Graduation: Endings and beginnings
Published 3:22 pm Monday, May 17, 2004
That big yell you will be hearing soon will be the sound of our area's high school graduates as their graduation exercises and their high school careers come to an end. And it is something to shout about-no more daily high school routines or classes or exams. It has been 38 years since I graduated from high school. It is hard to believe time has passed by so quickly. In a way it seems like only yesterday that I heard my name called and I walked across the stage to receive that diploma that has since opened so many doors of opportunity. The things I learned in elementary, junior high, high school and beyond have played vital roles in my day-to-day activities.
Graduation is a time for reflection. There is a need for each graduate to reflect on the lessons learned, both in the classroom and among their peers. There is a need for each graduate to reflect on the sacrifices made by their parents so that their education could be as complete and helpful as possible.
Graduation exercises are called commencements, but the word commencement does not mean "ending." It means "beginning." What is celebrated at a high school graduation is not simply the successful completion of high school, but also the beginning of adulthood.
Endings and beginnings are inseparably tied together. There is nothing so central to the Christian life as the concept of ending and beginning. We talk of being "born again." At the moment of our conversion, we end a life lived unto ourselves, and we begin a new life lived unto Christ. In Second Corinthians 5:17, Paul writes, "If anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new." The Bible assures us that we are not just cleaned up, propped up or dressed up. We are a new creation. Conversion is both an ending and a beginning.
Jesus' disciples, in a way, went through their graduation ceremony in that upper room on the first day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them. Their education had been learned from the greatest teacher ever. Jesus realized that there was only so much that He could teach them. He would soon be sitting at the right hand of God. But He did leave them another teacher, His Holy Spirit, and Jesus promised that His Spirit would guide them when their way became cloudy and unclear. The disciples experienced in that upper room a time of endings and beginnings just as our graduates are experiencing now.
You who are graduating from high school have reason to be proud of your accomplishments to this point. Your parents and teachers have invested much in your lives. Much more is now expected of you. You have been given a great treasure: the keys to exploration and knowledge, the keys of wisdom and discernment. I pray that you will not use this treasure unwisely. If you use your education to its fullest potential, if you allow your life to be guided by the Holy Spirit, you will give your parents and teachers the most precious honor possible-they will know that their labors have not been in vain. My prayer for all graduates, and the prayer of your parents and teachers, is that you will take what you have learned and with the power of the Holy Spirit and the love of Jesus Christ, use it to make this world a better place. Use your gift wisely! Happy graduation, and may God bless you!