Baccalaureate sermon reflects on tale of David & Goliath
The archetypal tale of David and Goliath offers an inspirational message that transcends the pages of Christian history. But the famous biblical story precedes a cautionary tale, and Rev. Sam Wells encouraged the Class of 2010 to heed the warning in Elon’s 2010 Baccalaureate sermon.
Associate Chaplain Phil Smith introduced the sermon by reading excerpts from the Book of Samuel relating the story of David and Goliath. Wells, dean of Duke University Chapel and research professor of Christian ethics at Duke Divinity School, explained that many people focus only on the first part of David’s life, during which he defeats Goliath with just five smooth stones and a slingshot. But fewer are familiar with David’s latter years.
“Gradually, a terrible irony took shape. David became Goliath, and what a tragedy that was,” Wells said, alluding to David’s move away from his principles and toward sin after assuming power as king of Israel. “Is that going to happen to you? Will you leave here as David and spend the next 20-to-30 years of your life becoming Goliath, or is there another way?”
That other way, Wells explained, requires adhering to the values embodied in David’s five smooth stones – the original and purest source of his power. He encouraged the audience to make peace with everyday life, to learn and experience the natural world, to take time to understand oneself, to make an effort to know God and to recognize one’s fundamental power: skill, faith, truth and wisdom.
“They will give you power that no one can take away from you,” Wells said.
Wells highlighted the Friday afternoon ceremony attended by members of the Class of 2010, family, friends, faculty and staff. Other participants in the ceremony included two parents of graduating seniors: Rev. Mary Jane Cornell, minister of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, and Rev. Gregory S. Walton, president of the Florida-Georgia District of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. Senior Jonathan Mahlandt shared reflections on his past four years at Elon on behalf of the graduating class.
“Elon is embodied in the maroon and gold that have taken over our closets, the hoarseness in our voices after a football game against Appalachian State or a basketball game against Davidson, and in the excitement in our voices when we tell people about Elon,” Mahlandt said. “Elon will forever be our home.”