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Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Graduation cards are important. That’s why my wife Janna doesn’t let me buy them anymore. I am not sure which card she objected to most. “Congratulations on Getting through the Easiest Part of Your Adult Life,” or “Kudos on fulfilling the minimum job requirement.” What’s wrong with a little dose of realism? Now Janna just gives me blank cards hoping that I can find something appropriately pastoral to say.
Since then I have discovered that if you’re celebrating a favorite high school senior’s graduation, and you are wondering what you should write in the card beside a large check with multiple zeros, you can find advice on the internet. Whatever your graduate decides to do next, words of encouragement and happiness are always appreciated. The right words are the perfect way to show how much you care about the next chapter in the graduate’s life. And in case you’re curious, there is also advice on how zero’s should be on that check as well.
I wish there was that much information was available on the internet about greeting cards for Pentecost. Neither Hallmark nor American Greeting cards can even agree on a proper salutation. For most Christians, “Merry Christmas” flows from the lips fairly easily, as does the greeting, “Happy Easter.” But can you imagine clasping a friend’s hand and joyfully wishing, “Peppy Pentecost,” or perhaps, “Have a Spirited Day.” The best sentiment I could find on the internet was this. “Wishing you a beautiful, wonderful and unforgettable Pentecost. May you be blessed by the Holy Spirit with happiness, good health, great fortune and prosperity as you celebrate Pentecost with the people you love.”
I’m sure if there had been card shops at the time the 12 apostles’ parents, and grandparents would have been scouring the shelves for their graduates. The Day of Pentecost was after all a graduation ceremony. For three years Jesus’ disciples had followed in their master’s footsteps and waited for his every word. They had learned from him and each other. Ten days earlier, forty days after their master’s death and resurrection, Jesus had disappeared in the heavens, underscoring that they should wait in the city until they had been clothed with the holy spirit. The twelve had been told to go forth with the certainty of their calling, but stop and wait for the right moment, and in the meantime focus on their future goals. In those ten days, the disciples had felt like many anxious graduates today waiting for their final scores and GPA to be determined. They wanted to get on with the next chapter of life, but they needed to cling to the old and familiar just a while longer.
Pentecost and Graduation, you see, are a lot alike. Pentecost isn’t simply about the mighty wind filling the Upper Room one Sunday morning and then sending the disciples out speaking in new languages. Nor is graduation simply about the gathering of students in a stuffy auditorium, and then pouring them out with giddy excitement afterwards into the world. No, Pentecost is about a change which is brought by the gifts of courage, strength and power which Jesus offers his Church through the Holy Spirit. Graduation is about change as well, and the gifts of wisdom, common sense, and curiosity that have been poured into you.
But I will warn you, not all change is easy. Along the way, you may feel lost about your direction, you may make mistakes, and you may even feel tremendously alone in your decision. That is when you must remind yourself that graduation is a lot like Pentecost. God has given you the gift of his Holy Spirit to carry you through those painful changes in life. No one knew this better than the Apostle Peter, the man who had graduated at the head of his class.
He had once failed miserably and as he stood before the crowds on that Pentecost morning quivering, he remembered being tested seven weeks earlier when a woman questioned him at a fire about Jesus of Nazareth. The cowardly disciple was frightened and scared. Peter lied to save his own skin and denied Jesus. When Jesus was taken from his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane by the Roman soldiers, the other disciples scattered like sheep. But now on Pentecost when Jesus’ disciples were surrounded by a crowd of over three thousand curious and some scoffing onlookers, the disciples had the strength which they had never known before. And Peter, the brawny fisherman, had the courage to proclaim the good news, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” That is what Pentecost graduation is really all about.
Peter and the other disciples suddenly recognized that they were filled with a new power; a new spirit; and a new confidence. And for the first time, they were acting on their own. Before they had always stood under the shadow of Jesus, but now the Holy Spirit had come to guide them. They had been Jesus’ disciples, ever learning and observing. But now that time was over. By the power of the Holy Spirit they had become the apostles, and the work of establishing the church of Christ in the world had begun. That, dear friends, is the same graduation gift that God has given you this day as well.
You may soon be leaving school, leaving home, and leaving this community, but God promises that the gift of his Holy Spirit will never leave you. He will continue to be present in everything you do, and there is still great work to be done in this old world.
It is said that great endings make great beginnings. I am sure it has been written in at least one graduation card. And graduation is a great ending. The same can be said of Pentecost. But like graduation, it is also a great beginning.
So what should I write in your Pentecost Graduation Card? How about this? Class of 2022, congratulations on your graduation. We’re proud of you. Best wishes for your next adventure wherever that may be. May you be blessed with great endings and beginnings. And when you falter and fail, when joy and passion have been overlooked, may God inspire, renew and console you again by the gift of his living spirit. Amen.
Peppy, preppy Pentecost!
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.