We celebrated the success of our extended family of graduates in worship yesterday. Three high school-ers, several college undergrads, some Master’s degrees, and one Doctor of Ministry — these photos represent a variety of ages and experience. We are proud of you, as we know your families are proud. Congratulations. Ta-Da — you did it!
We had more than graduations to celebrate yesterday, as it was Pentecost Sunday, when we remember that day in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus’ followers. It was a celebration unlike anything we can manufacture ourselves. Read the accounting of the day in Acts 2:1-21.
I wonder what the disciples thought when the excitement began. Did they think this was a gift of belated appreciation for their hard work in following Jesus for three years? Maybe it was time to kick back, relax, and go fishing again?
One of those faces in the collage belongs to us. We’ve had 3 college graduates in the last 4 years in our family. We’ve heard a similar sentiment of relief from each one of them upon graduation. Boy, I’m glad that’s over. I need some time off. I need to take a break.
We might be envious as adults of our kids not just because they can kick back, but because in starting out, they have so many directions from which to choose. We might welcome the chance to start over, and it’s just not in the cards for us to do that. But it’s a tough world our children are trying to find their way into, and I”m pretty sure I would not want to begin navigating my way through it without the experience and thicker skin I’ve gained over the years.
There’s an excellent article by David Brooks, columnist for the NY Times, titled “It’s Not About You.” http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/opinion/31brooks.html?scp=1&sq=david%20brooks%20graduation&st=cse. Brooks maintains that we’ve got it backwards when we advise our graduates to follow your passion, chart your own course, march to the beat of your own drummer, follow your dreams, and find yourself. That we should be looking outside ourselves first for what it is that is calling us, for what it is that we can uniquely do for our world.
That we will not find ourselves until we lose ourselves. That sounds like the gospel to me! It’s the message of this celebration of Pentecost . The Holy Spirit descended upon them all that day not to single anyone out for achievement, not as a congratulatory gift, not even as a thanks job well done. The Holy Spirit came and allowed them to hear and understand each other, to give them direction for the next steps to take for making a difference in the world.
It is a good message not just for our graduates, but for all of us.
The Holy Spirit doesn’t come to applaud who we are as a result of our own efforts – instead, the Holy Spirit comes to shape us into who we can be. I for one am glad that it doesn’t all depend on me — I am grateful that God is in charge and that God has sent so many gifted and creative persons into my life and into the life of the church. I have been shaped by those persons who themselves have been shaped by the Holy Spirig.
Ta-Da! Here we are, God. What would you have us to do? Where would you have us to go?