Graduation Day

I am back. I actually have time to write for my blog. At long last I have finished my Master of Divinity, walked the aisle, had the hood placed on my shoulders and received a nice folder with a letter inside saying that my degree is in the mail.

I spent four years on campus at Briercrest Seminary and the better part of the last two years in ministry while trying to finish the last few requirements for my degree. Six years…it only took six years. It seems to me that I had hoped to do it in three.

In the end, graduation was anticlimactic. It was good to see some old friends and chat with the professors who were so formative in my studies. The pomp of the ceremony, however left me a little cold. It isn’t that the speeches weren’t good, they were.

The problem is that the robes and academic lingo seems out of place when the ministry I was trained for is at best messy. The dignity of doctoral robes and masters hoods is replace by obscurity and dismissal experienced in ministry. The formal language replaced by mono-syllabic expressions.

In some small way, I felt like a soldier coming back from the front, mud caked, blood and soil stained clothes, stumbling onto a parade ground with new recruits all decked out in their dress uniforms standing in tidy lines with polished boots and unloaded weapons. The scene is both comical and borderline tragic.

In fairness, I do know that many of my fellow seminary students have lived and served in the trenches. The same is true of many of the professors. Perhaps that is what made it all the more paradoxical. I don’t a one of those people who would put on their academic garb to feed the poor or visit the sick. I also know that their own journeys have taken them through the messiness of the trenches. That’s what made them particularly good teachers.

Perhaps our academic attire needs to be traded in for sack cloth and ashes, or unadorned “monk” robes. The only problem is that we couldn’t show off our achievements–our glory. That wouldn’t be Biblical would it? There is a humility in Scripture that is largely absent in the pomp of academic graduation.

At the same time, there is something profound in marking passages with extravagance. We do that for birthdays, weddings, and even funerals. Significant life passages were also marked in the life of Israel. There were the yearly festivals, circumcisions, marriages, and later baptisms.

So perhaps there is something Biblical about marking the passage of graduation with pomp…at least as long as it is God who is ultimately glorified. That is not always easy. There is a little narcissism in all of us.

Perhaps the graduation ceremony really is reflective of life in that it says something about us. We need to celebrate passages, but how easy it is to make it all about us. How hard it is to put on the robes and hoods while remembering that it’s all about Jesus. None of it would be possible without Him. For that matter, who would go to seminary if it wasn’t for Jesus.