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Fall Convocation 2019 | Hope College

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Fall Convocation 2019 | Hope College


– Our hope is in the name of the Lord who made Heaven and Earth. The peace of the Lord
Jesus Christ be with you. Let us pray. Triune God, as we begin the service that begins our academic year, pour out the spirit of
wisdom and revelation as we come to know you. Deliver us from cold hearts
and wandering thoughts, that with renewed minds and burning zeal we may worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen. (“For the Beauty of the Earth”) ♪ For the beauty of the earth ♪ ♪ For the beauty of the skies ♪ ♪ For the love which from our birth ♪ ♪ Over and around us lies,
over and around us lies ♪ ♪ Lord of all to thee we raise ♪ ♪ This our joyful hymn of praise ♪ ♪ For the beauty of each hour ♪ ♪ Of the day and of the night ♪ ♪ Hill and vale and tree and flower ♪ ♪ Sun and moon and stars of light ♪ ♪ Sun and moon and stars of light ♪ ♪ Lord of all to thee we raise ♪ ♪ This our joyful hymn of praise ♪ ♪ For the joy of human love ♪ ♪ Brother, sister, parent, child ♪ ♪ Friends on Earth and friends above ♪ ♪ For a gentle thoughts and mild ♪ ♪ For a gentle thoughts and mild ♪ ♪ Lord of all to thee we raise ♪ ♪ This our joyful hymn of praise ♪ ♪ For each perfect gift of thine ♪ ♪ To our race so freely given ♪ ♪ Graces human and divine ♪ ♪ Flowers of earth and buds of heaven ♪ ♪ Flowers of earth and buds of heaven ♪ ♪ Lord of all to thee we raise ♪ ♪ This our joyful hymn,
our joyful hymn of praise ♪ ♪ This our joyful hymn of praise ♪ – Good afternoon. I am so pleased to welcome you to convocation, especially
the class of 2023. This is the very first official event of your time at Hope College, and I’m so happy to see all of you here. Convocation is the first event, and then commencement four years from now will be your last event
together as a class. They are perfect bookends. And so just take a minute
and look around and think, “These are the folks that I will spend “four years with traveling
through all kinds of classes, “and events and activities, “and clubs and organizations
and countries,” you have so much ahead of you. I have to tell you, I’m always envious of our first year students,
because so much is ahead of you. It’s the beginning, it is the best part. And so I celebrate this today with you and with your families,
welcome to all of you. I’m so grateful that you’re
here to support your students on this special first day. I’m also grateful that
you brought this weather for the last three days. This has been the best weekend of weather I think I’ve ever seen,
so thank you for that. I wanna share with the class of 2023 that you have an unusual honor this year. Not only are you first years, but you have a president
who is in his first year. So he’s a first year president. And I’ll tell you, he
left Hope College in 2002, and since then, he has traveled
the world with his work. He’s worked in the governmental sector, in the corporate sector,
and he has returned with his family, his
wife, Mrs. Sarah Scogin, and their three beautiful
children, Sophie, Lucy, and Ali. I’m sure you figured out that
there’s a president’s house on campus, and they live in it. And so they will be a part of your family over the next four years as well. And so I’m delighted
to just reintroduce you to our president, Matthew A. Scogin. (audience applauding) – Good afternoon. Thank you very much to
Provost Short Thompson, to Dean Johnson, to our entire team of talented and dedicated
faculty and staff. To the parents and families
who are here today, and most of all, to the class of 2023, it’s my privilege and my honor to welcome you to the official opening of Hope College’s 158th academic year. Today’s convocation ceremony marks the beginning of your next journey. For all of you, this means you are about to do something new. If you’re a student, you’re about to embark
on your college career. If you’re a family member,
you’re about to say goodbye and send off your student into an unknown. Doing something new can be exciting but also scary and intimidating. I know this firsthand, because
as the Provost just said, I too am doing something new. On July 1st, just seven weeks
ago, I started a new job, which comes with this cool new outfit that I’m excited about. (audience laughing) After spending the last
17 years on the East Coast working in business and government, I now have the extraordinary privilege of coming back home to Hope College, this time as president. And as exciting as this is for me, it’s also somewhat intimidating and scary. So I empathize with what
you’re feeling today. In fact, I actually know a lot about what you’re feeling today,
because 21 years ago, I sat exactly where you sit right now. In the fall of 1998, my parents
drove me to Hope College in their blue minivan and
dropped me off at Scott Hall. And I’d like to tell
you, if you’ll indulge me one simple story about
something that happened to me that fall, which I think says so much about why I love this institution and how transformative
I think Hope College is. In the fall of 1998 like most of you, I had a full course schedule. Not to brag, but I felt pretty good about how most of it went, except
for one class, calculus. For some reason, I just really
