I overheard a young man (20’s-30’s?) asking the driver of a van in the parking lot “where is the bus stop to SV/Ketchum?” I did not hear the van driver’s answer, but seconds later, I saw the guy running , awkwardly, as if he had some type of mobility problem, toward the bus stop in front of the clinic. He then turned around and ran back toward me, but past me. Odd, I thought, he is going the wrong way! I thought, he must not want my help, as he ran right by me as I was getting into my truck. Out of my rearview mirror, I watched him flag down another driver and ask the driver something. Then he ran again, down the side street behind the clinic. I was confused, but again, did not stop, even though it was about 14 degrees and getting dark. St. Lukes had sent out an email earlier that day, about being careful getting into your car at night, as a woman was car jacked in Meridian. I actually thought “I need to be careful, he could car jack me” (In HAILEY???? really????) and kept going. THEN, that same verse that you quoted (Matt 40), came to mind! I FELT HORRIBLE!!!!! I asked Jesus to please forgive me. I could have easily dropped him at the bus stop: yes, it was one block out of my way, but no biggie. I almost cried. As I drove down Broadford road, I looked toward the clinic to see if I could see him: he was no where to be seen. Was he Jesus? No, but I surely thought he was put there, by Jesus, to see if I would help him! I asked forgiveness the whole drive home and even told George how bad I felt for not stopping and taking him to the bus stop!

    1. Thanks for sharing your own moments of struggling in following, Gay. It seems that these are the kinds of stories we need to tell each other for the purposes of exhortation and wisdom. So appreciated!

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