Graduation Day

Three weeks ago I happened to be speaking at a church just off the Michigan State campus the weekend of their graduation ceremonies.

Last week, I spoke at the commencement ceremonies for United Theological Seminary.

And yesterday, I spoke at the Baccalaureate service for the graduates of Heidelberg University.

Each occasion was a spiritually uplifting experience for me. I want to talk about why.

There are passages in life that, once crossed, signify a new chapter unfolding in our lives. No matter how long our journey, these moments will stand as turning points. One of the most powerful things in ministry is we are often invited into people’s lives to help them make the crossing and to bless what has been and what will be.

Included on the list of transformational moments are Baptism, confirmation, marriage, divorce, death. And graduation.

For those whose spirits are attuned walking humbly with their god along their life’s path, all such moments include a recognition that the sacred presence of our beloved Creator will be recognized. This recognition engenders both a thanksgiving for having safely navigated the uncertain waters that lead to these transformational moments and a call to the sacred to abide in and through the time of life’s changes. Without that lingering presence, uncertain steps into unknown futures seem too daunting to risk.

The Heidelberg honors choir sang “I thank you God for most this amazing day”, and I was transported.

John Buccigross, ESPN anchor and Heidelberg grad, announced in his commencement address that happiness does not follow success, success follows happiness – wise words to share with the young standing at their crossroads about to choose between the roads less or more traveled.

Lew Zeidner, President of United Theological Seminary in the Twin Cities looked with pride over the brood gathered at his first ever graduation as their President and felt a deep sense of pride.

As did we all.

This is one of those times rife with potential and possibility. Life pauses before releasing future hopes, dreams, and expectations. All that can be done to prepare for such a release is finished, and everything that childhoods hoped would come awaits this very day.

Every tomorrow from this point forward was what every yesterday was meant to make possible. Present in the hearts and minds of every graduate are the parents, Sunday School teachers, pastors, educators, mentors, friends, and loved ones who invested in them and told them they were the source of their hope.

Today we celebrate, tomorrow they toil.

I was blessed to witness the joy write large across every face. God made them all, and in them was seen the very image and likeness of our Creator. In them also were the gifts with which they were endowed at birth, honed now through two or more decades of preparation by skilled and loving hand, hearts, and minds.

God bless them all. The world awaits their yeses. May the destinations they embark on lead to new hope, enduring peace, and abiding love. And may they come to appreciate the art of compassion, empathy, and grace as they discover what will unfold on their journeys Into the Mystic.