wrestled with that class. And it was a bit strange,
because I’d even gone part time to a specialized high
school for math and science, so it’s not like I was bad at math. But there was something about that class that I struggled with. And in particular, I remember
one specific piece of homework that I just wrestled with,
it was one math problem. I wrestled with it to the
point where eventually I got to the point where I said to myself, “This must be a joke, this isn’t solvable, “it’s a trick question.” And so I turned in the piece of paper, and it didn’t have an answer on it. My page was full of sweat
and tears, but no answer. All I had was a bunch of false
starts and eraser smudges. And in a moment of defeat, just because time had run out, I turned in the homework
page without an answer. A few days later, the professor
handed the page back to me. And I was shocked to see that at the top of it, it said B plus. And he had written
something underneath it, and I don’t remember
exactly what he had written, but it was something along the lines of you showed your work and
you were on the right track. And that has stuck with
me in a profound way. What I always say when
people ask me what I learned at Hope College is that
here I learned to learn. What that really means is this. I learned that when it
comes to the biggest, hardest, most difficult questions, sometimes what matters most
more than the answer itself is showing your work,
wrestling with the questions. Hope College, as you know, is a Christian academic institution. And I’ve thought a lot about what it means to be an academic
institution and not a church. And to me, this means
that first and foremost, our job is about inquiry. It’s about the pursuit of truth, and I put the emphasis
on the word pursuit. Hope is a place where we can
ask all the big questions, put them all on the table. The biggest, most
important questions of all, like, who am I? Why am I here, how did I get here? Is there a god? We can be a place that
puts all the big questions on the table and wrestles
with them together in an environment that’s
loving and caring, and that’s distinct. It is, a lot of the research institutions, if they’re honest with themselves, they’re taking big
questions off the table, because the answers are presumed known. And similarly, at a lot
of Christian colleges, sure, the questions may be on the table, but the answers are very prescribed. Hope can be different, Hope is different. We’re a place that gives
you the opportunity to wrestle through tough issues on the way to discovering truth. And we’re not afraid of
this because we believe that the pursuit of truth and
beauty in all of its forms is in fact a pursuit of God himself. This at its core is the essence of Hope. It’s the essence of Hope College, but it’s also the essence of true hope, the living hope that Jesus himself offers. I’ve been a Christian my whole life, which also means that I’ve been around Christians my whole life. And one thing I’ve observed
is that many Christians have a tendency to sometimes simply memorize the right answer
without doing the work, without really wrestling
with the question. When I was a kid, I memorized
Romans 8:28 in Sunday school. Romans 8:28 says God works
all things together for good. But it wasn’t until much
later in life that I realized you can’t just look at the
world and all of its brokenness and all of its injustice and
all of the suffering and say, “Yeah, I’ve got this figured out “because I memorized Romans 8:28.” It wasn’t until I wrestled
with it that I understood the depth of the truth
embedded in that verse. Between 2006 and 2008, I had the privilege of working at the Treasury
Department in Washington DC. As it happened, those years were, to put it mildly, a difficult
time in our country. They encompassed the
worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And I remember I’d get
these regular reports with economic data on
it, and in particular, the one that always hit me was we get this regular
report about jobs lost. And there were months in
the middle of that season when there were literally
hundreds of thousands of jobs being lost in a week. And I saw the enormity of the problem, the magnitude of the injustice. And I remember thinking,
“Where’s the good in this? “How is Romans 8:28 possibly
true in this situation?” On a more personal level, a few years ago, my parents passed away, and I was again forced to
wrestle with God’s truth. I miss my parents, I wish
they were here today. My dad was a PhD chemist
who spent his entire career working at a pharmaceutical
company in Portage, Michigan. When he was in his mid 50s, he was diagnosed with a
uncommon form of blood cancer that doctors say you normally only get if you’re exposed to very rare chemicals. He died in 2013 at the age of 60. And the same year he died, my mom, who had wrestled with breast
cancer earlier in her life, had her cancer return, and she died two and a
half years later at age 63. So I had within less than three years, these two giant pillars of
my life just knocked out. And I said to God, “How in the world “is Romans 8:28 true in this situation?” That was a period of my life
that was incredibly painful, but also powerfully sacred. And it was through wrestling
