There were many refreshing aspects to the 2005 Annual Pepperdine University Bible Lectures which I attended last week, beginning with the picturesque mountainside setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Malibu, California. Seven gifted preachers fed the mind and stirred the spirit with a variety of sermons from John’s Gospel on the theme “Lifted Up.” For 13 hours each day we could choose among more than 200 classes covering a spectrum of topics of special interests and needs. The Christian fellowship is always a highlight, visiting with old friends and making new ones from throughout the USA and countries on several continents, but especially meeting members of this gracEmail family which, even alone, makes the cross-country trip worthwhile for me each Spring.
But perhaps the greatest blessing of all is the worship involving 6,000 voices joined in pure a cappella harmony, singing praises both classical and contemporary as led by the Hallal Singers and other gifted musicians. Such singing is entirely different from anything done by the first-century church, of course, but it is entirely fitting in our own time and place. That was the setting this year for a poignant personal scene that lifted my spirit heavenward and sent me home full.
It involved my college friend Tommy, with whom I studied Greek many a night at Abilene Christian University back in the 1960’s. After our master’s degrees, Tommy continued his education at Harvard and then, as Dr. Thomas Robinson, taught at for several decades at Harvard, at Union Theological Seminary in New York, at Episcopal Seminary in Boston and at a variety of other schools. In recent years he became simply “Tom Robinson,” serving as preaching minister at the Manhattan Church of Christ in New York.
I have always loved and respected Tom as an outstanding scholar and devout servant of Christ. That admiration deepened during worship at Pepperdine one evening last week when I looked across the Firestone Fieldhouse and observed him singing praises to Jesus Christ — eyes closed in concentration, head bowed in reverence, hands lifted in adoration and surrender, How appropriate, I reflected, that the Son of God who became flesh should be honored with such whole-bodied, incarnational worship! What a model and example for me and for others . . . this professor of enormous intellect and reputation, a cosmopolitan preacher of distinction, bowed low in unashamed humility before the King of kings, worshipping without embarrassment the Savior of the world with mind and heart.