Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
At the Baccalaureate Service on Sunday, we’ll conclude the service with this prayer:
O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
This prayer has become something of a tradition for the end of the school year at Valpo. In Lutheran worship books of our time, this prayer is presented as one of the closing prayer options for the service of Evening Prayer. It’s a prayer for endings, the last prayer to be prayed at a service that marks the end of the day. We’re all having our bouts with endings and the grieving that endings often bring. Pr. Kate’s reflection from last week rightly called us to attend to our own grieving in these days and to give space and permission to others in their grief and frustration. But this prayer isn’t just about ending. It’s actually more about beginning.
I’ve traced this prayer back in time and the oldest publication I’ve discovered so far is a collection called Daily Prayer first published in London in 1941, though I’m still chasing leads. The compilers’ intention at that time was to provide prayers, arranged by subject for use by teachers in schools and others who might need to lead prayer for a group. In the book, this prayer is in a grouping of prayers for Mondays and is under the heading “The Call of Abraham.” It’s a prayer for beginnings and new adventures. It’s a prayer for an unknowable future even as it looks back and reflects on the past.
“O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending…” The prayer begins in the middle, between our past and our future because it is a prayer that we are praying today.
“O God, you have called…” The calling of God has already been happening. The “ventures” have already begun. When I listen to students reflecting on their time at Valpo, especially those looking back from the perspective of their senior year, there is frequently some level of amazement in their voices. They knew that they were coming to school. They knew that their time was going to change them. In many cases, they had no idea of the depth and breadth of those changes, no way of knowing the blessed specifics of the relationships with others that they would forge, no sense of the transformation that deepening intellect and growing confidence would bring, no anticipation of the spiritual growth that would come through both joys and sorrows. It’s a joy to listen and a joy to witness.
Students aren’t the only ones undergoing the unpredictable rolling out of the past into the future. None of us who work at Valpo could have imagined the wildly unpredictable nature of the last four years when we were welcoming the class of 2021 to campus for the first time. The program cuts and losses of colleagues are not what we hoped for. These have been “paths untrodden, through perils unknown.”
Yet, here we are, at the end of another academic year, looking back and looking forward, certain of nothing except that I am currently writing and you are currently reading. Sunday, God willing, we will be praying for trust in the leading hand and supporting love of God through what will come. It’s a good prayer for commencement in any year. This year, it’s nearly perfect.
May 12, 2021
Rev. James A. Wetzstein serves as University Pastor at Valparaiso University and takes turns writing weekly devotions.
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future