About Me

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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This Is Water - On David Foster Wallace's Commencement Address

2013-05-19 This is Water
Lake Hills Presbyterian Church (USA)

Scripture                                                                                               Psalm 139:1-6
O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
    you discern my thoughts from far away.
You search out my path and my lying down,
    and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
    it is so high that I cannot attain it.

Scripture                                                                                                Acts 17:24-28
24 The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. 26 From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, 27 so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. 28 For ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we too are his offspring.’

I’m going to begin by asking forgiveness from my seminary preaching professors. First, I’m going to preach a sermon that for the most part – the good parts – is written by someone else. Second, they would have said that on Pentecost, you’re supposed to preach on Pentecost. Pentecost was that miraculous day, described in the second chapter of Acts, 50 days after Easter, when the Holy Spirit descended like fire upon the disciples and they started speaking in tongues, whatever you take that to mean. Presbyterians generally take it as a metaphor for the church spreading like fire to all nations. Pentecostals think speaking in tongues means speaking in tongues.

Either way, it’s a big event. Kind of like graduation. God declares the disciples have passed the training and now are on their own. Today, we’re celebrating the big event of graduation with the Lord’s Supper in church and a picnic after. School’s over (or it will be soon). And whether you’re graduating from high school, or college, or 3rd grade, it’s a big event.

Back in 2005, novelist David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech to the graduating class of Kenyon College: “This Is Water.” The address is on the blog. You should read it in full. It’s a message for all of us, graduating or not. Because what commences every day is kind of a big event. Of course, we don't know that. Or if we do, we don't think about it. But when "we live and move and have our being" in God, and when this reality of God surrounds us every day, then yes, it's a big thing. We have the choice to see it for what it is. Or not.

(The sermon is - hopefully - a faithful excerpting from Wallace's brilliant speech.)