A Commencement Sermon—one of the best!
Camden Military Academy
Commencement Sermon 2011
By Chaplain LTC Karen Diefendorf
I have sat through many Baccalaureate and Commence¬ment addresses and I don’t think I remember any of them. And I know that most of you are sitting here wondering how long I’m going to talk. So, the one thing I want to do is just to give you a couple of illustrations or images that you might take with you - that you might remember. And I don’t have any chicken wings this morning (a reference to a sermon in chapel earlier this year).
My very favorite text for Baccalaureate or Commence¬ment is from Jeremiah 12:5a. It is God’s response to Jeremiah who has been whining at God. He wanted to talk to God about God’s Justice. Now I’m thinking that if God decides something is just then I might not want to have a discussion but Jeremiah takes God on. And this was God’s response, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how will you compete with horses?”
I. I know something about running. The Army “suggested” that I run and I did. I’m not fast but I learned that I needed to keep on. The good thing about being a retiree recall is that I don’t have to run anymore… but they can still weigh me—takes all of the fun out of eating! I’ve watched you run…Cross Country and Track; Soccer, LaCrosse, Football, Basketball, Tennis and Baseball players…all of you run. Running teaches you some things:
a. You learn DISCIPLINE from running. When you begin to feel the burn in your legs and your lungs you have a choice---and you PUSH thru. Much of life is just about SHOWING UP. Show up and be ready for whatever comes at you.
b. You learn about ENDURANCE—don’t quit. Keep at it. I’ve often said to my son, “No one can take this from you, but you can give it away. You can give it away by making bad choices, by getting angry, by letting others get to you, by not believing in yourself.” Young men, there will always be someone else out there who is bigger, better, stronger, smarter but if you hang in there you will be amazed at what will happen if you just don’t quit.
II. Well what does it look like to Compete with Horses then? I love horseracing. I suspect there are some folks here from Kentucky. I LOVE the Kentucky Derby and I had a new hat and was ready to go this year, but instead I found myself at the LaCrosse championship!
Horses are fast. One of the things I’ve discovered is that even though I had a seat at the starting gate, when the horses took off out of the gate, they were so fast that I didn’t see who had what position; when they came around again toward the finish line they went by so quickly I couldn’t tell which horse it was! I always had to go home and watch it on TV to really see it.
So, how in the world are you going to compete with something that fast…in God’s words, If you raced with men on foot and they won, how on earth are you going to get very far with horses? It’s a classic comparison between the Infantry and Cavalry. No infantryman would ever take on the Cavalry by himself. So, never try to live this life Alone.
You didn’t get thru here to graduation alone—even if it looked it. Look around you. Your parents and family invested in you; they sacrificed for you. There was the Persistence of your Tacs, Staff, and Faculty who kept at you. There was the help of your friends. You can’t compete with horses by yourself. It takes TEAMWORK and you have to become a TEAM PLAYER. One of the leadership characteristics of a Team Player is being a SERVANT LEADER. You see, I don’t wear this rank in order to boss people around or give orders. The purpose for my rank is so that I can have the requisite power and authority to resource my subordinates to do their jobs, not the other way around. So, you lead from the Bottom Up, not the Top, Down.
III. I’m sorry to say that my generation, we adults may have done you a disservice. We’ve modeled for you a life that looks more like a footrace sometimes than a race with horses. Foot¬races reflect the “instant.” For instance, I was in a grocery store this morning and there on the shelf was Slim Fast because who’d buy Slim Slow? We’re the generation who has created ATMs…because who has time to wait for some person to be slow with our money. We have instant oats and instant grits down here in the South. And Fast Food…we get impatient if there are more than 3 cars or people ahead of us in line. Do you see how that smacks of a footrace?
Horse races are for the Long Haul. They require you to DEVELOP YOUR CHARACTER—traits like HONESTY, TRUST; Who you are is more important than what you do. Choose a GODLY LIFE; Be WISE about your COMPANIONS/FRIENDS—I’ve watched and I don’t think I’ve seen an excep¬tion. If you hang out with folks you think you can bring up to your level, invariably you fall to the negative influences. Do what you can for others who need your help, but you MUST surround yourself with friends who will encourage you to do what is right—choose a Godly Life. And LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS. Be good stewards of what you have and be content. Don’t expect or assume that others ought to bail you out when you have squandered your resources. Live within your means.
(In conclusion): There are a lot more “horses” out there but you don’t have to ever be alone. GOD is always there with you. All you have to do is ask. And if you aren’t sure that God exists, that’s OK…He knows He exists and He will still respond.
Again, Congratulations. I’m proud of you. I look forward to watching what God is going to do in and through your lives. All you have to do is be willing to get into the starting gate. An exciting race with the horses is about to begin!