Context: About at week before finals I was recommended and asked to speak at Biola’s fall baccalaureate service. The following is the manuscript of the speech I delivered.
Good evening. Thank you for this opportunity to speak tonight. My name is Zachary Pennell. I am a Communication Studies major with an emphasis interpersonal and rhetoric studies. In other words, I studied how people interact with each other and make critical analysis of public acts discourse. However, I was not asked to help you understand what communication majors do.
I was asked to share how God has blessed me during my time at Biola. And amidst a time of transition and change, it is hard to recognize how God has been a blessing. For those who are graduating- you have many things on your mind: finals, packing, what does the future hold, both near and far. And for parents with us tonight- you most like had to deal with LA traffic to get here and wondering what your child’s next steps will be. For friends who have come tonight, y’all share the same concerns about finals and the future, but probably wondering what this event means to y’all’s relationship.
These concerns occupy our minds and make it nearly impossible to see what blessing we have; it take intentionality to acknowledge how we have been blessed by God. That is why we are gathered here tonight.
When I got the email asking me to speak I knew I had to accept. But soon as I replied I got a sickening feeling, you know that feeling when you submit that all important paper and you remember you forgot to write an introduction. But this is exactly the intentionality I needed in this busy season of life. I started jotting down the first things that came to mind. And being that finals was approaching, I was reminded of a similar time where I even more tired, burned-out and on the verge of be completely overwhelmed.
Missions Conference 2014. For those who are not familiar with Biola’s missions conference, it is annual student-led conference focused on mission. It was my first semester taking 18 units. First semester taking them all on two days a week. I was burn out, tired and feeling nearly overwhelmed. I was planning to blitz Missions Conference and take the rest of the time to catch up on sleep. My roommate had been raving all semester about his Greek professor and told me I had to go to at least one of the sessions at which his professor was speaking. I agreed because it fit into my schedule…. I stayed for both.
Dr. Mickey Klink shared a story of his first trip
to mission trip to Poland. He was had just earned his PhD and procuring a job at Biola. Dr. Klink was staying the evening with a pastor who when he found out about the Phd, seemed unimpressed. The next day, during the church service, which was in Polish, Dr. Klink heard his name. He went to front of the room asked what was going on. He was called upon to preach. It was the pastor said to him before he started teaching, that caught my attention, it was: “Who do you think you are? Do you know what God has given to you? Do you think it is about you? Why would God give you that if God was not going to use it.”
I felt my gut in my throat (like when some tells you “we need to talk”) because I knew that I was trying to do school and life by myself, for myself. Who do I think I am? If I was not overwhelmed before, I was now. It was something that I knew in theory, but it was not until the point of utter defeat that I came to recognize that my will is not sufficient. I have been given this opportunity to study at this proud institution for what end? Myself and my comfort? No, it is for a purpose much greater than myself. My life is not my own and the implication is that I must not live this life using all the gift, talents, and opportunities as a means to make myself comfortable. My comfort is to be found in Christ, not worldly possession or status.
Even though we are leaving this institution, the call of the Gospel is still the same. We are still suppose to be missionary- we are the picture of the gospel that the people you interact with see- be it the at work, grocery store, gym, or on the freeway. So as we go from here, let us be reminded that this life is not our own, but God’s and God is near us and God is with us.
“Please pray over one another this “Sending Blessing, responsively with me . (Breath!)
Zach: May God’s strength pilot you, God’s might uphold you,
Congregation: God’s wisdom guide you, God’s eye look before you,
Zach: God’s ear hear you, God’s word speak for you,
Congregation: God’s hand guard you, God’s way lie before you, God’s shield protect you
Zach: Christ with you, Christ before you,
Congregation: Christ behind you, Christ in you,
Zach: Christ beneath you, Christ above you,
Congregation: Christ on your right, Christ on your left.