Photo (left to right): Dr. Dean Borgman (main speaker for the evening), Megan Hackman (student speaker), me, and President Dennis Hollinger
Below is my Baccalaureate address given during the Gordon-Conwell Commencement ceremonies. I actually forgot to bring my notes that day and had to speak from memory (leading to a few omissions), so I’ve also copied the full script below:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” -John 15:5
For the last 2, 3, or 8 years for some of us, the faculty and staff at Gordon-Conwell have poured their lives into us so that we might know, love and honor God with our heads, hearts, and hands.
If I have learned one thing during my three years here at Gordon-Conwell, I think it’s that this is an impossible calling. Richard Baxter once said, “Study hard, for the well is deep, and our brains are shallow.” I think this is an understatement. The well is not just deep, it is unfathomable, and our shallow heads cannot possibly plumb its depth. Far be it from me to think that because I can wax philosophical about the transcendence and the immanence of God, or explain the Chalecedonian Christology, or discuss the various millennial eschatologies, or because I can do sentence diagrams and semantic analysis on any given passage of Scripture that I am now a Master of Divinity. I have not begun to grasp the fullness of the divine. The well is deep, but our brains are shallow.
The well is also wide, but our hands are small. Gordon-Conwell has encouraged me to engage the world globally through the diverse student body and many missions opportunities. It has taught me that our God is not a parochial, or even an American God. He is a global God. But the truth is that 86% of all Muslims, Hindus, and Buddhists in the world do not even know one Christian personally, and most of our evangelistic efforts never reach Asia and North Africa, where the largest and most-responsive non-Christian peoples reside. Moreover, there are 16,000 children dying from hunger-related causes everyday, while almost half of the dogs in the U.S. are obese. In light of these staggering realities, what am I, a diminutive and introverted 25-year-old in South Hamilton, MA to do? The well is wide, but our hands are small.
The well is also pure, but our hearts are deceitful. Our God is perfect in holiness, and he desires that we be perfect in holiness. Yet I have struggled with this all throughout seminary. My heart tells me that watching a fictional drama of ridiculously-dressed superheroes is more exciting and pleasurable than communing with the lover and savior of my soul. My heart tells me that getting the approval of men through good grades is more important than really absorbing the material so that I can edify the Church and gain the approval of God. And to this man, God is entrusting the souls of His people—His very own Body?
Knowing, loving and honoring God with our heads, hearts, and hands is an impossible calling when we consider our impotent selves. But what is impossible with men is possible with God (Lk. 18:27). The Holy Spirit illumines our understanding so that we can grasp the truths of God, and through Christ, in whom the fullness of God dwells, we can really know God. We are helpless in light of the stark global realities, but hopeful because missions is never the calculable result of our brilliance or resourcefulness, but a miracle wrought by God himself. We cannot, in our own resolve or power, produce holiness, but the Holy Spirit sanctifies us—slowly, but surely.
We graduate tomorrow, because of God’s grace. We are what we are, because of God’s grace. We are becoming what God wills us to be, because of God’s grace. So no, I am not graduating with a confidence in my own ability to serve God with my head, heart, and hands, but I am graduating with a brokenness, and faith that “a broken and contrite heart [our] God will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). Apart from God, we can do nothing; but in Him, we will bear much fruit. May all praise, glory and honor be to God forever and ever. Amen.