Redeem the Time, Buy a ‘Compelling Future’

Redeem the Time, Buy a ‘Compelling Future’

Redeem the Time, Buy a ‘Compelling Future’

John Hurtgen

Commencement Address
Campbellsville University
May 4, 2007

            President Carter, Vice-President Cheatham, Trustees, faculty colleagues, honored students, supportive families and friends.

            Students, congratulations on your respective achievements: in business, church music, counseling, education, music, music education, social sciences, and theology.  Put into service now what G.K. Chesterton called “the mother of all virtues,” gratitude.  Another graduation!  I know how you feel, and I’ve been to over two dozen of them.  Be thankful to God for every degree.  And also be thankful for the family, friends, and other benefactors (financial and spiritual) who helped you to arrive at this grand day.  Be grateful that the Lord can use you even with a master’s degree.

            For at least the first time, you are becoming Campbellsville University [CU] alumni with its now one hundred-year tradition.  Take your place proudly within this tradition.

            First, CampbellsvilleUniversity has a tradition of being a Christ-centered institution.  In the United  States, until the Twentieth Century, every institution (save one) was started by Christians, with purposes that related  to faith in Jesus Christ and to faithful living before God in every area of life. Russell Creek Academy was so birthed.  Be a proud graduate of this place where we still care about educating people not in the mind only but also in the spirit, in the heart.  Graduates, don’t be afraid to humbly yet unapologetically live your lives as witnesses to God’s grace and your most holy faith wherever you may roam.

            Second, Campbellsville University has a tradition of academic excellence.  We may be stuck out here in the middle of nowhere (“centrally isolated”), but you have sat under men and women fully prepared and dedicated to their tasks (whether you sat at a desk in a campus classroom or in front of a monitor in your own livingroom).  You have learned from them.  Go from this place to be both professional and amateur.  The root word of amateur is the Latin amare, “to love.”  Be a proficient professional, but be someone known not only for content but for passion.  “Content is easy— passion is rare” (as they say).  Wherever you serve, let your work be an impressive reflection of a CU graduate practiced in the content and passionate about the intent of your vocation.

            Third, Campbellsville University has a tradition of embracing challenge and change.  We might as well confess our little secret: this University from which you now graduate started as an elementary and high school (in 1906), became a junior college in 1924, a four- year college in 1959, and only a university in 1996.1  The winds of challenge and change continue to blow unabated in 2007.  Master’s graduates don’t shrink back, embrace the challenges and changes that—count on it—are or will be a part of your job description.

            The Bible talks about accepting challenge and change this way: “Redeeming the time because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:16).  The world is off its hinges; who will set them back right?  Well, from the text we all have a part to play.

            Redeeming, buying something back.  You lost it, you want it back, but it can be yours only by purchase.

            But how do you purchase time?  Is it as easy as plunking a couple of quarters into the parking meter and hoping that you can return in sixty minutes before it expires?  Hardly.  It somehow involves choosing to create, as Erwin McManus calls it, “a compelling future .  . . . Someone decides there needs to be a tear in human history.  The past as we have known it needs to come to a close, and a new future must be created.”2  This is what “redeeming the time,” means: seizing a moment, a divine moment, to create a new future.  And as with most revolutions, they consist of a number of smaller decisions to part company with the herd and not allow injustice, violence, hurt, or cynicism to have the final say.

            Redeem the time, master’s graduates, by small, yet future- creating, acts like . . .

            Remembering rightly, especially in this violent world. Miroslav Volf urges us to let memory be a shield (to protect) and not a sword (to harm).  “Much of the conflict in the world, whether between individuals or between communities, is fueled by memory of what has happened in the past.”3  You can change your world with a grace- filled memory that refuses to let past actions keep you from working towards reconciliation with your co-worker, your neighbor, your spouse, your child.

            Redeem the time, graduates, create a “compelling future” by (I realize I’m talking to adults!) . . .

            Taking responsibility, especially in a world where we’ve  turned everyone into victims.  Whether you inherited the mess or made the mess, take responsibility before God to make this  world a better place before  you  leave.  Our responsibility extends as well to acknowledging that often the very systems of which we are part— that we all depend upon to preach, to teach, to heal, to trade, to govern, and to protect—may themselves induce (or, generate) the very opposite of that for which they were intended.4

  • The church that induces lostness instead of salvation, when the average Christian does not compare all that differently than the average pagan.
  • The school system that sees its test scores and student abilities decline despite escalating operating costs.
  • The healthcare industry that sees an increase in the number of patients who die or deteriorate because of the medical care they receive.

            But it won’t help simply to point out the problems alone.  Take responsibility in your sphere of influence to initiate change in churches, schools, healthcare facilities, business establishments, government centers, police and security forces.  “The modern world has reached a point of systemic breakdown,” according to futurist Rex Miller.  None of us can escape the consequences in this global village.  Take responsibility for shaping a new future.

            Redeem the time, graduates, create a “compelling future” by . . .

            Living gracefully, especially in a world where lostness abounds.  Add to the beauty, as Sara Groves so aptly sings, by living gracefully.5

“We come with beautiful secrets
We come with purposes written on our hearts, 
    written on our souls
We come to every new morning
With possibilities only we can hold, that only we can hold.

Redemption comes in strange places, small spaces
Calling out the best of who we are

And I want to add to the beauty
To tell a better story
I want to shine with the light
That’s burning inside

It comes in small inspirations
It brings redemption to life and work
To our lives and our work

It comes in loving community
It comes in helping a soul find it’s worth.

This is grace, an invitation to be beautiful
This is grace, an invitation.”

            As another singer, the Irishman Bono, sings, “Grace finds goodness in everything,” and “Grace makes beauty out of ugly things.”6  Graduates, live gracefully . . . find goodness, make beauty, and add to the beauty by becoming God’s grace in a lost world.

            Finally, I could tell you how important, if not more so, the end of a thing is from the beginning.  But you know that. God placed in your heart and hands a desire to journey further academically.  And you fell for it!  And so you began, and now you have ended.  As you stand again at the beginning, be ready in your various spheres of influence to redeem the time—remembering rightly, taking responsibility, and living gracefully—to create a “compelling future” where people catch a real vision of the justice, peace, and joy that faithful Christian living yields.

            God bless you and God bless Campbellsville University, in the name of the Father, who sent the Son, who sends the Holy Spirit, and who is now sending you into a world that needs your gifts and calling. Thank you.


1 J. Chester Badgett, History of Campbellsville University (Prospect, KY: Harmony House Publishers, 2005), p. 14.

2 “Seven Big Questions,” Relevant Magazine 24:79, January-February 2007.

3 Collin Hansen, “Redeeming Bitterness [Interview with Miroslav Volf],” Christianity Today 51:50, n5, May 2007.

4 For more on inducement and examples (church, school, and healthcare), see Rex Miller, “The iGen Manifesto,”

5 Sara Groves and Matt Bronlewee, “Add to the Beauty,” Add to the Beauty (INO/Epic, 2005). Used by permission in The Campbellsville Review. All rights reserved.

6 Bono (pseudonym, Paul David Hewson), “Grace,” All that You Can’t Leave Behind (Interscope Records, 2000).