Graduation. What do you think of when you think of graduation? New opportunities? Challenges? Adulthood? How about a major life change? Graduation moves us from the life of a student to the life of...what? A real person! A fulfilled person! A person who is going places—whether we want to or not.
Pentecost. What does this term bring to your mind? Holy Spirit? Wind and fire? Fearful disciples? How about a major personality change? Pentecost moved the disciples from the life of fearful, doubting survivors to strong, brave, preachers. They became people who were going places, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ throughout the world. Whether they wanted to or not. And Pentecost meant that when we believe, we are also transitioned into a Spirit-fed life.
Graduation and Pentecost; each a moment of transition, a time of celebration, a line dividing lives into a before and after.
Where does this knowledge of God; of the glory of God come from? In Romans (1: 20), Paul suggests it is self-evident. “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.” But we are living in a time and age where the knowledge of the glory of God is fading. Statistically, fewer than half of Americans belong to a church. Sunday mornings, once reserved for church are filled with volleyball tournaments and soccer games and sleeping in. Prayers no longer a part of the school day, biblical knowledge is very low, and many read scientific discoveries as ways to say that there is no God.
For our purposes, if you are here worshiping you probably don't need to be convinced that God exists. But as we consider the transitions of graduation and Pentecost, maybe you are looking to transition to an improved relationship with God. On this graduation Sunday, the focus is looking forward. The graduates have ideas and dreams of what their future looks like. For the rest us us, let's take a moment and look back. Consider all that you have seen and done and experienced. Most of us have more years behind us than we have ahead of us. But that is a far cry from being done. We are to continue to dream, continue to open new doors. For we are created by a loving God. And God's not done with us yet.
So consider again the metaphor that we are clay jars containing the knowledge of God's glory. Clay jars were not created to be filled and then left sitting on a shelf. They were created to serve a specific purpose. We are created to serve and love God and neighbor. Too often we get to the filling part of the gospel and are satisfied that we've got ours. But God calls us to more than that. Today's graduates have likely done a lot of reflection and planning about their roles in life. We perhaps have more reflection than planning at our stage in life. But none of us is through serving. You were created for a purpose and that purpose may change and evolve, but you always have a purpose.
Greg Heath handles a lot of antiques and he can tell you that often with clay jars, as they get older they grow even more valuable. We sometimes question that about the clay jars that we are. The wisdom of the elders is not respected in our culture as it once was. Our abilities and functioning may change. We don't hit the golf ball as far, stairs become more of an obstacle than a pathway, and the normal aches and pains of life just don't go away overnight anymore. But then there are some perks to being older...
Your supply of brain cells is finally down to manageable size.
Your secrets are safe with your friends because they can't remember them either.
Your joints are more accurate meteorologists than the national weather service.
There is nothing left to learn the hard way.
Things you buy now won't wear out.
You can quit trying to hold your stomach in, no matter who walks into the room.
Here I am going on about old age as we are sending these young people out into the world of adulthood. But clearly, our relationship to Jesus and our service in this world needs not be limited either by being old or young. The apostle Paul liked to note dichotomies. In today's passage, he wrote, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;” You can add your own affliction, including aging. But in Christ we are not crushed, not forsaken; never destroyed.
I didn't sit down to write a sermon about aging, not on this day we celebrate new beginnings. But consider our congregation. More gray hairs than not. But age does not mean we are no longer being filled with the knowledge of the glory of God. For each of us, young and old, us, every day is a new beginning, a new day to experience the love and presence of Jesus. Adventure, service, learning are not just for the young. Our experiences brings certain gifts for us to share with the body of Christ. With age often comes wisdom, patience, increased compassion and sensitivity.
In our account of Pentecost Judy read, Peter quotes the Old Testament prophet Joel. All who listened in that day were reminded that God does not limit his spirit according to age. “God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” We are all in this together, young and old alike, clay pots filled with the knowledge of God. Some are more full than others but we all seek to be filled in a manner like the apostles were filled on Pentecost. Our graduates are being recognized today but also we will challenge them and pray over them that they may grow in knowledge of the Lord and be filled with God's Spirit.
I'm going to ask them to stand and join me by the pulpit as we bless them for the journey. But I'm asking everybody here to hear and answer these questions as children of God looking at the new start that is ours everyday, a new day, new mercies from God,
Kaitlyn, Ashley, Mariah in abstentia: In your baptism, sacred promises were made. Promises that we'd do our best as parents and members of the church to raise you in the knowledge of God through Jesus Christ. And as the years have passed, we've seen glimpses of God's work in your lives as well as in the life of this congregation.
Let us all on this graduation Sunday, on this Pentecost Sunday pledge to be witnesses to the power and grace of God. 1. Will you seek to grow in fellowship with the Lord through prayer and study? Is so, answer I will.
2. Will you strive to serve others as disciples of Jesus Christ?
3. Will you, as you leave this sanctuary and go out into the world, seek to recognize the presence of the Lord in your day to day lives?
Let us Pray: Father, we are all your children, all of us continue to grow in knowledge of the glory of God. Grant us courage as we face trials, grant us faith when doubts assail, and fill us with hope as we face the challenges of faithful living.
Lord, today we ask special blessing on these three graduates. Katelyn. Ashley. Mariah. Guide them in paths of righteousness, grant them times of quiet rest beside the still waters, and let goodness and mercy follow them every step of the way. May we all find our joy in serving, our hope in your word and our comfort in your promises. Amen
Finally, we acknowledge the glory of the knowledge of God in our hymn of the day, How Great Thou Art. We sing of the awesome wonder of God's creation, a witness to God's power and divine nature. We sing of the grace that brought Jesus to the cross for us, bearing our burden of sin. And we sing of the joy when we enter our eternal home when Jesus takes us home. Let's sing from our souls of the gift of the knowledge of the greatness of God. Amen.
Hymn: How Great Thou Art