Friday, May 18, 2012

Graduation thoughts: God goes with you

I was asked to do the baccalaureate for the local high school graduation.  Who knew they even did such things any more?  I was deeply touched by the seniors' request.  I only hope that my offering here is worthy of the confidence they place in me (yes, I know - I'm taking myself way too seriously).  At least I have confidence that the Holy Spirit can use my words anyway she pleases. 

I selected three readings for the day:  Jeremiah 29:11-13; Psalm 139:1-5 and Matthew 6:25-34.  Here are my thoughts for the day:

Congratulations!  You’ve worked hard over the past few years.  I pray that this day is full of excitement and joy for you! 

I am honored that the senior class asked me to share this day with you.  I thought a long time about what to say to you today.  

It wasn’t all that long ago, that I was seated where you were now.  OK it was a long time ago, but I remember the hopes and fears that go with this day.

It’s exciting to move from 8th grade to high school – to put away the last bits of childhood, to look forward to pep rallies, Friday night football games, band concerts, homecoming, prom, all sorts of fun to be had.  Maybe you’re excited about some of the new classes you can take, or maybe you’re just excited that there’s only 4 years until you get to sit where the seniors are today. 

Maybe your teachers have told you what mine did:  “You have to be serious now.  High school is for real.  Now your grades will count toward college.  Maybe you’ll be good enough at football, or volleyball or band, or choir, or science to get a scholarship.  You have to work harder, so you can go to the college you want.”

Great – now high school doesn’t sound nearly as much fun! 

 You have hopes and dreams for your high school years.  But under those dreams and hopes may be just a bit or worry or fear.

It’s exciting to move from high school to the adult world and for many of you college.  Now you can do what YOU want to do – no more parents telling you what to do.

Sorry – that never changes, no matter how long you live.

But still, you get to make the choices now.  And the world is at your fingertips.  You get to choose what you do at college, what profession you want to learn.  Maybe you want to explore other parts of the world. There’s so much out there for you to learn and experience.

Maybe your teachers have told you what mine did: “Those professors at college won’t baby sit you.  You have to be responsible for doing the work on your own.”

Suddenly, you realize that it’s time to get moving on what you want to be when you grow up.     

And that can be a little scary. 

I remember what it was like – all those hopes and dreams, and maybe more than a little fear and worry underneath.

So I thought about what words would encourage and guide you as you step out on this next leg of your journey.  And I came up with three scripture readings – three promises God has made to you that go with you throughout your life from childhood to teen to adult and beyond.

The first promise is found in the reading from Jeremiah:  God has a plan for you to bring good to you, to go with you into your future and bring you hope. 

That day so long ago, when your parents first looked on your scrunched-up little baby face, they dreamed of this day.  They dreamed big dreams for you, of the places you would go, the things you would accomplish.  As they sit there, proudly watching you today, they are still hoping and dreaming about you and your future.

That’s nothing compared to what God has dreamed for you.  Even before the beginning of time, before you were born, God thought of you, loved you, had a plan for you – a plan that brings a future full of hope. 

The second promise is from the Psalm we read this morning.  If Jeremiah promises that when you search and call for God, God is there ready to hear you, this Psalms reminds us that you don’t have to go far to search for God or shout for God to hear you – because God’s hand is already on you, and God knows you completely and goes before you and completely surrounds you with God’s love.

The psalmist goes on to say that there is nowhere you can go that God isn’t already there before you.  Even at those times in your life where you think God is far, far away, God will be there with you. 

The third promise is that the God who is always with you, who always loves you, who knows you completely, God will take care of you.  Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount admonishes the crowd not to worry about their life, but to rely on the God who values and cares for the flowers of the fields and the birds of the air and who values you much higher than these.  

Jesus encourages us to live in the present and not worry about tomorrow.  Instead he encourages us to live out our faith each day, following in his footsteps, loving God and loving neighbor.  It’s one of those ironies of life that when we serve others, we are also blessed.  When we live as children of God and citizens of God’s kingdom, God provides for all our needs.

I could have ended the reading there, with “seek God’s kingdom and all these things will be give to you”, but I decided we needed to hear the next verse too.  It’s a bit ominous for a graduation – tomorrow brings its own worries and today’s troubles are enough on their own.  I almost didn’t include it in the reading.  You’re sitting there full of hopes and dreams – the future looks so bright you need sunglasses!  But then that last verse takes us right back to those secret worries hiding under all the hopes and dreams.  Tomorrow does indeed have its own worries.

And by now you’ve seen enough of life to know that every day does have troubles of its own.

I pray that you have also seen enough of God to know that God is greater that the troubles you have each day.

I pray that you have experienced God’s love in ways that strengthen you as you meet each day’s challenge.

I pray that you have heard how God has worked in the lives of your family and friends to trust that God will also be present in every step of your life.

 I pray that in addition to all the math and English and science and history that you have also learned that this God who is right next to you when you search, who hears even the smallest whisper when you call, goes with you as you begin to discover the joy and wonder of the future God holds for you.

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