There is a hole inside of you (Part III – The Grand Finale)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part III of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I) and Part II here: There’s a Hole in You (Part II).


And over against that temptation, stand pastors in churches all around the world, right in front of the altar, holding up the sacrament.  And one after another, their parishioners come forward to them with lives that are far from whole and complete.  And there is an extraordinary moment when a pastor and a parishioner meet at the altar. The pastor is holding the broken body of Christ, the parishioners come up one after another, and then there is this moment of spiritual intimacy when the Pastor looks the parishioner in the eye.  We remember the job that was lost.  Or the diagnosis of cancer. Or the prodigal son. Or the dream that is never going to come true. Or the cherished old lover who was left behind in the grave.

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A Savior who commissions us…who gives us not what we were itching for, something far better.  A glorious mission and purpose to lives, lives that can make a world of difference. There is a glorious mission for your life. You weren’t brought here by accident…Don’t try to get your life just right before taking up that mission.

In the words of John Calvin, All Rise.

Leave the garden better than you found it.

That’s your mission.

To leave our society better than you found it.

But you’re not going to be able to do that unless you know how to steward that thing that is missing. This is what gives you freedom actually that thing that’s missing. You’ve got choices as to how you respond to it.

One of the beloved members of my family is a hairy sheep dog. His name is Esau. Religion majors will get that. Esau is not just beloved, he is a good dog. He is obedient.  He is well trained. But if you were to show up on our front porch with a hot dog, he will follow you anywhere.  The beast that he is, he is driven by his appetites. Part of what it means to be made in the image in God, is to have the capacity to rise above your appetite, to make choices that are worthy of you. To use your life to for something that will make a difference even if doesn’t feel good along the way.

[…] [Read more…]

There is a hole inside of you (Part II)

Dr. Craig Barnes

This is Part II of The Reverend Dr. M. Craig Barnes sermon at Wake Forest University’s Baccalaureate service on May 15, 2016.  Part I can be found here: There’s a Hole in You (Part I)

When my daughter graduated from college, I was amazed to hear the commencement speaker peddle the exact same drivel when I graduated from college. He looked out over 5,000 graduates and said to them: you are among the brightest and best we have ever seen. Set your goals high, dream your own dreams, chase your own star, and you can be anything that you want to be.

Really?

He might of well have said: I’m sorry we have nothing for you. It’s all out there, go put it together the best you can. 

And that’s really the assumption that we have that life is something we self-construct, not something we inherit. Not something that comes upon us with glorious mission, but self-construct. And the way we think we self-construct our own life is through our choices.

Anyone who has done parenting in the last generation knows that all good parenting advice has been about helping Johnny make good choices. So when Johnny throws a rock through the window, you’re not supposed to go out and spank him.  You bring Johnny in, you show him the glass on the floor and the rock and ask Johnny: was this a good choice? Johnny’s who a smart young man says: I’m thinking no. Right. Good choice. Good choice. [Read more…]

There is a hole inside of you

Dr. Craig Barnes, Wake Forest University

There is a hole inside of you.

It has been there for a long time, but by the time you graduate from college, you are acutely aware of this thing in your life that is missing. I don’t know what that is.  It may involve a relationship, it may involve something regarding your health, or something troubling in your past. Trust me it does not matter how many degrees you get, you are never going to have a better past.

Or, maybe the hole in your life is a dream that just seems to keep alluding you. It’s not the same thing for all of us. The only thing that’s the same is that we are all missing something.  Trust me on this, your future success depends completely on how you handle this hole in your life.  [Read more…]

Graduation Day.

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10 hour car ride. In Both directions. In three days. Why drive, when you can fly?

Fighting traffic to airport. Finding parking in overflowing lots. Standing in interminable TSA security lines. Hard-back molded plastic seats, waiting. Delays. Waiting to board. Fighting for overhead bin space. No open seats. No legroom. Non-reclining seats. Unclean arm rests and seat tray tables. Claustrophobia. Acrophobia.  And then, the other side. Waiting to deplane. Waiting for luggage. Dragging luggage to car rental, more waiting. And, then, a one-hour drive to Winston-Salem.

But “that” wasn’t it.

There was only this option, for this could be the last road trip with Family. Road trips with Family. McDonalds. Dad trying to make time, foot heavy on accelerator. Tummies full of soda, unscheduled bathroom breaks at highway rest stops. The Karaoke. The arm signals to Truckers urging a pull on the deep throaty air horns. The honking in tunnels. The spilled milkshakes. The spats in the back seat. Are we there yet?  Budget hotels with swimming pools, had to have a swimming pool. Single rooms, twin beds with too-soft mattresses, undersized bathrooms, always two towels short. The thrill of Room Service. Kids petering out, little bodies sleeping side by side, their gentle puffs of breath, gone dreaming.

I turn my head to the window to look out at the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, I wipe the tears, and step on the accelerator. Like a firework in the face. Accept our gratitude for the promise of a next chapter in life. And a next. And a next.¹ 

Graduation Day. [Read more…]

The Baccalaureate Service. Like a firework in the face.

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Father and Daughter work Twitter and hit the jackpot – the University posts the tweet on the giant outdoor screens for the overflow crowd. Janet Frame sets the stage: “For memory is so often a single explosion, like a firework in the face. One is blinded.”

It’s the same building where I sat four years ago, on August 25, 2012. It was memorialized in my post: He’s Gone. Take your index finger and swipe right to left on your device. One swish, one blink and four years — Gone.

Wait Chapel. The Baccalaureate Service. 54° F. on this glorious Sunday morning. The North wind gusts to keep it real, hands reach back to hold down the Sunday dresses. Summer? Not just yet He says. Not just yet.

A Tie, (Red. Italian. Silk.) specially selected for the Event from Dad’s Tie rack, made the 10 hour commute to rest in a Windsor knot around his neck; 50 feet below us, our Son sits in the pews, breathing, loosening the tie a wee bit to give himself air.

Hundreds of parents, grandparents, friends —buzz in anticipation, flipping through programs, flashing their smart phones to capture the moments.

The Invocation is led by the very same University Chaplain Reverend Tim Auman, who captured the spirit at freshman orientation. He does it again four years later. [Read more…]

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