God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God
Graduation Message Based on John 4:4-42; May 2012
Scripture Readings for this Sunday are: Micah 6:1-2, 6,8; Ecc 12:12-13; 2 Tim 4:1-5; Col 3:23
You can read these Scriptures here: NIV – CEB
Gospel Reading (will be read by L.C.) John 4:4-42 CEB.
You can read these Scriptures here: CEB
Special Thanx to the young lady in business suit on MARTA train on her way to the ATL airport, to a man named Mike who sat next to me on a flight from ATL to BWI and was so generous with his time and ideas, to Nathan R. for sharing with me his memories, Tom P. – a UMC pastor serving a church in Wilmington, and to my High School Classmates for their thoughts, insights and ideas in developing this message for our 2012 High School Graduates.
Graduates, let me start by congratulating you, your parents, your teachers and everyone who took the time to mentor you in the process of your education so far! You have worked hard to get here. You have completed a set of academic requirements and taken tests to demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Parents, teachers, and mentors worked hard to provide the environment, guidance and encouragement for the graduates to stay on course and to enable them to dream and to discern what they would want to become.
Graduates, this short season of your life is set aside to celebrate your hard work, your perseverance, your achievements, and your hopes and dreams while in high school. Enjoy this time of your life. Memories of this season of your life will stay with you forever.
All of us have dreams. At one time or another all of you have said, “I want to be …” Growing up, when I was six or seven years old, I wanted to be an engineer driving trains. Then I wanted to become theoretical physicist or work in the field of bio-genetics developing new crops. And then I saw a computer, and there was no longer any doubt what I wanted to do with my life. And then one day God called me and there was no longer any doubt of what I had to do with my life…
By now most of you have narrowed down what you want to do with your lives in the immediate future. You are standing at the juncture of two roads: one journey is coming to an end and another journey is about to start. That is what the season of graduation is; it is a process of “something new” being brought into existence. That “something new” is you and what you will become.
Our church family has set today aside to celebrate all of this. Most of you grew up in our midst. Some of you were baptized in this sanctuary and in this baptismal font. Vows were taken and exchanged; this congregation promised to nurture you in your faith and to provide you with an example of what it means to practice forgiveness, charity, love, and grace and to live simple, unpretentious Christian lives. And here you are.
In this season of your lives you hear lots of platitudes. By now you are in platitude overload; I know I was. We wish our graduates to become leaders, movers and shakers of our industries and institutions.
All this is true; we wish you all that and much, much more. It is also true that it is an unfair goal to burden you with for the rest of your lives. God did not create every person to be a leader. Expectations to become leaders, movers and shakers may sound good and inspiring; these expectations, however, place a tremendous amount of pressure and anxiety on you unless this is what God has given you a passion for or called you to.
Today, instead of challenging you to become leaders, movers and shakers, I want to challenge you to live your passions and to become all that God is calling you to be. Some of you may be called to be carpenters, farmers or car mechanics. Some of you may be called to be teachers or bio-genetic engineers. Some of you may be called to become heads of state, leaders in your chosen industry, or the next John Lennon, or Steve Jobs, or J.K. Rowling.
Today I want you to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that no matter what you discern God is calling you to be, we as your church family will stand by you, we will pray for you, and we will do everything we can to be a loving community around you when you need us. And rest assured, you will need God and you will need a community around you.
Earlier I mentioned that this is a period of your life that will live in your memories forever. Some of you will have many more graduations: tech school, college, special training, Masters, Doctorate… What I discovered in my life’s journey is that somehow the memories of High School graduation are the most meaningful and most vivid.
Sometimes I wonder, if I had the chance to talk to that kid graduating from high school so many years ago, what would I tell him today? What would I say to myself and to my classmates that would be helpful on our lives’ journey between then and now?
First of all: you will need discipline. You will need the discipline to discern your goals and your dreams and you will need the discipline to live your life accordingly. If there is a party at college that will keep you up into the wee hours of the morning, remember that there is an 8 am or 9 am class that you are taking the next morning. What you will learn in that class may affect the rest of your life; the fun, headache and hangover will last less than 24 hours. You will need the discipline to recognize what is important and what is not; what will advance you towards your goals and make your dreams possible and what will not.
Second: you will need determination. Everything worthwhile takes time and effort. There are always temptations to take the easy road: “I will do the work tomorrow, it can wait, I deserve to have some fun.” Set aside some time to have fun, set aside a lot of time to work towards your goals and to evaluate where you are on that journey. If you are not moving towards your goals, re-think and re-evaluate what you are doing and how you are doing it, ask yourself whether your goals are still relevant.
Third: take responsibility for your own actions. That is huge. Unless you take responsibility for your own actions, you will become a victim of circumstances (Illustration: Curly from Three Stooges – do you want to be a “Curly”). Until you learn to take responsibility for your own actions, you will say things like “I wish…” but what you wish for will never come true.
So far we have talked about Discipline, Determination and Taking Responsibility for Our Own Actions.
The forth and the most important thing that I would want to say to myself is illustrated in the Scripture reading from John 4:4 – 42.
If you go to college, you will meet quite a few students that change their major every semester, and they know that at the end of this semester they will change their major again. Most of us know someone who has tried at least five diet plans and now are on their sixth plan wondering why they cannot lose weight. Most of us know someone who has tried five or six different careers in their life, and who now feels underutilized, bitter, disillusioned, angry and unfulfilled in their life, clocking time till the weekend or retirement.
Now that you are out of high school the real stuff – the real life – starts. The Samaritan Woman lived an unfulfilling and unfocused life until she recognized that God is her creator and that when she is with God her life will take on a new meaning and direction. THAT IS HUGE!
You will face good days and bad days. You will face times of economic prosperity and times of economic downturn. You will face mind-numbing and infuriating narrow-mindedness and liberalism. You will face rhetoric that you will believe to be wrong and you will be challenged to make decisions that will affect all of our lives (for example, elections and environmental policy). You will face personal decisions that will affect your families and your children.
Through it all, always put God first. Make sure that you are a part of a church community that knows who you are, that knows what you going through, who sees you on Sundays, who hears your prayers and who knows what is happening in your lives. Spend more than one Sunday every few years with your church family. You will see God in their eyes and in their presence, and they will help you in the long run to discern what God is doing in our world and in your life. Always make a choice to be with God because when you are with God, all things are possible.
At this time you are in celebration mode; and you should be. As I stand before you, this May 20, 2012, you may think that you know a lot, and that is at least partially true. You don’t know quite as much as you think.
What is also true is that you do not have enough life experience to face life alone; no matter how long you will live, you will never have enough life experience to face your lives alone. Because of your youth and lack of experience, it is also hard for you to process everything that I have dumped on you today. Luckily, you have your whole lives ahead of you. That is why I printed copies of this sermon for each of you; I hope that each of you with take a copy and read it every few years. It will help you to evaluate where you are on your life’s journeys.
In conclusion: May God keep and bless you always; may you always choose to walk with God. And may you become the best version of what God is calling you to be.
Special Thanx to the young lady in business suit on MARTA train on her way to the airport, to a man named Mike who sat next to me on a flight from ATL to BWI and was so generous with his time and ideas, to Nathan R. for sharing with me his memories, Tom P. – a UMC pastor serving a church in Wilmington and to my High School Classmates for their thoughts, insights and ideas in developing this message for our 2012 High School Graduates.