I love graduations.  I love the families who are loud when their graduate’s name is called.  I love the pomp of regalia that faculty members wear, representing their own studies at institutions around the world.  I love the music and the Latin words (I don’t know why, since I was more than happy to leave them behind when I went to college). 

Five years ago today, my husband (then fiance’) and I graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 


This morning my husband and I attended the seminary’s graduation ceremony.  He ushered, which will henceforth be known as crowd control.  I just observed, cheering on those we’ve gotten to do life with while we’ve been here.  It was fun just to be there.  And it was odd to think that my husband will don a cap, robe, and hood in just one year, and that we too will mark the same milestone in life.

But I do love graduations.

This morning’s special speaker came from another seminary across the country.  Not really knowing whether it was the tradition to invite outside speakers, I figured he must be pretty good.  And he was – the perfect combination of self-deprecating humor and wise words.  I have decided it is always a good idea to ask preaching professors to give commencement addresses.   

His charge to the graduates consisted of three “B’s”.  Believe that the God who saved you can be trusted with your life and your days.  Know He will guide you into the place He has prepared for you.  Behave according to what you preach.  The world does not need more empty sermons backed up by contradictory lives.

And burp

He read Yertle the Turtle to the audience.  (Yes, the entire book.  I do believe he would have made Dr. Seuss proud with his rendition.)  And if you are familiar with the story, you know that Yertle, the king turtle, is ultimately tossed off of his high and mighty throne (made up of a pile of all the other turtles) when one small turtle at the bottom of the pile burps.  It is his burp that frees all of the other turtles, secures their rights, and deposes the arrogant Yertle.

And so, the speaker charged, we are to burp.

We are to upset the order of this world and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  There are many to free, many to dignify, many to serve.  And we must, in his words, not spend our days preaching pious sermons that have no effect on the injustice that currently reigns in this world.

I must confess that there are times in my life when I wonder whether I am spending my days in worthwhile endeavours.  There are days when I am led to believe I have failed because I have not mentioned the name of my God once in my interactions at work.  There are times I wonder whether I am wrong for not doing this work in a faith-based organization or even a church.  There are times when I wonder if the work I do and have done is of eternal consequence.  It’s not about me making a name for myself.  It’s really just about me wanting to live with purpose.  Purpose that is God’s purpose. 

But then there are times like this morning.  There are times when someone else’s words become God’s whisper to my soul.  And I hear Him say, “What  you are doing does matter, Rachel.  And I know why you do it.  That’s what matters.” 

I participated in my first mission trip with my youth group on spring break in the seventh grade.  We went to Mexico, and I still remember the t-shirts we wore that week.  The back of the shirt bore a quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the Gospel at all times.  Use words if necessary.”

But a burp will suffice.