Retiring director of church relations Dale Schrag, who also served six years as
interim campus pastor, gave the commencement address for the class of 2014, May 18 in Thresher Stadium.
President White, faculty and staff, family and friends, and—most importantly—members of the Bethel College Class of 2014, I am deeply honored to have been invited to address you on this auspicious occasion.
Commencement, we would all agree, is a very special time. But commencement addresses can sometimes be deadly, so I’ll try to make this one rhyme.
I’ll admit it’s a different way to proceed— perhaps a rhetorical trick. But I’m simply trying to do my best to make these brief comments stick.
You’ve reached a milestone in your young lives. You deserve to take a bow. And what makes this day extra special is you are truly Threshers now.
I suspect that we don’t often think (amid fans’ noisy clatter) how very unique it really is to have a mascot that does matter.
It is not a noisy corvid or an unrestrained feline. It’s not a passive Acer leaf or a roguish wild canine.
No, a Thresher’s truly much, much more; it has meaning on your behalf. For the special thing about Threshers is they separate wheat from chaff.
So before you cross this makeshift stage your diploma to receive, let’s think about that precious
wheat, the things that matter, I believe.
You’re going out into a polarized world, a world full of extremes, and every side is asking you to thoughtlessly join its team.
But as Threshers you know better. With Aquinas you will say,
Don’t rashly affirm; don’t rashly deny; but distinguish every day.
And even once you’ve distinguished and discerned in thoughtful calm, don’t carry that conviction in a rigid fist but in an open palm.
Because, you know, although you’re smart, and through Bethel’s halls have trod, you can’t know absolutely; after all, you are not God.
And speaking of God, here’s a grain of wheat that you should always treasure: Love the Lord with heart, soul, mind and strength, and here is how you measure
if you’re following that first commandment throughout your daily labor: The test, you see, is
Are you loving yourself No more than you love your neighbor?
And who’s my neighbor? That you know, ‘cause Jesus made it plain. It’s anyone—just anyone—who’s in need or feeling pain.
And remember good St. Benedict whose Rule contains much wheat: Always try to see something of Christ in everyone you meet.
And do your best to reciprocate so the one meet can tell that each time she encounters you, she will see Christ as well.
And now, you see, we’re almost there. It’s coming to fruition, ‘cause these grains of wheat have brought us to the Bethel College mission.
There are ethics four to help define the things for which we stand, and every one’s a grain of wheat that marks the Bethel brand.
Discipleship—it leads the list, and I think well it should. Jesus is both Messiah and model; guide and source for being good.
Scholarship—no questions here! We’ve worked you very hard. We’ve tried to push for excellence. Against mediocrity we guard.
And service, that’s another grain that’s part of the Thresher way. If there’s a need, then get a group, and the work will feel like play.
But Threshers don’t just leave it there, we get much more explicit, stressing concern for the powerless (in that peacemaking’s implicit).
And finally there’s integrity so oft misunderstood. Character and conscience are surely a part if integrity is good.
But for Threshers it’s integration that’s part of integrity, too. Can we truly see what you claim to believe reflected in the things that you do?
Because life is not fragmented. That’s clearly not the goal. So integrate your faith and learning into a consistent whole.
Perhaps that’s enough of the substantive grains to take with you as you depart. Keep them always in your head; hold them in your heart.
And know that as you go from here, you must withstand the pressure to simply go with the cultural flow, because you are a Thresher.
There’s a ton of cultural chaff out there. Technology keeps it fresher. Constantly search for true life-giving grain. Always be a Thresher!
I know this speech was very short, but I’ve said what I intended. We’re kind of sad to see you go. As a class, you’ve been just splendid.
Know that in your time with us you were a special gift. And now as you are graduates, our relationship will shift.
But connected we will all remain— a community somehow. Because, you see, through thick and thin, we’re all true Threshers now!
May it be so! Congratulations, and may the Lord bless each and every one of you, and continue to make each and every one of you a blessing.