(Editor’s note: At our request Prof. John Reim was our on-site reporter for this year’s graduation at Immanuel, Eau Claire. We thank him.)
The setting was unusual. Those attending the graduation events at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin on May 20 found the traditionally serene landscape of the campus considerably less so. Entering the fieldhouse meant maneuvering wooden boards and dodging a few ditches. Evidences of construction were all over the place outside.
An even more important type of construction was to be found in the members of the class of ’95. Marching in stately and colorful procession was a group of Christian young adults whom the Holy Spirit had built up in the faith through their study of His Word. Nathan Kettner, representing the senior class during the Class Day exercises, spoke appreciatively of the opportunity to grow in Biblical understanding while he was at ILC — that upbuilding which was accomplished in the graduates by the “power of the Gospel”.
President John Lau spoke of that power as he addressed the assembly on the basis of Jeremiah 6:16: “Thus says the Lord: Stand in the ways and see and ask for the old paths where is the good way and walk in it and you will find rest for your souls”. And Acts 1:8: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. And you shall be witnesses to me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and to the uttermost part of the earth.”
One of the construction workers whom the Lord brought into His Church’s site is Gordon P. Radtke. For over fifty years he has faithfully served both as pastor and teacher in the on-going work of building up the saints. In recognition of his retirement, Pastor Michael Sydow recalled the significant dimensions of the ministry of this “fellow student of the Word”, and led the assembly in grateful applause for all that the Lord has accomplished through his labors.
Shortly thereafter it was out the door for the graduation class of 1995. From the high school department 24 seniors received their diplomas. From the college department two students graduated with Associate of Arts degrees, six with Bachelor of Science degrees, and three with Bachelor of Arts degrees. Three theological students graduated from the seminary as Candidates for the Holy Ministry.
It was out the door from Immanuel’s unique construction site to the many other locations and situations into which the Lord Jesus will place these newly trained workers. Equipped with saving faith and the means of grace, they too have been directed by the Church’s Head to head out to make disciples. Thus equipped, they are to continue in the Church’s construction until that day when the scaffolding of this world is removed, and the Church Militant graduates to the status of the Church Triumphant.
On Graduation eve, Immanuel’s choir sang confidently of the growth which Christ promises to give His Church. They were words with which these Christian graduates can take up their work:
We thank You that Your Church unsleeping
While earth rolls onward into light,
Through all the world her watch is keeping
And never rests by day or night.
So be it Lord; Your Church shall never
Like earths proud kingdoms pass away.
Your kingdom stands and grows forever
Until there dawns Your glorious day!