Commencement: Death & Resurrection

An Article Written by Levi Faas, Campus Ministry Associate

One of the unique challenges of ministry in a collegiate environment is the reality that most of our students are here with us for only a few short years. Of course, this makes sense. Students come to college in order to receive an education. They desire to become qualified in particular fields or for specific jobs. It is even possible that some are here because they were unsure where else to go and are finding their direction along the way (there was a time when I would have related to this last sentiment). The one thing that all our students have in common, though, is that they will not be undergraduate students at Grand View forever.

But what of those of us who live, work, and worship in this campus community year in and year out? We have a different perspective, don’t we? We are the witnesses, cheerleaders, and at times guides to this beloved transient community. We have the privilege of welcoming and walking alongside our students, and eventually, seeing them through to the next steps of their journey. Every spring the university celebrates Commencement- a milestone occasion in which our students are honored for their achievements and sent off with dignity into their bright futures. This is a hope-filled and rightfully celebratory time, and yet there is a certain measure of sadness in knowing that it is also a goodbye of sorts. Sure, we impart the perpetual designation “Viking for Life”, but there is a marked shift in our community nonetheless. We sense the void of those graduated students we have loved and lost. In some small way, it feels like a tiny death, doesn’t it?

This month in the Church we are observing Good Friday. We are remembering the death that Jesus himself experienced. In this remembrance, we collectively grieve in the way many of those early disciples must have grieved, and we feel together the weight of crushing loss. Of course, this was no “tiny death” that we are mourning, but it does offer us perspective in two areas related to our present circumstances. First, we only feel loss when we have first loved. Many of our graduating seniors have occupied special places in our hearts for the last several years. It is right that such a love would leave its mark on us. Second, it is only in death that new life can begin. Without the darkness of Good Friday we would not have the triumph of Easter. Similarly, without the bittersweet ache of graduation, our students would not be able to move on to their futures, so full of hope and optimism. And we would not be able to make room on our campus and in our hearts for next year’s incoming class, so ready to learn and to find their place in community.

For those of us in Campus Ministry and at Luther Memorial Church, these realizations are necessary reminders to continue doing what we do best: we welcome, we serve, we equip and empower, and above all- we love. Every new student on our campus is a new beginning, a new opportunity for hope to take root. We may not have them for long, but the work we do together has eternal significance in the hearts and lives of all our students- whether they are graduating and moving on or they have only begun their Grand View experience. And that is reason for optimism, isn’t it?