Whitworth's 121st academic year is in the books, and what an amazing year it was. For my family and me, it was a year of introductions and of beginnings. For our recent graduates, it was a year of reflections and of endings. Indeed, for everything there is a season under heaven.
During Whitworth's Commencement Weekend, I was asked to give a charge to the graduates at the annual baccalaureate service. It was a beautiful ceremony as our community came together to offer thanks to God for watching over the Class of 2011. The Reverend Eugene Peterson spoke wonderful and challenging words to these newest Whitworth alumni, including his own grandson. But giving charges is new for me – I can't quite say that I've ever been asked to give a charge before. How does one give a charge? Is it an order? Some helpful advice, perhaps?
As I thought about the charge I might give these remarkable young adults who have contributed so much to the Whitworth community, I thought of some common understandings of "charges" and how they might relate to our graduates' experiences as they begin to live out our mission as Whitworth alumni.
Whitworth loves basketball. A basketball charge is a foul committed by an offensive player who barrels through his or her defensive counterpart, often leaving the defensive players flat on his or her back – it's not pretty. I reminded the members of the Class of 2011 that, in basketball terms, "they've got game." Our graduates are ready to tackle our society's most difficult challenges. They are ready to contribute significantly to the missions of the organizations and persons they will be called to serve. They are equipped with the intellectual competence, moral courage, and deep compassion it will take to honor God, follow Christ, and serve humanity. But I reminded our graduates that serving a world in great need and being a servant in the image of Christ to persons of different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures will require finesse, wisdom and great care. In their heartfelt efforts to advocate, persuade and serve, our graduates don't want to be called for an offensive charge. Rather, Whitworth graduates around the globe are known for their grace and ability to work effectively across differences. Similarly, just as basketball players are sometimes asked to "take a charge," our graduates will also have plenty of opportunities to extend forgiveness and to work constructively for reconciliation, even when they are wronged.
A Charge to Keep I Have
A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify,
A never-dying soul to save,
And fit it for the sky.
To serve the present age,
My calling to fulfill:
O, may it all my powers engage
To do my Master’s will!
Arm me with jealous care,
As in Thy sight to live;
And O, Thy servant, Lord, prepare
A strict account to give!
Help me to watch and pray,
And on Thyself rely,
Assured, if I my trust betray,
I shall for ever die.
Americans love credit cards. Recently, when I was running low on cash at the grocery store, my four-year-old, Chloe, reminded me that I could "just charge it." When we use our credit cards, we enter into a two-way promise: The bank that issues our card agrees to pay the current charges for the goods or services we desire, and in return for the convenience of credit, we promise to settle our accounts with the bank at a later date. The relationships our graduates enjoy with family members, colleagues, and friends work the same way: at times our new Whitworth alumni will need to draw on their personal credit lines in asking others for help, guidance and wisdom as they launch their post-college lives. But all of us need to keep a close eye on our relational accounts. Are we giving back as much as or more than we're receiving? Are we maintaining good credit, so to speak, by investing in others just as generously as others have invested in us? My charge to our newest Whitworth alumni was that they should strive to have great credit.
I thought also of the charge we get from electricity. We all enjoy people whose personalities are described as "electric." These are people with passion, a love of life, and a deep sense of calling. I reminded our graduates that they are called to be plugged in to both the ultimate source of power (Jesus Christ) and the distribution grid (a community of faith) that can energize in them a spirit of love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. When our spiritual wires get crossed, sparks and power loss can occur, but when our wires are connected correctly to their source and to the grid that keeps them grounded, the Power Giver can direct our energies in ways that maximize our gifts and talents to change the world.
As always, please keep Whitworth and our newest graduates in your prayers.