JACKSON, Tenn. – May 18, 2013 – A record-high 647 students received degrees from Union University May 18 during the 188th annual spring commencement ceremony on the university’s Great Lawn.
That is the largest number of spring graduates in Union’s history. About 7,500 people attended the service.
“This has been an amazing year on the campus at Union University,” Union President David S. Dockery said. “Tonight brings to a culmination this very special year, and it’s one in which we together can say, ‘Thanks be to God for his goodness and his grace to us, for the way that his hand has rested upon this institution.’”
Russell Moore, who on June 1 will become the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission challenged graduates to map out their next trillion years. He said it’s easy for a sense of nostalgia to give the illusion that their collegiate years were the golden age of their lives, and he said it’s easy to look forward to what’s coming in the future as a golden era as well.
But Moore said Christians should look backward with gratitude and look forward with expectation with a longer-term view than what they typically assign to their lives.
“There are many people who spend their entire lives grasping for stuff,” Moore said. “They spend their entire lives grasping for renown or opportunities or for money or for power. And yet it always leads to disappointment.
“Jesus says to his disciples, ‘You don’t have to grasp for these things, because God is preparing you for a future right now that is greater than anything you can possibly imagine.’”
Moore told graduates that for Christians, this life is just an internship for the kingdom of God and for the eternal existence that awaits them.
“We do not have an afterlife waiting for us. We have life, and that everlasting,” he said. “What God has done in your life – even in the years that you’ve been studying here and forming relationships at Union – is preparing you not only for your next 30 years, not only for your next 50 years, not only for your careers, not only for your ambitions, but for eternity.”
Because that is true, Moore said there are no accidental people or experiences in their lives. In every situation for Christians, God is leading them along a path that is preparing them to be kings and queens over the universe. The way that Christians love, serve and sacrifice for others is preparation for the life to come.
“These are not the best years of your life,” Moore said. “Map out a life that doesn’t after 30, 40, 50, 60, 100 years. Give your lives to those things that will echo throughout the ages.”
Prior to his address, Union honored Moore by inducting him into the Carl F.H. Henry Society of Fellows. Dockery has described Moore as “an insightful observer of culture, a brilliant theologian, an advocate for Christian higher education and a faithful follower of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Also as part of the ceremony, Union presented the Elizabeth Tigrett Medal to Rachel Carbonell, an engineering major from Jackson, Tenn. The award honors the mother of Isaac B. Tigrett, a former interim president at Union, as well as a benefactor and trustee. The medal has been awarded since 1912 by vote of the entire Union faculty to an outstanding member of the senior class.