We are at that time of year when people complete their courses of study in schools, colleges, and universities. Those who have completed their course of studies take part in an important ritual called “graduation” or “commencement.” I’ve always found it interesting that our words for that ritual have more to do with the next step than with the series of steps leading up to it. We “graduate” from our studies into a new set of challenges. We “commence” that for which we have been preparing.
When Jesus was with the twelve in the Upper Room, he knew it was time for them to “graduate.” He was preparing to complete his earthly mission and leave them, so he had to tell them things they needed to know in order to “commence” the next era of proclaiming his gospel. Scholars typically call this section of John’s gospel “the farewell discourse.” However, when you read it you will clearly see that it is far, far more than a farewell speech - it is a commencement address.
For the followers of Christ, the focus is always on the future! To those who are graduating from the course of study in which you have been involved and who are about to commence the next phase of your life’s journey, we say, “congratulations!” The future opens before you and it is filled with possibilities and opportunities. It also holds uncertainties and challenges. Perhaps it seems frightening or overwhelming to you.
In light of these options, remember the words of the Psalmist (Psalm 139:13-14):
For it was you who formed my inward parts;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Your Creator designed you to face the future with remarkable gifts. Those uniquely human gifts, employed in partnership with the Creator, equip you to make something from nothing!
Long ago, when you were Baptized, God and the Church made a promise to always be there for you. As you commence your next educational pursuit or your career, remember that. I have a bookmark that has printed on it an invitation to face the future in confidence. It says, “Don’t be afraid of the future, God is already there.” That is a paraphrase of God’s message through the Prophet Jeremiah: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jer. 29:11).
God bless you as your journey continues. Along with God, we promised to continue with you and we will keep that promise. Wherever you may be, there will be a Christian community that has made the same promise. Get to know them. Participate in their worship, life, and companionship. Let them help you continue to grow spiritually while you are growing in knowledge.
I'll see you in Church!
The Very Reverend Ronald D. Pogue
St. Andrew’s Cathedral