Text of 2018 Baccalaureate Sermon
(You’ll) Never Be Lost
Prepared remarks by Dr. Gerald Griffin, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Biology
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Dimnent Memorial Chapel
In an effort to help shift the atmosphere, let’s forget about ourselves for a few moments.
So forget about yourself
Concentrate on Him and worship Him
So forget about yourself
Concentrate on Him and worship Him
So forget about yourself, concentrate on Him and worship Christ, the Lord
Worship Christ, Christ, the Lord.
The key verse comes from a letter written by Paul when he was in Corinth. He was writing the letter to the Romans before he had met them, hoping that his arrival to Rome would eventually get him to his true desired destination — Spain.
Class of 2018, some of you may be in this phase of life currently: writing letters/emails, holding informational interviews and the like — telling people about yourselves to make those first steps towards your “big goals” in life.
We all could learn a lot from this passage. First, we get a great example of a very glowing salutation, particularly to people whom we haven't’ met yet: Paul writes, “First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. God, whom I serve in my spirit in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times... ” (Romans 1:8–10)
But then Paul gives them this quite direct message which is our key verse for the message this morning: “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator — who is forever praised. Amen”
From this verse, I’d like to spend the majority of my few minutes on the first point of the message (don’t worry I only have two main points). The first point can be found by covering up the word in the parentheses in today’s title: And with that, we get the sentence “Never be lost.”
Now pay attention right now (In fact if you don’t pay attention to anything else listen now because I want to make the connection crystal clear right out of the gate — when we starting switching THE (singular) truth for OUR “truths” — when we start regarding Ourselves and other created things as the Source of universal truth, THE Source of love, it is at this moment that we start getting lost.
So Class of 2018, the first point — never be lost — is indeed in the imperative case.
Yes, I know it’s graduation today but I’m giving you one more assignment. And this is a critical task: Don’t get lost. Never be lost.
You may say that this task is too hard — completely unrealistic. I’m bound to get lost — prone to wander. How can we promise to not get lost (in Life) when the GPS is so necessary to find pretty much anything on the North side (☺).
But you may say, seriously Dr. Griffin, how can we be certain to never be lost in this ever-expanding, increasingly global big crazy world?
A quick look at Merriam-Webster might further convince you I’ve indeed set you up for an impossible task.
The definition reads:
Lost: unable to find the way; not knowing one’s whereabouts.
Now, this definition implies that you need some landmark or set of tools to help you find your location. Thus, it supports the notion that as only if you knew where you were, you wouldn’t be lost.
I have a problem with this way of thinking.
Do any of you know that friend that still can’t find the way with the GPS? Oh, you call them and you give them your exact address — but they still have no idea how to get to your house. Can I break it on DOWN: This is Someone who has all the tools, knows where they are currently are, but manages to never quite find the right path. This person just can’t seem to make the correct connections.
All the tools — but no direction.
I have to tell you that I used to be this person. I was in my final year of graduate school and had an amazing offer for a postdoctoral position at Johns Hopkins — it was in a premier laboratory that consistently published in the best journals. I thought I was heading to this next stop on the way to running a large biomedical research lab. It was my Rome if you will. But my focus was off. I had somehow slipped into the thought that this was just a natural continuation — the fruits of all MY hard labor and the spoils of riches that came with the very prestigious institutions I had attended and was about to graduate from. I had the publications, a wealth of different types of technical skills and knowledge, international awards, and so on. I had the tools.
But personal/family was not merely breaking apart — it was crumbling. And well soon, I found myself in a big house all alone. How could this happen — I went to church, sang in the choir, served on the historical society commission; I was doing all the THINGS. I felt lost.
And that was what the deceiver wanted me to believe. And I did. I embraced the dark. I would go to the lab and leave after about 2-3 hours. Prior to this, it was hard to get me out of a lab. But I had no energy; I had no connection. I had accumulated all these tools but was void of passion and direction. I would often come home and cry every day; I’d come home, close all the blinds, turn off the lights and just cry. I began to love the dark that I had created.
Coming out of this state was not due to any strength of my own. Remember, I was loving the dark. I believe it was the combination of new friends God placed in my life — some checking on me daily, taking me out to dinner — trying to see if I’d ever smile. It was a combination of prayers I believe my mother was making — interceding on my behalf. It was a combination of a close friend telling me about a church that would shift my way of approaching God forever. These things together prompted to sit still and wait.
Psalm 46:10 “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” So I started exalting — singing, praying, reading His word — getting to know Him.
Class of 2018, I’ve come to let you know (if you had any doubt) you’ve collected the tools. You’ve been prepared and grown in your skills such as mathematical thinking; reading, listening, and viewing with understanding, sensitivity, and critical acumen. You’ve also had a chance to grow some habits: Appreciation for tradition, openness to new ideas, and intellectual courage and honesty.
See the skills, habits, and competencies you’ve gained were not without root. They were centered (and I believe prayed about by faculty, staff, and administrators) in a longing to help form or grow your relationship with God.
A primary motive of your education here at Hope has been this, and I quote: “How to think from multiple perspectives about what it means to be human — what it is to be embodied creatures living in a physical world, social creatures in a world of cultural diversity, seekers of knowledge and meaning, creative makers of technology and art, human beings who experience suffering and joy, and spiritual creatures made for relationship with God.”
See, with Hope, there is direction with the tools.
I’d like to take a quick moment to remind you of Hope’s Virtues of Public Discourse:
- Humility to Listen
- Hospitality to Welcome
- Patience to Understand
- Courage to Challenge
- Honesty to speak the truth in Love
Take these virtues with you, the world needs them planted all over the globe. We hold these virtues not just because of who we claim to be—but mainly because of Whose we know we are. We, people of Hope, belong to God and desire to be more like Him.
Hope, Class of 2018, I now come to my second and last point. If we stand on the promises of God and know that we serve a shepherd that will leave the 99 for one — for you, even when we go astray — then you’ll never be lost.
Our God has the whole world in his Hands; Even if you go astray, I can tell you from experience don’t bother trying to hide from God. Jeremiah 23:24 reminds us “‘Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them’ says the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’”
Don’t hide; don’t run. Just sit still and hear His voice — He will direct you and impart His wisdom.
Oh, class of 2018, if you know The architect — you’ll have a blueprint for every situation in life you face.
Class of 2018, if you know THE planner, you don’t have to worry about the plans.
Your calling/vocation won’t be a source of stress if you know THE caller.
What I am saying Hope class of 2018, let’s not put all the value on the GPS, the app, etc... let’s seek relationship with the ultimate software designer.
So, clip the branches so that you can see the true living vine.
Take time to know the waymaker, you’ll never be lost.