June is a season of endings and beginnings. June brings the traditional school year to a close. From preschoolers to high school seniors to college and graduate students, all kinds of people are looking back at what they have accomplished and ahead to what comes next. We tend to think of graduations as endings. They mark the completion of a program, of a stage in our lives, in our relationships with friends and family.
On the morning of my graduation from college our speaker was the Rev. Peter Gomes, then the Minister of Memorial Church at Harvard, and the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. Later in the day we heard from Mother Teresa of Calcutta. So it was kind of a heavy duty program, religiously speaking. Peter encouraged us NOT to go through with graduation! College was such a great time in our lives that we should not let the school kick us out into the real world. That was a new idea for most of us. He quoted Mae West, who suggested that “Too much of a good thing… …is WONDERFUL!!!” Mother Teresa was a bit more serious. Her very traditional moral address was not as cheerfully received by many of my classmates. I’m not sure why they expected her to be funny. That was not exactly her approach to life.
As many of you have heard, our daughter Hannah’s graduation from Eastman School of Music and the University of Rochester was lovely. It was a beautiful day, a memorable ceremony, and a celebration of all that she and her classmates had achieved. It was a joyful time for us all. But on the day of any graduation, one realizes that what lies ahead is actually rather more significant than whatever we have done up to that point. In fact, the traditional name for the event is “commencement,” which means “beginning.” Yes, it’s a celebration of where we’ve come, but more than that it is a first step out in a new adventure. It’s like baptism. Sometimes parents will be asked when they are going to get the children “done.” But there is no “done”! Baptism isn’t the end, but the beginning of a new relationship with God, in and through the community of faith.
At the end of this month I will complete my sixteenth year as pastor with this church family. It has been quite a time together already. But I want you to know that I am looking forward even more to where God will lead us in the season that is only beginning.
Grace and peace,