Note: The following excerpt is taken from President Jon R. Wallace’s Orientation chapel message to new students and families. View the entire chapel message on iTunesU.
At our annual faculty/staff Kickoff, we talked about our Four Cornerstones: Christ, Scholarship, Community, and Service. Four artists—three art faculty and an art student—stood before four easels as they painted their understanding of each one of those cornerstones. No one noticed they had essentially disassembled that iconic “A,” our logo that incorporates the Four Cornerstones. Finally, in a prefabricated frame, they assembled it, and everyone saw it come together as a whole.
Professor Bill Catling painted the Christ Cornerstone—a heart with crowns of thorns, topped with the symbolic flame of the Holy Spirit. “It seems to me that people will know we are Christians by our love. The heart of Jesus burns with His love and wears the crown of thorns—King and Lord by His sacrifice of love. When we love, we share in His act of redemption,” Catling said.
So what does it mean to walk in a manner worthy of the Christ Cornerstone? Simply stated: that we reflect the love of Jesus Christ with anybody we come in contact with, that we will be known for our acts of love and sacrifice, compassion and grace, that people will look at us and see the reflection of Christ.
Next is the Cornerstone of Scholarship, painted by art student Nicole Gililland. It’s an image of a brain with a tree of knowledge growing from it, and its roots intertwining with the nerve bundle, connecting the brain to the body: the life of the mind. The growth that comes from a life of learning reflects the core nature of God. At APU, we believe that all truth belongs to God. So it doesn’t scare us to have conversations with people who believe in a big bang. It doesn’t rattle us to say that God spoke this stuff into being. . . So, for the next nine months as it relates to the Cornerstone of Scholarship, I want to challenge you to add to the remarkable gift of thinking and learning that God has given you, and learn new things in your vocation.
The Cornerstone of Community, painted by Professor Guy Kinnear, has a backbone. In the time of Christ, the Roman army was known for its nearly impenetrable armor. But one part of the Roman soldier’s body was left intentionally vulnerable—his back—because when soldiers covered each other’s back, they developed community and fellowship. The skeletal backbone demonstrates that true community is where people are covered by one another, where somebody has their back. Community is founded on the principles of a Christ-centered care for each other that says that there’s a chair at the table for everybody—everybody.
Amy Day, the art faculty member who painted the Service Cornerstone, said about her interpretation, “We are the hands of God on earth. We are the representatives of God. People experience God’s love through the actions we take. When we pray with folded hands, when we touch with care and empathy, hold greetings and compassion, wave in friendship, we serve others.”
The Service Cornerstone says that God has called us to serve others. We don’t want to just educate hearts and minds; we want to educate hands. There’s a major emphasis at this university on doing things in the name of Jesus, on using our hands in service. We want to be a community that gives things away in the name of Jesus, and plants trees, and tutors kids, and ministers with our hard work.
So what does it mean to walk in a manner worthy of those called by Jesus Christ? It means that we are going to love in the name of Christ, and begin to look more like Him to others, that we will use the gift of learning and intellect to grow in your own scholarship, that we will be the kind of people that has the backs of others (even strangers), and that we will model what it means to be the hands of Christ to anybody in need.