Thank you! Esteemed professors, fellow graduates, friends, family, retired professors, alumni, pastors, parishioners, and that one random guy that just sort of followed us in here, welcome! If you would all indulge me for a moment, I would like to begin by selfishly thanking everyone that has gotten me here, to this point. My parents Geoff and Donna, my twin Will, sisters Emily and Abby, my girlfriend Christina (hi), my grandparents Gary, Mary Jane, Linda, and Bill, and the rest of my family, friends, co-workers, and anyone I’m missing. I would list you all, but my family is sort of like the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and I would like to be done by suppertime. Now I’d like to take a moment to thank everyone else on behalf of my classmates who have bestowed upon me the honor of speaking today. Thank you to the significant others and spouses, all of the children and parents, the neighbors, friends, pets, and all of those we depend on and who depend on us. Thank you to the professors and staff that guided us from the moment we said we might want to come to Moravian to the moment they told us how to line up and enter this building.
When I was chosen to speak at this event I was overwhelmed. I am part of a dying breed, a breed that was once known as the “traditional student.” In the past, students, mostly male of course, that went from an undergraduate degree to seminary to get masters in divinity were the norm, but by today's standard, I am an anomaly. Looking around the room at my peers in their caps and gowns you will see the rich diversity that has become the signature of Moravian Theological Seminary. We have sitting amongst us a newspaper journalists, a VP of a supply company who also served this great nation as a captain in the US corps or army engineers, and another veteran as well, thank you both for your service. We have a former social worker who kicked cancer’s butt, a state park ranger who moonlights as a second-degree black belt in tae kwon do! We have multiple artists, teachers, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, a librarian, and an overnight camp music director. As you can imagine, there are plenty of hats to go around within this graduating class. I was overwhelmed and honored to be asked to speak today, mostly because I can remember back to my first week of seminary when in a class entitled Prayer, I had shared with the class my personal satisfaction at adulating for two whole days without burning anything down to the ground. Prayer was one of those classes that I had foolishly signed up for, thinking it was going to be an easy A and quickly learning that it was the hardest class of my semester, but that is a story for another day.
Working and learning alongside these amazing people have reminded me on multiple occasions of Proverbs 8:11, “For wisdom is more precious than rubies, and nothing you desire compares to her.” I have always firmly believed that everyone knows something you don’t know. To rephrase that in a less paranoid manner, you can learn something from everybody. It is the different lenses and life experiences that shape our understanding of the world around us, and that is something that each one of us came to experience in a unique way in the hallowed halls of Moravian Theological Seminary.
After receiving word that I would be giving the speech, I immediately began wracking my brain to figure out what to speak about. I knew that Christy Kass, my honorary seminary mom, would give a stellar speech at the morning commencement, so the stakes were high on not screwing this up. I even tried to figure out how to incorporate my ukulele, but dismissed that, because a ukulele doesn’t really represent this graduating class.
One of the first classes that we take at the seminary is called Spiritual Formation and even though it is the only masters level class that a person may ever have to pick up a crayon and color in, it is also a pivotal point. For me, it was the point where I realized that I needed to become more open to the spiritual practices of others. One of the activities that we do in this class is a visio devina and a lectio devina, which mean respectively sacred seeing and sacred listening. Reminiscing about our seminary experience together made me realize that we are a mosaic. Each piece of our class is unique and beautiful. Mosaics can be made of a variety of material, but when brought together it creates a beautiful image. Yes, as individual pieces of this puzzle, we each hold a majesty and beauty all of our, but it is when we are united as one, like the body of Christ, that is when our magnificence and splendor take shape and become something truly breath taking.
The question became then, how do I safely hand out pieces of glass, marble, and clay to my fellow graduates without sending someone to the infirmary? Instead, I turned to puzzle pieces. Not only are they safer to hold, but they continue the previously established metaphor. This is especially fun for me because I hate puzzles, but hey, sometimes you have to roll with it. When you start a puzzle, most people start with the edges and work their way in. I asked everyone what they had wanted to be when they were in first grade. We had some ballerinas, writers, singers, a tractor-trailer driver, an army Calvary soldier, and two astronauts. Someone wanted to be a missionary nurse, we had a milk delivery person, a church sexton, and my personal favorite, the wife of John F. Kennedy. Sometimes when we start the puzzle, we don’t know what the final picture is going to be. For many of my classmates, the puzzle seems to change a bit drastically at times, and I’m sure this will continue to happen as we do our best to help people, in a world that delineates toward entropy and chaos. What is more important though is our willingness to follow that call, and to go to an uncharted part of the map, a place where the picture is going to look different because we have faith that the end result is going to be a new masterpiece that brings glory to the divine. (pause) I placed a bag there in the front with all of us, (person closest) if you could take one and pass them down. (staff side too) As aforementioned, I didn’t want to hand out pieces of glass or clay and have everyone cutting their hands up before they even get to take some nice pictures with your hoods, so instead, you are all getting a little puzzle piece with a magnet on the back. They say MTS, I’ll give you three guesses what that stands for. Just kidding, it means Moravian Theological Seminary, lol. Fellow graduates, thank you for the honor of speaking today. Thank you for the honor of becoming your friend over the last three years, and above all else, thank you for the privilege you have bestowed upon me, by being a piece in my puzzle, a part in the mosaic of my life that I will treasure for the rest of my days. Thank you all.