Thoughts on a 50th Reunion, and The Reunion

Def. “Re-yoon-yan.  Noun. A meeting of persons of previous connection; a gathering of relatives, friends, or former associates.”  We think of family gatherings with shared hugs, shared traditions, shared meals, and shared (and constantly repeated) stories.  But school reunions are different, and the expectations have much wider guardrails. 

Recently I attended my 50th (“Golden”) high school reunion.  It’s interesting—when I was younger, the Golden attendees were old geezers, but this was a gathering of twenty-one vibrant, youthful men in their late 60’s.  (Okay, you can raise one eyebrow, but not both).  It is true, however, that we all now have different hair and hairlines (all are grey or white, some use a handkerchief instead of a comb; and there was one obvious dye job). 

Here are some random thoughts about the weekend.

First, I’ll do some bragging on a few of my classmates: there are businessmen of every stripe; some are CEO’s, CFO’s, and CMO’s (of places like Talbot’s, Chattem, national chains).  One is the founder of the Hard Rock Café and the House of Blues (he also married Ringo Starr’s ex-wife).  One is a retired Navy Captain.  One is the retiring Vice-President and part owner of The New York Times, and is also the publisher of McCall’s, Tennis, Family Circle and other magazines.  One invented Google Earth (yes, you read that right).  Not to mention doctors, lawyers, accountants—the list of accomplishments is actually long enough to be boring.

When we were students fifty years ago, both high academic and athletic performance were expected.  Some classmates did college or graduate work at Ivy League universities.  Our class valedictorian gave his valedictory address in Latin, a tradition that I hope is no longer observed; I’m sure that what he said then still rings true today, but no one knew what he said!  (By the way, I’ve always wished I had taken Latin.) 

I said “men” earlier because we had no female students; my high school was, at that time, an all-boys military school.  Two things that were revered were the Honor Code, and Excellence.  And every Wednesday, after military inspection, we had chapel—which was different from what you might expect.  From its beginnings (in contrast to the surrounding conservative religious culture), the school’s founder was very clear that religious instruction was to be pluralistic regarding any and all beliefs or creeds.  All forms of diverse “Christian” belief were accepted, right from the start—which over time morphed into the norm that all forms of any religious belief (or non-belief) are accepted (and its corollary: any exclusivism is frowned upon as both unenlightened and, well, rude). 

It’s ironic to me that a biblical world view is the only belief system that actually anchors those two core values of Honor and Excellence (as well as truth, kindness, and other virtues and values).  I believe that the school’s values are anchored more in a social contract (horizontal) than in any coherent theistic world view (vertical).   

To continue my story, Betsy and I had great fun at every event we attended.  But there were also serious moments: thirteen of my classmates are dead (out of eighty or so—whenever I find my elusive yearbook I’ll get the right number).  About ten years ago I conducted the funeral of one of them, who had remained a life-long friend, and who was a solid believer in Jesus Christ.  I now have contact information for many classmates, and learned that several of them live in or near Chattanooga.  I look forward to seeing them again.  Some are also now my brothers in Christ, which was a deeply gratifying discovery.  

I know it’s a very short—and obvious—jump to “The Reunion” of all believers in heaven, when our Lord returns or we die.  But “The Reunion” is a major theme in Scripture.  On that day, the invitation list is limited to those who have placed faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God who died in our place for our sins (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).  No one will be comparing resumes; earthly status will be dismissed as irrelevant and inappropriate (Philippians 3:7-8, “whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ”).

On that day, there will be joy in reconnections without comparisons.  It will truly be “Homecoming” in every possible joyful, loving, comforting sense of that word.

However, there will also be evaluation of our earthly lives at that reunion—the giving of rewards—based on the principle of “faithfulness.”  The Judgment Seat of Christ evaluates our faithfulness in living—not for ourselves, but living for our Lord and for others (see 1 Corinthians 3:10-4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:6-10).  So my challenge to myself is not, “Am I successful according to the world’s standards?” but rather, “Am I faithful in God’s eyes?”

The old couplet is true: “one short life will soon be past; only what’s done for Christ will last.” 

(I wish I knew how to say that in Latin.)

P.S.  One more thing: not a day goes by that I don’t think of my sweet sister Irene who died of a very fast, very unexpected cancer one year ago today (on October 29, 2016—see below, “Reflections on an Unexpected Loss”).  Her reunion with Mom and Dad, and most of all with her Savior, was, I am certain, one amazing reunion!