It is the time of year when the local high schools and colleges have or are holding their commencement exercises. It is a time when one chapter of life ends for the graduating students and a new chapter begins. Those graduating from high school are likely entering the workforce, preparing to enter a college or technical school, or perhaps entering the military. College graduates are either looking to be accepted into a post graduate program or embarking upon their chosen career. Either way, a change is taking place. These changes are both exciting and a little scary but none the less, those former students are now entering a new and different phase of their lives.
The texts for last Sunday and this coming Sunday speak of a commencement as well. Last week in the lectionary cycle we celebrated the ascension of Jesus into heaven. This happened at the end of a forty day period following his resurrection from the dead. Jesus was leaving his disciples in a physical sense but before doing so he tells his followers that now they are to continue the work of the Kingdom of God, just as he had taught them to do. They were to be the witnesses of Jesus’ ministry on earth, his death on the cross to pay the price for mankind’s sin, and his rising again from the dead to break the power of sin and death, for all who would hear the message of salvation through Jesus Christ and put their faith in him. A chapter of the disciples lives was ending, and a new chapter was about to begin.
Jesus had spent the previous three years teaching his disciples what is was to truly serve God. They had witnessed his many miracles, his walking on water, feeding the five thousand, healing the sick, and raising Lazarus from the dead. They heard him teach about God’s Kingdom and about what God was like. Indeed their preparation was spectacular, but to them it likely seemed very brief, just like our education does, when looking back on it. But now it was time for the pupils to go out into the world and put to use what they had been taught. But there was a brief pause.
It would be ten days later during the feast of Pentecost, which we celebrate this coming Sunday, that the disciples would experience the infusion of power from above that Jesus promised, as the Holy Spirit came upon them and they exploded onto the stage of history with a message that changed everything. Without this power, the disciples would have been just ordinary people. With this power the disciples formed the church, endured horrific persecution, but eventually overtook a superpower through the power of love, proclaiming the beautiful message of salvation to all who would listen. The church they founded, built on the cornerstone of Jesus Christ, has remained to this day, and will remain until the Lord Jesus returns. The power of God empowers ordinary people to be extraordinary! This same power is still at work today in those who believe.
For those who participated in commencement this spring, realize this is just the beginning, but also realize that all you have learned can enable you to embark upon a life of service to God and your fellow man. If you use what you have learned to serve Jesus in your life’s work, for the good of all, there awaits blessing beyond measure. But, to do so requires more than just learning. It requires more than just the desire to do good things. It requires a personal relationship with Jesus, and the infusion of the Holy Spirit to inform your mind, guide your steps, and empower you to be truly successful, not just in this earthly life, or by the world’s standards, but in a life that honors God and transcends through Christ, into life everlasting.
For all of those who have graduated this spring, and for all of those former graduates who have been waiting in the wings, now is the time to commence upon life, time to go forth and be who God called you to be. But before you do so, pause, seek the Kingdom of God, Commit your life to Christ, pray for power and strength to complete the task ahead, and then go forth in faith, as the next generation of witnesses of the good news doing the work of Jesus here on earth!
The writer is the pastor for Spring Creek Christian Church and Port Jefferson Church of Christ.