Graduation commencements usually are not very memorable.
We’ve all been to our fair share and precious few of us can remember much of what the honorary guest speaker, impassioned with conviction, told us that day.
The 2008 graduation commencement at McAfee School of Theology has proved to be an exception for me.
Perhaps I paid a little more attention to that speech than all the others because that was the year I graduated.
Visiting professor of homiletics, Charles Johnson, gave the address. I do not remember every detail, but the theme was consistent: there is enough.
The entire speech articulated this idea. When we are tempted to live as if life is scarce, we must remember that God gives life and God is the supplier of enough.
This theme has been ringing in my head lately as I have observed that often both church and secular folks don’t believe that there is enough.
Yet a life lived under the conviction that the common good takes precedence over individual benefit needs a sense that there is “enough” of whatever might be needed in order to order itself properly.
Advancing the common good demands the recognition that there is plenty to go around.
There are plenty of good things – both tangible and intangible – in creation to go around if we will be but be good stewards of this world.
Johnson was encouraging us, as graduating students, to understand that much of the world operates as if everything is scarce. Buy now, think later. Consume now, make more later.
The culture pursues things, people and positions as if there is not enough for what we will need to complete our ministry, serve our families, pursue our calling and ultimately be incarnations of restorative grace that reflects the new creation of Jesus the Christ.
By contrast, the good news around which we are called to align our lives reminds us that the world has enough of everything if we do not confuse want with need. There is enough:
â— Food for the entire world.
â— Water for everyone.
â— Land to sustain life.
â— Energy to meet human need.
â— Shelters, goods and services for everyone.
There is enough of all these things if those of us who live under the providence of God recognize that there is enough. The trouble is, this is not how many of us live.
We do not live as if there is enough. We live for the moment, living to consume unnecessary goods out of sheer boredom or to secure our own well-being at the expense of others.
I am deeply troubled by the newest mountain that grows daily in my county, the local landfill, as it metaphorically rises in height to the proportion in which we have committed ourselves to consumption.
I am constantly under conviction as I walk through my garage and see things I have but do not need.
I am preoccupied with how I waste plastic, metal or material resources for a short time until they pile up in my garage.
I am convicted by groceries I buy at organic food stores, yet the field workers who harvest them cannot even afford the food itself.
I stare around my kitchen at all the useless utensils and knickknacks that litter my counter for nothing but aesthetic appeal.
I stare in my closet at clothes in perfectly good condition that I no longer wear.
I read often that the world is short on water, energy and food, and that poverty and economic want seem to be growing daily.
I can’t even go into a Christmas store and see all the decorations without thinking how frivolous these things are and shame on us for wasting resources that just hang on trees.
I see all these things and fall under conviction because I know that there is enough, but I don’t live like it as often as I should.
Enough is already here. Many of us already have it. We don’t need more.
The world is shaped by human behavior and our actions can slowly stem the tide, one choice at a time, to preserve enough for everyone.
That 2008 commencement speech has not only haunted me but also has continued to give me hope.
It haunts me because I am challenged to live into the new creation, where enough is defined by the gospel of Jesus, the good news of life to the dead and sustenance to the needy.
Yet, it gives me hope because so many of us wake up every day with this angst of not having “enough,” when, in fact, there really is enough to go around for everyone from the one who boldly dares us to believe this good news.
Nathan Napier is pastor of Christian education at Cleveland First Church of the Nazarene in Cleveland, Tennessee, and a graduate of the McAfee School of Theology.
A bi-vocational minister for over 20 years, Napier currently serves as a lay minister at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Cleveland, Tennessee. He holds a Doctor of Ministry from Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology, and his current research focuses on faith, culture and ethnography as pastoral practice.