Good afternoon, graduates!
I’m happy to be here and celebrate with you all today. I’m excited that you’re all here to celebrate your graduation through worship.
For years you have studied, spent countless hours on homework and projects. You’ve been tested, and tested, and tested some more. And here you are. The end of the road. Graduation is just around the corner.
This moment is unlike any other. To use a cliche, a chapter of your life is coming to a close and a new one is about to be written. Some of you have an idea what the chapter will look like and some of you are still figuring it out. Either way, what happens after graduation is a bit of a mystery for all of you.
This time comes with a host of emotions. I’m sure there’s a huge amount of excitement in the air. You’re all about to be adults. Entering a new world of possibility.
This might be a joyful time. Finally getting out of high school; the opportunity to follow your own schedule. Make your own mark on the world.
It might me a time of sadness. Saying goodbye to a world you have known and become comfortable in. Leaving trusted teachers and friends.
Maybe this new chapter brings about fear. What we don’t know can be scary and intimidating and you are all about to step into the unknown. The world awaits whether you are ready or not.
These emotions you’re experiencing are combined with those that our community experiences together. As I sat and talked with your class officers, I was reminded of the way the world has changed for you all.
A lot has happened in the four year you have been in high school.
Gun violence has risen, affecting many communities across the country. Just blocks from Boone, Pulse was the site of horrific violence just two years ago. This weekend, families in Texas are joining those around the country mourning yet another school shooting.
We’ve seen the rise of an international refugee crisis. Millions of people have been displaced globally due to war, famine, and weather.
Locally, we experienced hurricanes for the first time in over a decade. Our neighbors in Puerto Rico experienced unprecedented disruption that displaced a large number of families. Perhaps even some of you sitting in this room.
This short list doesn’t even begin to take into account things individuals experience everyday. Being a teenager isn’t easy. Dealing with rejection and isolation. The loss of loved ones. Discovering who you are while trying to maintain grades and balance family life.
Life in high school is a lot to unpack. The number of emotions that swirl around graduation are many. We’ve not even begun to scratch the surface, let alone get into the emotions your family is experiencing.
No matter your mix of emotions, I want to take a few minutes and focus on one in particular: hope. Yes, you have experienced a lot in the last four years. And yes, what happens after graduation is a huge unknown. But there is tremendous hope in the future.
The scripture your class officers chose for today is from the Book of Isaiah, chapter 43. Isaiah was a prophet who spoke for God. Prophets provided either insight into the future or into what God wanted the people to know.
It’s believed this section of Isaiah was written at a time of chaos for the Israelites. They were being held in Babylonian captivity, wondering what lay ahead for them. Their future was unknown. Like you all today, there were a lot of emotions swirling for the Israelites.
God saw the Israelites’ fear and trepidation and sent them a message of hope through his profit Isaiah. Listen to the word of the Lord captured in Isaiah 43:1a-2, 5a CEB:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; when through the rivers, they won’t sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire, you won’t be scorched and flames won’t burn you.
Do not fear, I am with you. Isaiah 43:1a-2, 5a CEB
In a time with an unknown future, the Lord wanted the Israelites to know they were not alone. The same is true for all of you today.
You are not alone.
Through the experiences of the last four years, you were not alone. The Lord was with you and will continue to be with you.
Take a moment and look around the room. Look at this community currently surrounding you today. Look at your friends, your family, your teachers. This community has stood by you as you walked through the past four years and they will continue to stand by you as the rest of your life unfolds.
You are not alone.
Your community will change. New friends and family will be added while others will fade. Through it all, your community will remain by you just as God remains at your side.
You are not alone.
I wish I could stand here and tell you from here out life will be perfect. I wish I could say that wars will end, relationships will be mended, and gun violence will cease. As we all know, unfortunately that isn’t the way life works.
You will face hardships in this next chapter of life. You will make mistakes. You will face fires but if you remember the words of Isaiah, you will not do so alone.
There is hope in Isaiah’s words and there is hope in the future.
Despite the trouble facing our world, I see hope represented here today. I see a world of possibility and potential and I see a community of loving people providing support for each of you.
I have hope because the ideas in your heads have the power to change the world. I have hope because your generation is not shying away from leading. I have hope because, despite the rain, you are all here today worshiping together.
There is hope in the future.
There is hope knowing the Lord is always with you. There is hope knowing that your community will be with you. Hold onto that hope. No matter what this next chapter looks like for you, remember that you are not alone.
Things are about to change for each of you. When you receive your diploma, a world of possibility awaits at the end of the stage. Embrace the many emotions you are experiencing but remember the words of the Lord:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are mine. Isaiah 43:1a-2, 5a CEB
Do not fear because the Lord is with you.
Do not fear because this community is with you.
Do not fear because there is hope in the future.