Rewind to high school baccalaureate 1983: faintly feathered hair and faint memories of singing a duet with my friend, Wendy. With appropriate sincerity we emoted our way through the Stormie Omartian lyric, "You are the Builder; I'm made of stone. I find it hard to see, what You could make of me. I am the sinner; You died for me. I find it hard to know, how You could love me so."
All true. If there was a sermon that night, I don't remember it.
A few days later, my classmates were all capped and gowned in scarlet and gold, then, effectively, gone. The next thing lay ahead. Whatever that was.
Fast-forward 30 years. This time around, my role in May as minister appears to play host to a 2013 service (Baccalaureate means the service and or the sermon to a graduating class). If asked to speak, I will need to know what brief word might properly strike a chord within the hearts and minds of today's transitioning teens.
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What would you say to such a gathering? At age 18, what insight, advice or appeal would have served you well?
Relatedly, would you have received that word as wisdom, or would it have sounded more like the muzzled droning of a teacher in a Charlie Brown special? ("Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah ...")
So much could be said. Actually, so much has been said -- and not merely in inspirational tones but through divinely inspired words. God has spoken and was pleased to have his will written down. Given this happy reality, one broad-sweeping sermon idea might be, "Graduates, read your Bibles."
Within the Bible itself, we find sermons recorded as calls from Jesus, Peter and Paul that resound to this day: "Do not worry about tomorrow ... Enter through the narrow gate ... Repent and be baptized" (ex. Matthew 5-7; Acts 2, 17).
Moreover, if we rewind some 4,000 years, we hear words of faith and promise that point to and proclaim the same truths and storyline (ex. Genesis 12-15; Hebrews 11). Thus, whether in 2013 B.C. or 2013 A.D., when walking "by faith," even graduating, the saying fits: "That'll preach."
That said, the setting of a baccalaureate hardly provides time to develop the grandness of such timeless truths; a succinct sermon must suffice. And while I could dust off that old duet, I would rather reflect on how God controls all comings and goings, including the steps of graduates who, both hopeful and hapless alike, often get asked: "So, what are you doing next?"
That too will preach. Because, practically, isn't that a question we all constantly encounter -- not only as graduates facing obvious life transitions (choices surrounding college, career, companions, convictions, cash, compatibility, community, comfort), but also as old (er) folks?
And doesn't the object of your faith shape not only your answer, but also your attitude, as you take that next step toward the next thing?
Yes, the Lord directs steps (Proverbs 16:9).
-- The Rev. Dr. Craig P. Davis is minister of the Word at Grace United Reformed Church in Kennewick. Questions and comments should be directed to editor Lucy Luginbill in care of the Tri-City Herald newsroom, 333 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick, WA 99336. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.