one thing

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another year…

…in seminary… has drawn to a close. (Actually, I should say “is drawing” – even now I’m taking a break from writing one of the final two papers of the semester.)

We had our final SOT chapel service of the year this past Tuesday. The last chapel is always the “hooding ceremony” in which the graduating seniors get their Master’s degree hoods. Very fancy, very formal, professors and administrators in “monkey suits” as my dad calls them. I was asked to lead the congregational singing through the service, so I had a lot to pay attention to … and I had an interesting perspective on the goings-on.

As a worship leader, I always find it difficult/challenging to bridge the gap between the message and the following congregational hymn, if a hymn does follow the message, which was the case on Tuesday. I spend a lot of mental energy paying attention to the message (strange, I know) and trying to draw some connection between the message and the text of the hymn so that the transition can be as seamless as possible.

I had two ideas for Tuesday’s transition. The one I went with was, I think, the more appropriate choice. The message was about Christ’s command that we love God and love each other – when seen in context of graduation from seminary, this command becomes immediately practical and fresh. When your daily world changes dramatically (as it does in graduation), you have to remember who you are and what you are doing. The concluding hymn was “And Can It Be That I Should Gain” – a marvelous hymn about the work of Christ to bring salvation – what amazing love! The connection, in my mind, was obvious: our obedience to Christ in loving God and loving others is a direct response to his love for us. So stand with me and sing…

The other idea I had was very hard to ignore. You see, the speaker of the hour wore a bright red academic robe, not black or blue or green like those of other professors and administrators. Dr. Stafford, had he been alive on Tuesday, would have worn his bright red academic robe, as well. The resemblance was actually very strong. And we sang “And Can It Be” – the last time I sang that hymn was at Stafford’s funeral service just four weeks ago. It was his favorite hymn.

It probably would not have been appropriate to twist the emotional content of the service by mentioning Dr. Stafford in the transition between sermon and hymn. But we remembered. I know, because I remembered, and I saw the same memory on the face of one of the graduates. I am certain that many remembered. “And Can It Be That I Should Gain?” Stand with me and sing…

One Response to “another year…”

  1. Dad A. Says:

    Yep, you made the better choice, IMHO.

    Most of us knew that “And Can It Be” was Gil’s favorite hymn, and that connection didn’t have to be made – it was already there in our minds. 🙂

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