Sunday, June 15, 2014

Baccalaureate Sunday/Trinity Sunday at Christ Lutheran Community Church Upper Darby, PA

The audio can be found at: [ ]
The text follows:
It may not be a good idea to focus a sermon on just the graduates from a particular educational endeavor, but baccalaureate tends to do that. We take great pride in the moving up of children in kindergarten, or from primary to middle school. I was absent on the first Sunday in June and enjoyed my role as proud grandpa of a graduating grandson, who is now preparing for college, so it is not unusual that we should be gathered to smile and offer congratulations to Kameron Mickens and Jacob Dykhouse.

Yesterday one of my former students from South Africa was communicating about her new degree. This pastor who has served in the region around Durban South Africa, received a Second Master’s Degree in Global Studies, with an emphasis on Christian Studies in Stavanger, Norway. With pictures and a frame able piece of paper she is preparing to return to Natal South Africa with a hope to return for a PHD.

Last Sunday, Pentecost was a sort of Graduation Day for the disciples. Our Gospel Lesson for today revisits some of the instructions that Jesus laid down to his disciples before his taking leave of this earth and returning to God. It follows that as they gathered after his resurrection. They “…went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Perhaps those are the same words I need to direct to Kameron and Jacob, but they are words that have as much power for these graduates from educational endeavors as it does for those who also joined this congregation last week. These words have been with all of us for a number of years, but each time we hear them we have had more experience in living in education, in dealing with distress and happiness that the words take on new meaning and a different kind of power as we live both outside and inside the church.

Jacob and Kameron have probably both realized that their education is not yet finished. They may have even come to the conclusion that their education may never be a finished product. With their confirmation finished a few years ago, they probably encountered the first lesson for today, the biblical creation story from the first and second chapters of Genesis. Yet at the same time they have completed high school academic studies that gave a different scientific explanation of how the world began. I hope that they have been able to make the distinction that they are two different explanations of how we all got here.

The Bible was never intended to be a book of scientific fact. It was always designed to be a shared experience of the faithful explanations of how life came about and lived by people who raised similar questions about “Why am I here?” “How did I get Here?” Sometimes people have expanded upon their reading of both science and scriptures like James Weldon Johnson as he spoke of creation in a slightly different way.

The Creation:

And God stepped out on space,
And he looked around and said:
I'm lonely--
I'll make me a world.
And far as the eye of God could see
Darkness covered everything,
Blacker than a hundred midnights
Down in a cypress swamp.
Then God smiled,
And the light broke,
And the darkness rolled up on one side,
And the light stood shining on the other,
And God said: That's good!

Then God reached out and took the light in his hands,
And God rolled the light around in his hands
Until he made the sun;
And he set that sun a-blazing in the heavens.
And the light that was left from making the sun
God gathered it up in a shining ball
And flung it against the darkness,
Spangling the night with the moon and stars.
Then down between
The darkness and the light
He hurled the world;
And God said: That's good!
Then God himself stepped down--
And the sun was on his right hand,
And the moon was on his left;
The stars were clustered about his head,
And the earth was under his feet.
And God walked, and where he trod
His footsteps hollowed the valleys out
And bulged the mountains up.
Then he stopped and looked and saw
That the earth was hot and barren.
So God stepped over to the edge of the world
And he spat out the seven seas--
He batted his eyes, and the lightnings flashed--
He clapped his hands, and the thunders rolled--
And the waters above the earth came down,
The cooling waters came down.
Then the green grass sprouted,
And the little red flowers blossomed,
The pine tree pointed his finger to the sky,
And the oak spread out his arms,
The lakes cuddled down in the hollows of the ground,
And the rivers ran down to the sea;
And God smiled again,
And the rainbow appeared,
And curled itself around his shoulder.
Then God raised his arm and he waved his hand
Over the sea and over the land,
And he said: Bring forth! Bring forth!
And quicker than God could drop his hand,
Fishes and fowls
And beasts and birds
Swam the rivers and the seas,
Roamed the forests and the woods,
And split the air with their wings.
And God said: That's good!

Then God walked around,
And God looked around
On all that he had made.
He looked at his sun,
And he looked at his moon,
And he looked at his little stars;
He looked on his world
With all its living things,
And God said: I'm lonely still.
Then God sat down--
On the side of a hill where he could think;
By a deep, wide river he sat down;
With his head in his hands,
God thought and thought,
Till he thought: I'll make me a man!
Up from the bed of the river
God scooped the clay;
And by the bank of the river
He kneeled him down;
And there the great God Almighty
Who lit the sun and fixed it in the sky,
Who flung the stars to the most far corner of the night,
Who rounded the earth in the middle of his hand;
This great God,
Like a mammy bending over her baby,
Kneeled down in the dust
Toiling over a lump of clay
Till he shaped it in is his own image;
Then into it he blew the breath of life,
And man became a living soul.

James Weldon Johnson

Now while I may seem to be focusing on just those who are graduating, the reality is that the focus is on all those who have been baptized. For if you have just completed Pastor’s class, a public or private school year of studies or even if you are just reading on your own, each time you close the last page of a book, there is a graduation of sorts. Just when you envisioned the completion of your academic exercise, everyone around you is challenging you by asking what you are doing next. For our baccalaureate students the question may be College, military, job? Whatever you choose is something that has a continuing learning curve that will both challenge what you think you have already learned and ask you to conceptualize in creative ways what you thought you already knew.

You see last Sunday four adults of varying ages decided to join this fellowship of believers. They too have been challenged to look once again at scriptures and themselves to see what their relationship was all about. Even our relationship with God is not static. It is continually evolving, by our study and the way that we respond to the challenges of the world.

We are given a lesson that follows us each in our lives no matter what stage or what sense of completion of accomplishment we achieve. For at the Apostle Paul’s taking leave of the people gathered at Corinth, he shares, “Finally, brothers and sisters, farewell. Put things in order, listen to my appeal, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the saints greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.

That really sounds like a great way to end a service, but today I want to make it an invitation to everyone in the congregation, all who hears the recorded message, or those who read the sermon to join this fellowship next Sunday as Christ Lutheran Community Church celebrates its 95th anniversary as a gathering place for those who find that they need a community to be a part of their growing as a child of God.