June 8, 2015
It’s a really, really good month for pastors.
That’s just my opinion, but I think I’m right. June delivers two retail opportunities; you see it in stores, incessantly. Dads and Grads have pushed May’s Mothers out of the cash register spotlight. Brides used to share the June billing, but with marriage on the decline, D&G is the push…
Get the Old Guy golf balls or a tie; he’ll need the tie to attend commencement for his June co-star, the Grad. Back to the pastors: they finally get a break, because this is the month when people find out what a really bad sermon looks like: welcome to Commencement Speakers 2015.
The quotable out-takes from ’15 are still being formed and flubbed, but some of last year’s winners are already history. I like one from Charlie Day – actor (Horrible Bosses, Always Sunny in Philadelphia), producer, musician, screenwriter – at Merrimack College (25 miles north of Boston) last year: “I don’t think you should just do what makes you happy. Do what makes you great. Do what’s uncomfortable and scary and hard but pays off in the long run… Let yourself fail. Fail and pick yourself up and fail again. Without that struggle, what is your success anyway?"
That one gets life beyond-the-lectern, because it’s like brisket at a vegan barbeque: a Hollywood goof-ball who is disagreeing with a best-selling swap meet tee-shirt bearing the culture’s counsel, in a phrase: “Do what makes you happy.” The Hedonist Society just revoked Charlie’s membership…
That’s the filter for behavior, in a world no longer structured around moral boundaries. Cowboys with guitars said it with Cole Porter’s lyrics: “Don’t fence me in” (1934). Every age cohort frames it in their own terms, but the default goal in life recurs across time and space: don’t follow the dictates; follow your desires. If it feels good, do it.
God wants you happy. That’s the compelling message of the Feel-Good faith guys – the “Prosperity Gospel” preachers – who make the case for health, wealth and happiness: the Three Commandments that replaced the Ten. They don’t need graduation platforms in June; they have television platforms that rake in their own health, wealth and happiness from watchers who get their theology from their clickers instead of the Epistles.
If God was sending out tee-shirts to summarize his choice for me – and, for you – what’s the silk screen sentiment that I would be wearing into life, and using to frame my most-important decisions?
Invite Peter to be the commencement speaker, and here’s what he would say: “Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: ‘Be holy, because I am holy.’ ” (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Ask 1000 graduates if they want to be happy, and you’ll get a thousand common responses: “Duh?” Ask their Creator what he wants for them, and his reply is instant, and unchanging across the generations: Holy: dedicated or devoted to the service of God; saintly; godly; pious; devout; having a spiritually pure quality.
Here’s the problem: if all you have is a diploma, holy will never happen. It isn’t about a degree; it’s about a decision. Become a child of God, and that decision leads to a direction that is now the ultimate pursuit, for all who want to be the Father’s favorites: be holy in all that you do.
God’s input: Do what makes you happy, and you’ll never end-up there. Do what makes you holy, and you’ll gain strength, confidence, courage and joy… with frequent happiness along the way.
Aspirations aplenty, with schooling past and life on the horizon; what advice will you give your favorite graduate, in their congratulations card?