|Ben and Katie Gosden, Emory University 2011|
I was blessed and humbled to be present as Ben Gosden walked across the sanctuary on the campus of Emory University this week and receive his diploma from seminary. I was blessed to return to a place that meant so much to me, and to so many before me, and to watch the joy on the faces of graduates and their loved ones as they experience the achievement of dreams, goals, and callings. I was equally humbled to sit there as one who represents many: for our church rightly takes pride in Ben's ministry and the ways God is using him even now to advance the Kingdom. Sitting alongside Ben's mom, his wife, and other family, it was a great day.
Of course, graduation ceremonies entail more than just passing out diplomas. At Emory that means prayers offered by Bishops, scripture read by professors, anthems sung by choirs, and...the proverbial keynote speaker. We sit and listen to someone give their very best effort at summarizing what this day means. It is no easy task. How can you capture such an event in ten minutes. Or even twenty?
The truth is that one last word is not enough. There is nothing profound enough to linger in our minds. There is nothing witty enough to capture our attention, especially over the sound of fussing babies. There is no one word or thought that can sum it all up.
Jesus, who was the very Word of God come to life with flesh and blood, knew this. Each of the four Gospels offer something of Jesus' parting word to us. One last word is not enough. John's Gospel takes those last words and stretches them out over five chapters in John 13-17, but even that is not enough as Jesus picks teaching again on the lake shore in John 21. Which is why Jesus promises and delivers on the Holy Spirit, God present with us now that Jesus has ascended to heaven. By the power of the the Holy Spirit, God is present with us tomorrow. God is present with us after the party is over.
The last word I left Ben with on Monday was that we were proud of him. But by the grace of God that is not the last word. God's is still speaking to Ben, still speaking to the the churches he will serve, and still speaking to the church that helped to shape him. May we listen for the new Word God has for us this day.