What Shall We Create: TNU Commencement Address, 2019

A Commencement Address
Trevecca Nazarene University, 2019
Richard Leslie Parrott, Ph.D.
May 4, 2019

The doctoral robe I am wearing this morning is faded and tattered.  The robe is almost 100 years old and was the academic robe that belonged to my grandpa who gave it to my dad to gave it to me.

This morning, you will hear many words.  However, you are present to hear ONE word – Your NAME as a graduate of TNU.

I want you to know that there is Another who has your name in his heart and on his lips today.  Would you join me in an experiment in imagination?  Close your eyes and imagine with me:

Imagine the Almighty God, maker of Heaven and Earth slipping up behind you, placing his arms around you, and speaks your name.  He then whispers in your ear, “What shall we create out of your life that will advance my purpose?”

What is God’s purpose?  This is no small thing.  God’s ultimate design is the restoration of all of creation.  God’s purpose is to save this broken world and restore it as his Temple.

You will make this decision today and every day:  Will you create with God or will you just want.  To want is easy; you can produce a wish list in 30 seconds.  It is another thing to say, “I will help create.”  That takes commitment and partnership with God.  On this, your day of graduation day, will you . . .

WISH, “What do I want?”
PRAY, “God, what can we create”

Are you content with “What job do I want?” Or will you pray “Lord, what problem can we solve that will make the world a better place?”

Is it enough to ask, “How much money do I want?” Or will you pray, “Lord, what can we give that will bless a broken world?

Will you be satisfied with, “What do I want to achieve?” Or “Father, what can we create, that will advance your purpose of making all things new?”

That is the image I wanted to share with you, participating with God in making things new.  Now, we need a down to earth application. What does it mean, in practical terms, to create a life with God that advances His purpose?

First, you must learn to pay attention.  Money is the currency of the market place.  You buy things.   Just as dollars are the currency of the mall, attention is the currency of the soul, the inner life.  What attracts your attention?  Are you learning to pay attention to what God is doing?  Here are two questions that will help you pay attention:

  • What are you up to God? 
  • What do you need me to do?  

Ask these questions consistently and, of course, pay attention. In time, you will learn God’s rhythm, the sense of His breath, his Spirit that blows where it will and, as it will.   Pay attention: Where is God working today?  How can you join in his work? 

Oh, Lord, what can we create out of
the opportunity of this day
that will advance your purpose?

Second, you must be genuine. People are drawn to authenticity and genuineness, of course. Who wants to be disingenuous, inauthentic, and a fake?  However, the genuine authenticity I speak of is being utterly transparent and vulnerable before God. Sometimes you do this when you are alone.  However, and more often, you need and must open yourself before God with a few trusted friends.   In various ways, you ask one another, “how is it with your soul?”

O Lord, what can you and I create
out of what I am and all that I am
that will advance your purpose?

I have one more suggestion for partnering with God in creating all things new.  Perhaps it is the most important of the three. You may not like it.  Yes, pay attention to God’s active rhythm in the world and look for where you can participate.  Yes, be transparent and vulnerable before him, as if all your life was utterly dependent upon Him.  Now for the third suggestion.

Finally, you will suffer as a partner with God.  It is not that you might suffer, you will.  To relieve any slight tinge of fear you might feel, let me say that when I predict that a human being will suffer, I have just about the same odds of predicting the sun will rise on the morrow.  It is going to happen.  All people suffer in this broken and fallen world.  It feels like “nobody knows the trouble I’ve seen.”  Frankly, everybody knows trouble.  At issue is how you carry your trouble and your suffering? Following Jesus makes all the difference.

  • Some hold on to suffering with hard resentment and a desire for revenge.  But, not you, child of God.  You turn loose of suffering and find freedom through forgiveness and forbearance. 
  • Others hide suffering behind defenses.  Not you, O wounded warrior, filled with God’s Spirit.  You greet evil and failures with compassion and kindness.
  • Still, others nurture suffering and trouble until the pain and fear give birth to cynicism and despair.  Not you, you follower of God’s Messiah/King Jesus.  You carry suffering to the foot of the cross and give birth to hope.

What I am describing, my friend is how you take up your cross and follow Jesus.

God, what can we create
out of my suffering and trouble
that will advance your purpose?

A final word from the Word:

And let us boast in the hope of the glory of God.
Not only so, but let us also glory in our sufferings,

because we know that
suffering produces perseverance;
perseverance, character;
and character, hope.
And hope does not put us to shame,
because God’s love has been poured out
into our hearts through the Holy Spirit,
who has been given to us.
(Romans 5:2-5)

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