Identity matters, retired professor tells 53 Divinity School graduates

May 9, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Identity matters, retired professor tells 53 Divinity School graduates

"I look at you and I cannot tell who of you will labor in places of distinction and who will labor in places of obscurity. I cannot tell which ones of you will be lauded someday by this school as being one of our graduates and which ones of you for it may be said, ‘Yeah, I guess he was here, too.’ But frankly, that really doesn’t matter. What matters is not how great a figure you strike in the world. What matters is whether anybody saw Jesus in you." -- J. Daniel Day

BUIES CREEK -- Someday, at some point, if it hasn’t happened already, someone will ask you: “Just who do you think you are?”

It’s a challenging question, but it’s one that needs to be answered factually and gratefully, J. Daniel Day told the 53 students whom the Campbell Divinity School awarded degrees to during its spring commencement Friday, May 9, in Turner Auditorium. “Otherwise, you are a candidate for self-imposed grief,” the retired associate professor of preaching at Campbell said in his Charge to the Graduates.

Even those who graduate from a divinity school, Day said, face situations and people who attack their sense of self and who chip away at their identities, calling into question: “Just who do you think you are?” If you don’t know who you are, he said, there are “folks who will be glad to pounce on your ignorance” and work toward dismantling your life, career or ministry.

To counter that, and to discover who you really are, Day advised, “Read the Bible.” Don’t just read the Bible to prepare for a sermon or a lesson or to buttress an opinion, he said. “Read it, ponder on it, and meditate upon it as if your very soul depends on it, because, in fact, I tell you it does.

“Allow its ancient wisdom,” he added, “to seep down into your deep places so you can accurately and affirmatively and gratefully say, ‘Who am I? I am a child of God.’”

But, Day warned, listening to the Bible alone can be problematic. “The Bible needs help,” he said. It needs Jesus. “Yes, there is the written word,” he said, “but there’s also the Living Word of Jesus -- for he is the ultimate sculptor of identity.”

“I look at you,” he said to the graduating students, “and I cannot tell who of you will labor in places of distinction and who will labor in places of obscurity. I cannot tell which ones of you will be lauded someday by this school as being one of our graduates and which ones of you for it may be said, ‘Yeah, I guess he was here, too.’ But frankly, that really doesn’t matter.

“What matters,” he concluded, “is not how great a figure you strike in the world. What matters is whether anybody saw Jesus in you. Who are you? It matters.”

Following Day’s address, each student received an academic hood, which represents the degree earned, the discipline of study and the school awarding the degree. “We know how much hard work and commitment this hood represents -- and not just for the graduates,” Divinity School Dean Andy Wakefield said. “Each person receiving this hood today could not have done so without the support and encouragement and even sacrifice of family and friends and loved ones.”

Those loved ones presented each student with a hood during the time of celebration and worship. Faculty members placed the hoods on the graduating students as others read aloud notes of appreciation about each one.

After each hooding, each student walked across the stage to receive his or her diploma. In all, 42 earned a Master of Divinity, two a Master of Arts in Christian Ministry, three a Master of Arts in Christian Education, and six Doctor of Ministry degrees. These 53 new graduates bring the total number of Divinity School alumni to 597.

“We are . . . proud to come . . . to the Divinity School service,” Campbell President Jerry M. Wallace said, “because of the hard work of the faculty and the hard work and endurance of the students, but, more than all of that, because of their study and participation in what is in the essence of Campbell University -- to educate men and women for Christian service throughout the world.”

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