Greetings, class of 2009. Or 2010. Or maybe 2011. And even the guy who will graduate in 2018. That is not a commentary on how difficult the next three or more years will be for you, it is simply an acknowledgement that while you are all starting this stage of your journeys together, you won't all finish at the same time. Look around the room at your classmates. A core group of you will graduate in 2009. A faithful remnant will take an extra year and graduate together in 2010. I'll be honest, some of you might disappear after a semester or a year. Others will have life's circumstances overcome them to the point that you'll need to cut back on classload or take time off.
Regardless, you have come to this moment. And on behalf of all alumni of Eden Theological Seminary, and I'll even presume to speak on behalf of all current students, faculty, field education supervisors, and Mike the janitor (is Mike still there?)...we are praying for you.
We are praying for you.
Those were some of the first words said to my class upon our arrival. They were important words, to be sure, because it marked something about what we were entering, setting it apart from any other academic undertaking. Now granted, this was still very much an academic setting, without question. And it will be such for you as well. You will suffer...sorry...experience all those elements typical of graduate school: books, papers, study groups, grades, due dates...but in the midst of all of it will be reminders of Why.
And the Why is important. The Why is your ultimate goal, the driving force behind all that you endure for as long as you endure it. It will be spoken and sung; given graciously and pursued forcibly. It will be in your midst always. And all the reminders presented to you, including the prayers of your teachers and peers, will be the next few years' true end.
There's nothing meant to be unique or inspirational about this welcome. You'll hear variations on these paragraphs over the next week and in the first few days of class. I simply want to let you know that people are praying for you: your families, your home churches, those who have gone before you and those who are working alongside you to help you pursue and clarify what brought you to Eden to begin with.
To put it one way, you know Why.
And it is Why that will sustain you toward graduation. It won't be your GPA and it won't be any hope to be placed in a church with a $500,000 budget right out of the box. Those are temporary, frivolous concerns.
We are praying for you to use your gifts and talents, to seek first the kingdom of God, to recognize your call as a privilege, a cost and joy.
We are praying for you to remember Why.
God be with you.