JERUSALEM, May 31, 2011 – Bishop Younan returned last week from a ten-day visit to the Chicago area where he was invited to give the commencement sermon for the 151st Graduation Ceremony for the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago (LSTC) on May 15, 2011.
Younan greeted the LSTC community before delving into the texts appointed for the day, recalling his own time spent there in the 1980s and the relationships with students and professors that were part of the shaping of his own evangelical theology.
“I was impressed,” Younan said, “not only by the deep theological engagement that is a part of this place, but also by the translation of that deep theology into daily life and work—the emphasis on a lived-out and communicated theology presented simply and clearly.”
And as Younan continued, he pulled that thread of a theology lived out in daily life and work into the Good Shepherd text of the day, reminding those graduating of their dual roles as both shepherd, yet always sheep.
“To be called to be a shepherd is a holy calling,” Younan said, “It is a calling to love and serve the people of God. It is a calling to give of yourself as you follow in Christ’s footsteps. It is a calling to walk with others as they find their own way to follow in Christ’s footsteps.” Then he continued with a challenge, “as such, it is a calling that should never and can never be bounded by the threshold of your building.”
Younan invited the graduates to live out their calling in community great and small, crossing boundaries in following Christ, knowing that they would be preceded by the Holy Spirit. And so, Younan sent out the graduating class with these words:
“Dear sisters and brothers in Christ. Go forth from this place in the knowledge that even as you are sent, you are already preceded and always accompanied by the Holy Spirit Called outside of yourself to follow in Christ’s footsteps. To shepherd God’s people, remembering that you are a beloved sheep of the Good Shepherd.”
The LSTC community also took the opportunity while Younan was present to honor him, to acknowledge his time spent with them, and to lift up his life lived in service locally and globally, within the Lutheran community as well as in ecumenical and interfaith relationship building by bestowing upon him an honorary Doctorate of Divinity.
While in the US, Younan also had the opportunity to meet with religious leaders in the Chicago area. Younan met with the Chicago Council of Religious Leaders in a meeting chaired by Bishop Wayne Miller, Bishop of the Chicago Metropolitan Synod of the ELCA. Younan also met with representatives of the Jewish Orthodox, Conservative and Reform communities. Younan was also invited to speak at a Mosque Foundation Event hosted by Sh. Kifah Mustapha on Christian-Muslim relations.
Younan also spoke at Grace Lutheran Church in LaGrange, Illinois; Zion Lutheran Church in Tinley Park; met with the OSMTH and the mayor of Tinley Park; and met with Bishop Mark Hanson, Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, to speak about the common work of the ELCA and the ELCJHL and their accompaniment together.
Younan returned to Jerusalem thankful for his time in the US and encouraged by the active work of the church he experienced in working for peace and reconciliation.