It’s May, so for all the seniors out there, congrats! Congratulations! Con-GRAD-ulations! And any other form of the word that we can manage to fit on a card or plastic yard sign.
It’s been a wild year for the class of 2021. And if I may speak plainly, the last thing they need to hear is one more platitude of well-worn sentiment.
Their whole world is different. Their outlook on what their world will look like is different. This last year has proved that anything is possible. The whole world can change, shift, groan, and grow into challenges and possibilities that were not planned or are without precedent.
Everyone will have advice for your students, but find ways to impart wisdom grounded in truth. The Truth. Take them back to the beginning, again.
In the Beginning—A Cosmic Commencement
I served the local church as a part-time and full-time youth minister for 15 years, so I went to a lot of graduations and heard a lot of commencement addresses (Quick aside, why does everyone share their gratitude so generally? Like, yes, my family was great, and my friends were there for me, but let’s not miss that Grandma held me up in prayer, Mom re-learned Algebra 2 with me at the dinner table, and Dad proofed all of my early Student Council speeches on our Packard Bell desktop. Anyway. Commencement.).
My favorite commencement speech was given by a bright-eyed valedictorian who reminded a room full of 2,400 people that commencement, by definition, had more to do with a beginning than an ending. She challenged the room to not just celebrate what they had done, but to consider what was to come. There is no finality in this crowded gym of graduating seniors; there is possibility. And it’s in that possibility that we, as faith leaders, are reminded of the retelling of the beginning.
The opening chapter of John’s Gospel echoes both the creation story of Genesis and speaks to the creation of a new movement of people in Jesus’ name: Jesus, Son of God, Word of God, Wisdom of God.
Unique amongst the Gospel accounts, John’s retelling reminds us of the cosmic beginning that would bring the Living Word near and among us. More than a biographical retelling of events, John’s intro taps into our creative understanding of what is really going on and what is really at stake.
Your graduate is not only bright-eyed but wide-eyed to a changing world. They need the wisdom that is more than a retelling of what could be, because they are imagining, beginning into a new possibility.
Parent, pastor, teacher, reader, help your young person rekindle their understanding of God’s Word and work in their world. Reconnect them with vision and mission.
The Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John reminds us from the beginning that: the Word is, the Word was, and the Word was with. We are reminded of this relationship so as to not be led astray.
There are a lot of words that cling to us as of late. It’s easy as a young graduate to get lost in the sea of words like: ought, not, and but/bought. But more than career or finance advice, remind them of how living and active God is in their lives. Scripture is not mere words but a testimony to the Word. We are people of the Word. For now and for always.
For us, the Word is a person recorded in holy words, proclaimed in holy words. We are a people transformed by the Word. You don’t need to sell them on anything or condense it down. Share your passion for how an alive God shapes your life.
He was with God in the beginning.
“All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.” – John 1:3
Parents, ministers, leaders, remind graduates this commencement season of the nearness and newness of God. Whether new is exciting and bold or terrifying, God is near. Remind them that what will come is also accompanied by a God who is lovingly near. There is not a word of assurance, but the Word that assures our students that whatever is next does not need a precedent when we fully rely on His intimate knowledge of us.
When I was heading off to college, I just wanted to know that what I knew was true went with me. Relocation for college, work, or whatever is next does not mean the transformative experience of Jesus at work in my life is gone. What has been created, me as a new creation, has not gone away because the seasons are changing.
The nearness, presence, and person of Jesus goes with you. For many it will be the first time they experience a new setting, address, or the hard work of finding faithful community. Encourage and remind them of what you know to be true.
In Him was life
“In him was life and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it.” – John 1:4-5
Life. Light. Hope. A trinity of perspective that we all are in need of remembering a little more this year. The cosmic introduction to John’s Gospel reminds us that Jesus’ arrival not only brought light, but life. We have a new, hope-filled existence, and yes, even though the light shines, the darkness will not overcome. Your graduate needs this reminder in their new chapter as well.
As they commence, remind them, root them, in the good news that God is up to in the nearness of the Word and how the in-breaking of incarnate Jesus to the world commences and commissions us again and again.