with those big questions and actually wrestling with God, that I got to know God and know his truth on a much deeper level. Life is a paradox, God is a paradox. And it’s too easy to simply
memorize the right answer without doing the hard work of
wrestling with the question. What’s frightening is that you can have exactly the right answer,
you can have the truth, but you didn’t get it in a fair way, you just skipped to the back of the book and memorized the answer key. The Bible is clear that God wants us to wrestle with hard questions. In the Old Testament, there’s
a story of a guy named Job. Job loses everything. He loses his wealth, his
family, and his health. And as this happens to him,
he starts peppering God with these questions about
why this has happened. Job’s friends appear and they
start to give him some advice. And they basically accuse Job of having done something
wrong to deserve this. They even tell him that
he must have offended God, one of his friends even implies
that he probably deserves far worse punishment from
God than he actually got. What’s fascinating to me,
is that for the most part, Job’s friends are right. They have the correct theological answers. As part of fall in creation, Job did deserve a far worse punishment than what he received. By the way, that’s true
for every single one of us. The mystery of the Bible is not that bad things happen to good people. The mystery of the gospel is
how so much incredible good has happened to a pretty
corrupt group of people, us. Job’s friends had all the right answers. And yet at the end of the
story, God condemns the friends. And he says he’s pleased with Job even though Job has all the wrong answers. Why? Because Job took his
questions and his complaints directly to God rather than just believing what his friends told him. Having the right answer
isn’t always enough, but how you get there always matters. Hope is a place that’s
all about the process of wrestling with tough questions, not skipping straight to the answer. There’s a word for that in a classroom, skipping straight to the answer key. It’s called cheating. What I learned at Hope is that
life is a giant math problem. And if your paper isn’t
covered with crossed out stuff and eraser marks and false starts in your attempt to figure out
God and to figure out truth, then your relationship with
God at the end of the day is pretty shallow at best. A relationship with God is not a matter of parroting back something
you heard your friend say. I mean, do you think we can
get to Heaven and simply say, “For God so loved the world that he gave “his one and only son, that
whoever believes in him “shall not perish but have eternal life.” God’s not gonna be fooled
if you memorize the answer from your friend on the way in the door. You have to fight for it,
you have to wrestle with it. The world is full of difficult questions. Why is there suffering,
why is there injustice? Why is there poverty and racism? None of those have easy, clean answers. We at Hope will encourage
you to wrestle with them rather than take a shortcut. When Jesus was in the desert,
he was tempted three times. And the essence of each of
his temptations was the same. Take a shortcut. Resist the temptation to take a shortcut. Spend time over the next four years wrestling with big questions, and embrace the fact that Hope is a place that wants you to show your work. Hope was co-founded in the 1860s by Reverend Albertus van Raalte. He referred to this institution as a training school for eternity. We believe there’s no
better training for eternity than offering you the chance
to wrestle with truth, even to wrestle with God. In fact, the Hope College I know and love doesn’t just offer
students that opportunity, it encourages it. Because we’re a place that
believes in showing your work, not just skipping to the end of the book. In this case, it actually
literally is the end of the book. The hope that Jesus offers
at the end of the Bible happens to be the hope that
the world desperately needs. It’s also the hope that we as
individuals desperately need. But how you get that hope matters. God wants us to wrestle with it. He wants us to go directly to him with our questions and complaints, not just memorizing the
answers he provides, but going directly to him
and talking to him about it. When you do that, you’ll
actually get to know him. You’ll get to know God’s heart, you’ll come to an understanding
on a much deeper level that the answers he provides are right, that he is good, that Romans 8:28 is true. And that the real hope coming
at the end of the Bible is in fact coming. I know there’s a lot. I know there’s a lot to be anxious about on the newness that’s happening today. If you’re a family member
who’s about to say goodbye, you’re wondering how in the world that this day comes so fast. Your baby, who just 18 years ago you were holding in your arms, is now on the verge of
independence as an adult. And if you’re a student
gazing into the unknown ahead, there’s so many questions,
so much to be anxious about. I remember the anxiety
I felt 21 years ago. And yet now with the benefit of a couple of decades of hindsight, I see that basically
everything worked out okay. And sometimes I wish I could go back and relive my college years with the peace of knowing that it’s
basically all gonna work out. Remarkably, that’s what God offers us, not the chance to go back in time, but by getting to know him,
