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Baccalaureate Homilist Encourages Graduates to Have Popeye Moments

May 17, 2014

Category: Events, Students


What happens when you have a Popeye Moment?  When you say, "That's all I can stands and I can't stands no more?"

The Reverend Robert "Bob" M. Disher, Jr., a 1974 Catawba alumnus, says that's when you open up a can of "holy discontent" and use it to transform something unjust in the world.  He described a Popeye moments as "something you just can't not do."

Disher, who earned his divinity degree from Duke University, has served as pastor at St. Mark's Reformed Church in Burlington for 36 years.  He delivered the homily to Catawba's Class of 2014 on Friday, May 16, at the college's annual Baccalaureate Service.  The occasion marked the 40th anniversary of Disher's own graduation from the college.

Recalling the question posed to him by his undergraduate advisor at Catawba, the late Dr. King West, a professor of religion and philosophy, Disher asked the graduating seniors: "What is it that you're going to do with your life that will last long after you're gone?"

"Is there something that makes your heart ache?  Something that will rattle you to the point that you can't take it anymore?  What is it that compels you to action?"

"Every now and again, I'm sure that God uses me," Disher said, to convey His message of hope.

He alluded to persons in history who had Popeye moments, including Moses, God's instrument to right the injustices inflicted on the Hebrews by the Egyptians, and David, the young shepherd who slayed Goliath when everyone else was fearful to confront that giant.

"There are dozens of Biblical stories of ordinary people like us who had their Popeye moment," Disher said.

He went on to cite more recent historical examples of individuals who used their anger, indignation, and frustration to transform something unjust in the world.  His examples included Martin Luther, Mother Teresa, Bob Pierce, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Millard Fuller, the thousands of volunteers in the American Red Cross, and even people in his church congregation who through their own actions have brought about significant, life transformations for others.

"They lived for something that would go on long after them," Disher explained. "We are the caretakers and custodians of the only message on Earth that gives people comfort: Hope."

Disher concluded his remarks acknowledging that he has "spent the last 40 years trying to respond [to Dr. King West's question]."

His prayer for Catawba's Class of 2014 was for "God to give you a proverbial rock in your running shoe – something that makes your heart ache" enough to compel action.

"Hover over the Class of 2014," he prayed at the start of his homily, "and send them forward with enthusiasm to make a difference in this world."

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