At one time there was talk among the campus of moving towards having staff/faculty share in one of the graduation weekend services. Since my niece graduated this year; I prepared a few remarks in case it was me who was chosen. I wasn’t chosen as we brought people in to deliver the messages. Those who were chosen did a fine job. However, that left me with words prepared but unspoken. Maybe that’s what blogs are for. Here is a condensed version of what I had prepared:
You have arrived. This is the day that seemed so far away when you first stepped on campus for your first semester. Now, for most of you, it seems to have fleeted by so quickly.
Charles Price of People’s Church in Toronto has said, “God takes you away from your home to teach you things.” Your time at university has taught you some things.
You are different than you were when you entered Kingswood. You have changed. You are not just older, you are different. Parents; your child is not the same. We hope you like the difference but there are no refunds. They are not the same and we don’t apologize for that.
Here among you sits my niece. Although I am proud of the entire graduating class there is a special affection for my kin Katie.
After Katie completed her first year her grandparents remarked, “Her time at Kingswood has improved her.” Her parents also remarked, “There is a positive difference in her.” I don’t think anyone had any strong complaints about Katie’s character before she joined us, but still, there was something positive which resulted from her time at Kingswood.
There is also an added bonus; Katie has improved KU as well. Kingswood is a family – all our students make a difference in our community because Kingswood is not just buildings; it is a community.
Now nobody cares about your grades. The grade earning was motivation to learn the content of each course. But, as you leave you will find (as our valedictorian Dan Henderlong also stated) nobody cares about your grades. We will reward you with the diploma but it’s only paper. The world needs the knowledge you gained from the classes. Your “A” in Spiritual Formation means nothing if your life does not display spiritual formation.
On this day all over North America, grads are being told, “Follow your heart.” That’s destructively bad advice. Instead I urge you to follow God’s heart.
Were it not so strange a notion we might be better served if, when we handed you your diploma, we also presented you with a toilet plunger (to represent your need to be a willing servant). Pardon the pun, but the diploma is only valuable if you plunge into ministry. It is a comical picture, but I picture the accomplished grad as one who mimics the Statue of Liberty holding the diploma lowly in one hand while rising up the plunger in the other. Know this, the truly successful Kingswood graduate will spend their time in the servant mode, not pointing to the framed diploma on their office wall.
Follow God’s heart. Show them God.
A little girl sat quietly at the back of the class drawing a picture. The teacher strolled over. “What are you drawing?”
The girl replied, “A picture of God.”
“But nobody knows what God looks like,” countered the teacher.
With a smile the girl stated, “They will in a minute.”
Follow God’s heart; show the world a picture of God.
This is a day of mixed emotions for us, your faculty. We have a strange, approaching an empty nest feeling. Parents/guardians; we have “adopted” your children for these past four years (and beyond). Now we have to let them go. We have loved them and poured into their lives. We have done our best to instruct them in the ways they are to go. Just like many of you, we have invested highly in their lives. And now we proudly release them into their mission fields.
Graduates, we admit we have not prepared you for everything. But we attempted to prepare you to handle everything by giving you the tools you need. The disciples trained for three years under the ultimate teacher, Jesus. They didn’t understand everything, but were given the tools to serve and expand the kingdom. We took four years because, well, we’re not Jesus; we needed extra time. It is our hope we have given you enough training to succeed in your callings.
Go from this place and enter the fields. We are counting on you. We are expecting great things from you. You are an elite group with a special calling. You also have a high responsibility. Just as you have become part of our community here on campus, you now bear the responsibility to uphold our good name. We take the calling of Kingswood University very seriously and we want you to do the same. We want our graduates to be able to carry the name Kingswood with honor because our graduates carry the name of Jesus with honor and are people of high Christian character.
God go with you graduates. Call home occasionally and let us know how things are going; we’re going to miss you. Fly be free.