Friday, May 11, 2012

Graduation Commission for the Senior Class of 2012

Our senior class celebrates their graduation from high school and our ministry this evening, so I thought I'd share the transcript from the devotional I will share with the seniors and their families. May this be an encouragement to you in this season of change and new beginnings:

After Jesus was raised from the dead and had appeared to his eleven disciples, he gathered them together on a mountainside in Galilee for them to await instructions. These eleven guys were on the brink of a completely new way of life. They had spent three years learning and growing and following Jesus, all the way to the point of His death and resurrection. They had all experienced huge highs—the mount of Transfiguration, casting out demons and healing people, feeding the 5000—and significant lows—James and John picking fights, Peter denying Jesus three times, all of the disciples abandoning Jesus when he was arrested. 
All of you seniors are also on the edge of a new way of life. You are done with high school and entering a new season of adulthood. Whether you’re leaving family and home to travel to another state, if you’re sticking around for ASU or community college, or if you are just going to work or travel for a season, this marks a significant life change. You’re not sure what’s going to happen next. 
All of you parents are also entering a new season. Even if this isn’t your first child to graduate from high school, this is the beginning of a different season—your child is no longer really a child. Even if they still live at home and you’re paying their bills and doing their laundry, there is a sense that something is different. You have an adult-child, one’s who are very quickly going to be making independent decisions that will send them on a life trajectory that is, for the most part, out of your control. 
So these eleven guys show up on a mountain, and Jesus is there, and he recognizes the significance of this moment. Check out what happens here: "Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." 
First off, there is this mixed response from the disciples when they see the risen Jesus again. "They worshiped him, but some doubted." For the seniors—and for all of us—we have to recognize that doubt is a part of the faith journey. The most faithful and significant spiritual leaders in the Bible all experienced seasons of doubt and questioning and frustration, when it felt like God was distant or that trusting Him didn’t make any sense. Abraham and Sarah laughed at the idea of Isaac being born; Moses and Gideon required physical God to complete miracles before they would really obey; David wrote extensive lament psalms crying out to God for answers; the prophets questioned God with passion and anger, wondering where His justice went and if He was truly good; even Jesus Himself prayed that He would be spared the cross, crying out “why have you forsaken me?” in the moment of death. All experienced doubt and dark times, yet all still clung to faith in the God who loves them. 
You will experience doubt in the next year. You will wonder if this whole Jesus and church thing has even been worth it. You’ll be forced to make a decision—do I even buy into this "faith in Jesus" thing? Instead of avoiding the doubt or succumbing to a lifestyle of doubt, invite Jesus in to the doubt and allow Him to guide you through it. 
Then Jesus starts talking to the disciples: "Then Jesus came to them and said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.Therefore go 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 I have commanded you.'"
This has been called the Great Commission, and it’s the mission Jesus has given to all His followers. Go and make disciples. That’s what we’re all called to do. As you enter this season, stick with the mission. Hold fast to the value of making disciples. Practice what these small group leaders and parents have been doing for you—find other people to invest in, and be good news to them. If that’s at a local church or a college campus ministry or a homeless shelter or a mentoring program, just make sure that you’re making disciples. This mission becomes our very identity—we’re people on mission with Jesus. We’re all missionaries. 
Then Jesus’s final words in the book of Matthew: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. 
You’ll experience times in college where you will feel alone. Whether you’ve gone away from home or are still around in the same neighborhood, you’ll experience a sense of loneliness and a desire to belong somewhere. Being a young adult is this weird time when you’re not a kid any more, but you don’t quite feel like an adult. You’re a kidult, and it can be hard to fit in. Friends and marriage-prospects are a big deal in this life season, so when those aren’t readily available, it can feel like everything is falling apart. 
When that loneliness hits you and you’re up late at night wondering if you’ll ever find someone who loves and cares about you, remember Jesus’s words here: I am with you always. Every night, I have a prayer of sorts that I tell my son, Copeland: “I love you. Jesus loves you. You’re never alone, and you’re always loved.” That’s my prayer for you, too. You’re never alone and you’re always loved. Embrace those truths as you enter into this season. 
After Jesus shared all these things, He rose up into heaven. The book of Acts tells us that the disciples looked around and wondered at all that had just happened. You’ll probably feel that way, too. But we’re about to celebrate Pentecost in church history, the day that the Holy Spirit showed up in Jerusalem and this group of scared and unsure and doubtful ordinary guys would change the entire course of human history in the name of Jesus. Jesus is inviting you into the same mission, the same story, the same journey as these first eleven. May you wrestle with your doubts, know that you’re never alone, and embrace the mission He has called you to follow.

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