If we found ourselves historically planted in OT Israel, we would blow the ram’s horn trumpet called shofar and announce this day, at this moment, the beginning of a year of Jubilee.
Though we have no shofar to sound, what we are doing will be taking multiple moments to acknowledge and to remember that CCO has completed 50 years of a calling to transform students to transform the world.
I have been given a few minutes to talk to you about remembering. I am speaking to you as one of those within the CCO who is able to speak from a vantage point of length—and length is vital to the notion of remembering.
The Lord prioritizes moments of remembering. Scripture references “remember”166 times. In Judges 2:10, God Himself makes the connection between remembering and knowing HIM. If we know Him, we will remember His works.
March 23, 1971 was a certain specific point in time. The landmark of 50 years is a means of apprehending the space between that certain point and this present moment.
I would point you to the book of Nehemiah, chapter 9. This chapter extolls the need to retell, and retell, and retell the story of God’s faithfulness. Here in chapter 9, there is the record of a national assembly that occurs to mark a significant moment in the life of Israel—the rebuilding of the wall and gates of Jerusalem. Nehemiah gathers the people on this occasion and, maybe unexpectedly, the focus of this solemn assembly of an entire nation is repentance.
Interesting that the substance of repentance includes disobedience and rebellion, but also failure to remember the works that God had done (v. 17). Nehemiah 9 is a call to remember, remember, remember. An exhortation to spend time looking back. Nehemiah 9 repeatedly names times to repent, times to mourn, times to remember, and times to worship.
We in the CCO find ourselves at a moment in time that carries with it the opportunity to both repent and to worship.
Like the moment in Nehemiah, there are pieces of our wall (in our current context, structure and organizational life) that are broken and in need of repair. For Nehemiah, it was the reality of a city left vulnerable, without its walls and without its gates. For us, it is realizing that our institutional life has not fully embodied the Jubilee vision. We have not created a space where all staff, especially those of color, can thrive and belong in this work of inviting students to be a part of God's Kingdom. This is a piece of our story, and this is a time to repent and mourn.
Nehemiah 9 shows us a way to repent of our unfaithfulness as well as to remember the acts of God's faithfulness. There is repeated unfaithfulness. There is repeated repentance. And then in Nehemiah 9, we have remembering the repeated responses of God in mercy, forgiveness, and restoration.
These calls both to repent and to REMEMBER GOD'S FAITHFULNESS exist TOGETHER. This is what makes the story so remarkable. God did not abandon but He sustained His people because of who HE is. As Colossians 3:12 reminds us: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”—we are not chosen, we are not holy, we are not beloved because of our deserving. NO!!! It is not of us—it is only of HIM. It is His character.
The history of the nation of Israel is about God’s work. The history that is the story of CCO is also about God’s work.
Any history of God’s work is full of broken people, broken leaders, broken nations, broken cultures—all of which makes God’s glory all the more remarkable and significant! His glory is large enough to use and rise above the broken realities of broken people. The places of brokenness do not constrain His glory, but actually expose His glory. Puts His glory on display. Proclaims His glory.
Our 50th anniversary is for retelling the story of God’s faithfulness. It is taking a moment to stop, turn around, and survey the landscape behind us in order to see the fingerprints of God over ALL of it.
We discover that God is not afraid of frailties and limitations of His creatures, His people, His leaders. In Nehemiah 9, the people are able to offer praise in the midst of corporate repentance because they saw and experienced God’s faithfulness.
This focused effort of CCO’s 50th anniversary of LOOKING BACK—is to give consideration, to intentionally examine, to scrutinize, for the purpose of SEEING what is behind us. Where have we been? What is the wake that has been left behind?
We will do this wearing lenses that will enable us to see “the work that He has done.”
How will people know and REMEMBER if the stories are not proclaimed? We will attempt to proclaim our stories in the same manner as we find in Nehemiah: recognizing the God who is faithful. It is then we are able to see that the path that is behind us is covered with the fingerprints of His presence—among, beside, behind, and before us. It is His presence that is our distinction, our hope, and has been and will continue to be our foundation.
It is His presence that changes everything.
The CCO has long broadcast the gospel story as a story with more than two chapters. The gospel story is a FOUR-chapter story: Creation, Fall, Redemption, and Restoration. The 50-year story of the CCO is a microcosm of that four-chapter gospel.
The CCO is hereby launching a time to REMEMBER. A time to purposefully, carefully remember the story of God’s faithfulness over five decades.
We want to remember our start and CCO’s purpose and calling. It is a vision so much larger than any of us. A vision of restoration that sees and longs for all things to be under the Lordship of the Christ. A vision only possible through the power and works of God.
We want to see and proclaim God’s faithfulness at each step throughout our journey: through our struggles, our failures, and our poverty.
We want to see and proclaim God’s faithfulness through our moments of prospering and thriving. We want to recognize that our journey has been as much about transforming us as it has been about transforming college students.
We will move through this journey of remembering together so that together we will connect remembering the works He has done and knowing Him, El Hanne’ Eman, the God Who is Faithful.
This is why this moment in time matters.
This is why the hard work of reconciliation matters.
BECAUSE HIS FAITHFULNESS MATTERS!!
El Hanne ’Eman, the God Who is Faithful. REMEMBER HIM!! KNOW HIM!!
—Paul Harbison, Director of Experiential Designs, CCO | March 23, 2021