we can let his promises about the future dictate
the terms of the present. This doesn’t mean that the present is not hard and sometimes heartbreaking. But we can live joyfully,
rejoicing indiscriminately, acting as if everything
God has promised us about the future is
true because it is true. But the way you really
get to know that yourself is by taking your questions and taking your complaints
directly to the boss. Not me, God. Hope College is a place that encourages you to show your work. We want you to spend the
next four years wrestling with the big questions on
the way to discovering truth. And in doing so, we
then aim to send you out into the world filled
with a deep understanding of God’s hope, so that you can rush toward the messiest, most complicated
problems you can find all around the world and
bring God’s hope there. I am so excited to embark
on this adventure with you. To the class of 2023, thank
you for allowing my wife and me to be honorary members of
your class as new first years. It will be an amazing four years together, and I can’t wait to get started. Thank you. (audience applauding) – Convocation. It’s beginning, and as was
said earlier in our service, it will be bookend at commencement. In four years, some of you may be five, God willing, not six or seven. There’s so much between now and then that you are going to learn. But in preparation for that day when we are all gonna
be gathered together, you in your robes, proud and dignified, your parents in their Sunday’s
best gathered together. In preparation for that
day, we wanna teach you a song, a hymn that you will sing then. We are gonna have Professor
Decker and Hope College’s Chapel Choir lead us first
in “The Alma Mater Hymn.” And then we’ll ask you to stand and to join your chorus with
the College voices together. ♪ Hail to our alma mater ♪ ♪ Hail to our varsity ♪ ♪ Steadfast as the anchor ♪ ♪ And in our loyalty ♪ ♪ Hail to the orange and blue ♪ ♪ Firm may our motto be ♪ ♪ Spera in Deo ♪ ♪ Hope, our varsity ♪ ♪ Hail to our alma mater ♪ ♪ Hail to our varsity ♪ ♪ Steadfast as the anchor ♪ ♪ And in our loyalty ♪ ♪ Hail to the orange and blue ♪ ♪ Firm may our motto be ♪ ♪ Spera in Deo ♪ ♪ Hope, our varsity ♪ – You have really nice
voices, that was beautiful. Friends, would you join
me in a prayer of blessing for these, our class of 2023. Let us pray. Triune God of grace, we pray for your blessing on
all gathered in this place as we begin a new season of
learning and living together. Here may the faithful find vision and the careless be awakened. Hear may the doubting find faith and the anxious experience peace. Here may the tempted show all their work and those who sorrow find comfort. Here may each grow deeper and
taller in the soil of hope, that in this soil each might
find their identity in you, their belonging in your body, and their purpose for
their life in your kingdom. Here may each professor
be a source of wisdom and may each student be a
receptive well of inspiration. God and your spirit holy, bless
each year as each has need as we begin, that each
might bring their gifts to your service, leaning
into a life of meaning. Bless each so that all
their powers for life, dignity, grace, and order, of intellectual pleasures of
the mind and physical health might find the appropriate industry in your commonwealth of saints. And as we begin this year, guide us, triune God, into your divine love, so all our loves may excel. Bless us with the knowledge
of our end in you. That in knowing our end,
it might give our beginning a steady and sustaining direction. Through Christ our Lord, all The people of Hope said amen. Would you please stand for
our closing hymn together. (“Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven”) ♪ Praise, my soul, the king of Heaven ♪ ♪ To his feet thy tribute bring ♪ ♪ Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven ♪ ♪ Who like thee his praise should sing ♪ ♪ Praise him, praise him,
praise him, praise him ♪ ♪ Praise the everlasting king ♪ ♪ Praise him for his grace and favor ♪ ♪ To these people in distress ♪ ♪ Praise him still the same forever ♪ ♪ Slow to chide and swift to bless ♪ ♪ Praise him, praise him,
praise him, praise him ♪ ♪ Glorious in his faithfulness ♪ ♪ Father-like he tends and spares us ♪ ♪ Well our feeble frame he knows ♪ ♪ In his hands he gently bears us ♪ ♪ Rescues us from all our foes ♪ ♪ Praise him, praise him,
praise him, praise him ♪ ♪ Widely as his mercy flows ♪ ♪ Frail as summer’s flower we flourish ♪ ♪ Blows the wind and it is gone ♪ ♪ But while mortals rise and perish ♪ ♪ God endures unchanging one ♪ ♪ Praise him, praise him,
praise him, praise him ♪ ♪ Praise the high eternal one ♪ ♪ Angels in the height to adore him ♪ ♪ Ye behold him face to face ♪ ♪ Sun and moon, bow down before him ♪ ♪ Dwellers all in time and space ♪ ♪ Praise him, praise him,
praise him, praise him ♪ ♪ Praise with us the God of grace ♪ – People of Hope. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord make his
face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord lift his
counts upon each of you, that you might know and experience his everlasting peace now and forever. And all of Hope College said amen. Go in peace to love and serve
the Lord, we are adjourned. (upbeat music)

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