Today I was honored to join the faculty, trustees, staff and students of Baptist Seminary of Kentucky at Georgetown Baptist Church for their Eighth Commencement Ceremony. They graciously invited me to bring an address. (For seminary graduation this is something of a combination speech and sermon.) We had a lovely time. We recognized and celebrated six fine graduates. I’m especially grateful to President Greg Earwood and Dean Dalen Jackson for extending the invitation.
The following is an excerpt from the address. We are working to make it available in its entirety. The address is entitled “Much Ado” and is based on this Sunday’s lectionary text John 15:9-17.
I. Much Ado about the Good News of Friendship and Love
The 1993 movie production of Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” stars Emma Thompson as Beatrice. The movie opens with her sitting on a low tree branch reading poetry to a group of friends:
Sigh no more my ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe,
Into Hey nonny, nonny.
Here’s a 2012 translation: Hey girlfriends the guys are wishy-washy and will leave you high and dry. Don’t waste your breath on love. Let it go and have some fun! Don’t make such ado over nothing! Sigh no more, she says.
And yet the world gives us so much to sigh over. . .
In 2012, your year of graduation from seminary, the world in which we live is riddled with every trouble imaginable: ecological and economic crises, war, hunger, disease, poverty, addictions to fossil fuels for feeding our obsessions with things and mobility, addictions to substances for avoiding pain in our broken bodies and relationships. My daily google news alert about “pastors and ministry” is sadly filled with stories of deception, abuse, poor leadership, and broken promises. We are often left with little more to do than sigh…
Beatrice says sigh no more! Instead cast your woes aside, let it go, or turn the disappointments blithely into jokes. Now turning things into jokes can be fun! Ironic humor is a mainstay of the web . . . one of my personal favorites is the Unvirtuous Abbey. Here’s how they describe themselves . . . Holier than thou, but not by much. Digital monks praying for people with first world problems. From our keyboard to God’s ears. Since Aug. 4, 2010. On Twitter they are followed 13,100+ and more than 4,800 people ‘like’ them on facebook. Here are some recent tweets:
* Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy iPad and iPhone they comfort me
* For those who practice procrastination as a religion, we shall eventually pray. (via @HeatherWriting)
* For those who think Jesus knows when you are sleeping & when you’re awake, & knows if you’ve been bad or good. We pray, for goodness sake.
There is a certain relief in finding humor in and for the troubles of the world. There is relief in just laughing! However, if we pause to look just under the irony of the humor we can sense a sustained and powerful kind of longing, a deeply human desire for something authentic, genuine, real. The sighs are real and so is the longing. In an interview with the monks of the Unvirtuous Abbey last summer they shared a message from a follower that said: “I read you for the numerous laughs, but I’m following you for the nuggets of hope.”[i]
Every day millions of Americans make use of email, facebook, and twitter, and all the other new media to reach out to friends (and followers). Some observers see the technological explosion as merely another place to waste time and energy, and as a means to hide one’s identity. Yet for a whole generation of young adults and for many adults of all ages social media provide one more place – among many – for seeking connection, belonging, friendship, love and hope.
[i] The monks were interviewed by pastor and blogger Alan Rudnick.