Convocation 2021: God’s Provision in the Wilderness
On August 25th, Trinity opened the 2021–22 academic year with the 125th Convocation ceremony. President Nicholas Perrin delivered an address that encouraged the community to commit to lifelong learning and to perceive and believe in the “new thing” (Isa. 43:19) God will be doing in each of us personally and through education at Trinity this year.
“Convocation is not just about pomp and circumstance,” Perrin said, “but is a symbol of fresh beginnings, a new thing. Whether you’re a new student, a returning student, or staff and faculty, Convocation is a chance to reorient ourselves toward the grace of God, to attend to our work, and to finish strong and well, by God’s grace.”
Isaiah’s prophecy about how God will provide a way back from Israel’s exile in Babylon through the desert to the Promised Land (Isa. 43:14–21) set the stage for Convocation. From that passage, Perrin noted that while the prophet was speaking of exile brought about by God’s own judgment, Isaiah also knew that Israel’s God would be the one to save them, providing everything they needed along the way.
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:19).
We need provisions to get through a desert.
“Without water, we die,” Perrin said. “In Isaiah 43 God promised to provide rivers of water in the desert, a straight and paved way. This was the new thing that God was going to do.”
Perrin then connected that promise of God’s provision in the desert to his promise of provision for us now.
“We gather together with a shared sense that God is going to do something new, in our personal lives and here at Trinity,” he said. “But what is the new thing? I can’t say what that will be for you personally, but according to today’s Scripture, we hear that God promises to provide the necessary provisions to make our way through the wilderness of the unknown and uncertain parts of our journey, of the trials, and of the hard work ahead.”
The second reading from today’s Convocation was 2 Corinthians 5:16–19, which describes God’s ultimate provision—the living water and the way, Jesus Christ. With an eye on the past 18 months of a “pandemic desert,” Perrin suggested that it too is all part of the journey that God has planned for us. In this desert, God does new things.
Perrin also said that education, at times, can be like an exciting and unsettling desert. It is meant to challenge our paradigms and make us wrestle with our settled opinions about life’s ultimate questions. That can be a good thing, he argued. Not because our assumptions are always wrong, but because they will be strengthened.
“In order to experience this new thing,” he said, “we have to come in ready to drink deeply. God is not just interested in stretching your mind, but also your heart.”
In closing, Perrin exhorted the Trinity community to pay attention to the fact the Holy Spirit wells up in each of us and to not miss the opportunity to drink deeply from those Spirit-filled relationships we have with fellow students, mentors, and professors.
“We need each other far more than we think,” Perrin said, “and we need each other now. God is doing something new.”
Prior to Perrin’s address, Provost H. Wayne Johnson led the official installation of the academic dean of TEDS, the Rev. Dr. David W. Pao. Pao brings more than 25 years of experience in theological education, both as an administrator (10 years as TEDS New Testament Department Chair) and as a faculty member (23 years as a New Testament professor).
University Organist and Professor Emeritus of Music Paul J. Satre provided music for the service. Other Trinity participants included mace-bearer Phil Sell, Dean of the College & Graduate School Karen Wrobbel, outgoing Dean of Trinity Law School Myron Steeves, TIU Florida Dean Gene Green, Vice President for Student Life Amanda Onapito, and professors Daniel Ayala, Dana Harris, Don Hedges, Charles King, David Luy, Scott Manetsch, and Ruby Owiny.
See the entire address below: