On Saturday, May 12, I attended the Commencement Ceremony for Westminster Choir College. PJ, my husband, was graduating with his Masters Degree in Music Education. It was a lovely ceremony with a lot of beautiful music sung by choirs of students and alumni as well as passionate speakers who spoke about the bright future the graduates had ahead of them. And then came the familiar and daunting part of the ceremony – the reading of the names of all the graduates. One by one for several minutes a professor slowly read the name of each graduate as they stepped forward to receive their diploma. I’m sure you have all been to a ceremony like this sometime in your life or even last weekend. There is a buzz of excitement in the space, parents hold back tears, and there are always the families who cheer after their child’s name is called. It is an exciting day and it's a big moment in the lives of those who graduate. It’s a moment that is meant to be celebrated and I was happy to be a part of it!
Now fast forward just 3 days, Tuesday, May 15. I am in the midst of the reunion at Princeton Theological Seminary, which was a wonderful event with beautiful music and worship as well. One of the worship services on the schedule was a Service of Remembrance. Each year at the reunion they hold this service to honor all the alumni who had died the year before. As we entered Miller Chapel for worship we were handed a lit votive candle and were instructed to take our seats in silence. During worship there came a time to remember those we lost. As musicians played softly in the background a professor read each name on the list of those who had past. We were instructed to come forward as the names were being read and place our lit candles on the table in the front of the chapel. As they began reading the names I was transported back to the commencement I attended not three days ago. The two were so similar in structure and so unbelievably different in tone it was a little jarring to me. The juxtaposition of these two moments where names are being read aloud – one celebrating an achievement and one honoring the dead – it was fascinating.
All this reminded me of a scripture passage. Scripture is so incredibly helpful. There are passages that are so well known they become almost cliché but then in a moment like this an old passage comes to mind and takes on a completely new meaning.