Let me begin with a paraphrase of 1 Corinthians 13, reworked for students:
If I learn to speak in Latin and/or in Chinese, but do not have love, I am only a fire alarm going off in the middle of the night in a student dorm. If I am able to ace organic chemistry exams and can fathom the mysteries of classic literature, and have a GPA of 4.0, and but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to pay tuition, and give over my body to sleepless nights with naught but Ramen noodles for sustenance, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are examinations, they will cease; where there are essays, they will be graded; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we study in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a blurry reflection as in a student ID photo; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: examinations, graduation, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
Today was Convocation at Butler University. There were several speakers, each of whom was inspiring and encouraging in their own way. University president Jim Danko offered some really powerful thoughts for students – and all of us – as he went off script to mention the recent death of a local freshman student who had just started at IU. He emphasized that we all have many things that we may be concerned with, and that many students will explore and take advantage of the freedom of being away from home and relatively unsupervised, sometimes in unwise ways. Even in doing so, students also need to take responsibility, to watch out for and care for one another. It was a powerful way to start the academic year, and it made me think of 1 Corinthians 13 and led me to paraphrase it as I did at the start of this post.
I missed church today to attend Butler’s start-of-year Convocation, but in a very real sense, I got an inspiring sermon even so.
Let me end this post with a piece of music that the Butler Chorale regularly performs at Convocation and Commencement, “These That Never Die,” with lyrics by Charles Dickens, set to music by Lee Dengler. This year was no exception. I wasn’t able to find a recording of the Butler Chorale performing the piece, but here is another fine performance.
Also, a special thank you to my colleague Brent Hege, who was sitting behind me on the stage at Clowes Memorial Hall. It is thanks to him that I have the photo from Convocation, with the back of my head featured prominently, which I used in this post.