I think that I speak for those of us who are up here this evening when I say it is a privilege to be allowed to be a part of this exciting transition in your lives. Though we may look old, we can remember quite well our own graduations . . . the excitement of it all . . . and, to be honest, the joy of finally getting out of school. Oh, I am sure we all remember it well and probably have a few stories about that time in our lives . . . but, those are stories for another time and in another place; after all, we do have to protect our standing in the community. So, on behalf of my fellow clergy, I thank you for allowing us to be part of your journey . . . a part of your accomplishments . . . and, a part of your celebration. We are here this evening to bring our blessing—as a community of faith—to each of you for a job well done.
Personally I want to say that I am grateful for this opportunity to be the one bringing the message . . . after 33 years of serving churches in many communities this is the first time I have ever had the privilege of getting to share words of encouragement, supposedly wisdom, and blessing to a group of graduating seniors. Because of that I have spent a lot of time contemplating exactly what it is that I want to say to you . . .
I thought I would give you advice . . . things like work hard whether it is in continuing on to higher education or going out into the world to work; but, I am sure you have probably heard that a hundred times already. I thought I would tell you to hang tightly to your dreams and aspirations . . . but statistically those are going to change as you journey further down the road of life. Before the journey of life is all said and done, well, you are probably going to realize lots of dreams and aspiration . . . so, enjoy them. I thought about telling a few jokes and humorous stories to send you all on your ways laughing . . . but, I have a pretty dry sense of humor and you might not laugh.
The honest truth, though, is that I thought about a lot of things that I could say to you this evening . . . but I ended up just wanted to remind you . . . to remind you that you are never ever alone in this journey called life. That you always have companions along the way . . . your family, your friends, your community, the community of faith, and the Holy—God.
There is a story in the holy scriptures of the Jews and Christians—in what is known as the Torah or Old Testament—about a man name Jacob and his haphazard adventures to becoming the conduit of what eventually is known as Israel. If you have never read the story about Jacob, you should . . . it is a great story. Early in his adventures . . . fleeing his brother Esau, whom he has swindled away their father’s blessing . . . he pauses on his journey to sleep. As he is sleeping he dreams of a ladder between heaven and earth with angels ascending and descending. God speaks to him and tells of God’s plans for him. Jacob realizes that this is a sacred place that he has stumbled upon, and being a typical human being he wants to remember it. Thus when he awakes the next morning he erects a stone cairn to mark the place as “holy”, and to help him remember where it was and what had taken place there. Jacob marks the place as “sacred space”.
Like Jacob we are all on an adventure or journey through life . . . we are all heading some place. It all began on the day we were born and continues . . . well, in all honesty that depends on each individual, but along the way we all will pause at some point to mark the milestones and rites of passage we encounter and experience along the way. We all pause to erect our own cairns to help us remember the event and the sacredness of those moments. These cairns are the landmarks of our journeys that help us to remember and keep grounded . . . to see how far we have come . . . where we are . . . and where we have to journey.
Think about it. Each year we “mark” another year of life when we celebrate our birthdays. Around certain birthdays we “mark” our transition from one part of our journey to the next . . . young adulthood, middle age, and on into the “golden years”. We mark our movement through our education from elementary to middle to high school on into college . . . each graduation, each diploma is a cairn to remind us. Weddings, births, baptisms, and funerals . . . we “mark” these as sacred time and space. And, we remember.
We remember the journey to that particular point . . . the hard work . . . the good times, the bad times . . . we remember our fellow sojourners, our companions on the way . . . we remember the laughter and the tears . . . we remember our teachers, coaches, and family who encouraged us along the way. We remember how good it felt and feels to have accomplished such a huge milestone in our lives . . . to have jumped through all the hoops and passed all the tests . . . to be this close to getting that diploma. It is a special time . . . a time to get down and celebrate. To realize that this is a special time and place in our lives.
And, I hope that in all of that celebrating that you each take a moment to pause, reflect, and erect your own cairn to help you remember. To remember this time of sacredness in your lives . . . this time of being in the place of the holy. It may not seem like it right now, but in quiet reflection you will find how sacred and important this time really is.
I want you to understand that these moments will come throughout your lives . . . in the good and the bad. Ol’ Jacob’s epiphany of the sacred in his dream comes as he is fleeing his brother—Esau . . . Esau who want to kill him for cheating him out of his father’s blessing. This is not the best of him. It is always good to remember change . . . whether it is getting a new haircut or car, or graduating from high school . . . it signifies growth and new direction.
Your graduation marks a change for each of you . . . it signifies growth in your lives . . . a rite of passage . . . a time of sacredness in your journey of becoming who God created you to be. May you pause in the celebration . . . reflect . . . give thanks . . . and, mark this time and place as sacred for it is sacred. You may not understand it this evening, but down the road . . . down the road, you will remember. Remember the time, the place, the people who journeyed with you, the feelings . . . remember that you were never alone . . . that great cloud of witnesses to your lives surrounded you. This evening those of us gathered here affirm the sacredness of this moment . . . affirm each of you. Build your cairn and cherish it . . . always.
Part of my role as the speaker this evening is to bring to you a blessing . . . a charge . . . a benediction to send you onto the next part of your journey. And, so here it is: May each of us gathered this evening recognize the sacredness of this time and place . . . the sacredness of all God’s children . . . and embrace it all to our hearts and memory for the journey yet to come. May the Lord bless each of you in the journey to come . . . may the Lord embrace you in your accomplishments and dreams . . . may the Lord always surround you with love and grace . . . and may you never forget the Lord. God be with you . . .and us. Amen.
And, as the last statement, a statement we practice in our family of faith, traveling mercies to each of you. Thank you.