2014–15 University Passage in Action

by Kayla Johnston ’16

One of the more recent Azusa Pacific University traditions, initiated by Woody Morwood, lead campus pastor, and President Jon Wallace, DBA, in 2006, is the adoption of a Scripture passage each year that students, staff, and faculty study, engage in, and practice together as a community.

The concept of the university passage began during lunch between the two men as they sought a way to incorporate one passage of Scripture each year as a university and emphasize the authority of the Word as a driving influence in APU’s identity in Christ. “After the first two years, we decided to also engage our Four Cornerstones—Christ, Scholarship, Community, Service—on a four-year cycle, and to intentionally have the authority of Scripture shape how we understand the Cornerstones. We invited every student, faculty and staff member, alum, and family member connected to APU to join in with us by suggesting passages and praying for the selection process,” Morwood said. A team then reviews and prays over the submissions, and selects a passage for each year.

The goal—that APU will live as a community deeply influenced by Scripture and rooted in the Word of God.

For the 2014–15 school year, things look a little different. Rather than one passage from the Bible, the book of John was selected for study, specifically the eight times Jesus identifies himself through “I am” statements. “We believe this study will enhance our insight into what it truly means to be a disciple and scholar advancing God’s work in today’s world,” said Wallace.

By looking more intently at who Jesus is, the hope is that APU as a whole will understand the character of Christ and how He meets our needs through relationship to and identity in Him.

Faculty, staff, and students across campus plan to incorporate these verses into their classroom curriculum and everyday lives through conversation, teaching, and even art. Jason Le Shana, an assistant campus pastor, and the Office of Campus Pastors prayed for guidance in how they would communicate the message of the “I am” statements effectively through chapel this year. “It became clear that a mixture of communication mediums would aid us in our exploration of these passages,” Le Shana said.

With that in mind, undergraduate art students Allison Holland ’15 and Arica Leach ’15 created a mural. The painting, shown above, visually illustrates each of the statements, and will serve as a backdrop for each university passage chapel this year. “Our team continues to pray that the APU community would be shaped in significant ways by the work of God through chapel sermons, videos, and artwork as we seek to live out the calling of the great I Am,” said Le Shana.

In the classroom, English professor Joseph Bentz, Ph.D., plans to use the “I am” statements as opening devotionals during his class sessions. As he reflects on the statements, one sticks out to him in particular as his theme for the year. “At the moment, I resonate most with John 15:1 in which Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine.’ In that chapter, Jesus identifies us as the branches, and in 15:4 he says, ‘Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me.’ As I begin a new school year, with all its demands and hopes, I so need this reminder of how crucial it is to abide in Christ rather than foolishly try to rely on my own strength,” Bentz said.

Cahleen Shrier, Ph.D., professor of biology, spends much of her time studying the smallest units of life—cells. As she reflects on John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life,” Shrier notes, “Inside the cell are incredible intricate parts that function and interact in very specific ways. If they don’t, we have disease and death. Since Jesus created life, it is amazing to see who He is by studying His attributes in creation.”

In Shrier’s class, she presents Jesus’ physical death on the cross as an opportunity to study possible things affecting His human body. “It draws students closer to Him as they understand the love demonstrated for them through Christ's death and resurrection,” Shrier adds.

We invite you to join the APU community and spend the next few months in prayer and discussion over these passages, committing them to memory and watching to see how God uses them to transform your heart this year.