Dear Friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus  Christ. Amen.

It may come as a surprise to our high school graduates- but all men and women live with dreams- even their parents.  Now, you may think that dreams are only words offered to high school graduates and over the next weeks you will hear plenty of these sentiments spoken and written in cards, hopefully with large checks. Phrases like stick to your dreams, dream dreams, and let your dreams become a reality. You may not be aware of it, but we all have dreams that color our judgement of the past, our understanding of the present, and our decisions for the future.  Yes, and your parents have had their dreams as well.

In spite of your energy and best intentions, you will discover over the course of life that many of your dreams will just fade away.  You wake up one morning, and you realize that the University is not going to award you the research grant that you had longed for.  You’re never going to become wealthy or captivatingly beautiful.  You’re not going to sign a pro-hockey contract at age 50.  Your life’s work may make it into the local neighborhood newspaper, but your face will never adorn the cover of Time magazine.

The odd thing is that we don’t spend a lot of time sadly dwelling and thinking about these lost dreams.  Looking back, you may not even remember when that dream became so unimportant.  You simply lost interest and let them go.  And that was enough.  Letting go allowed you to move on in a new direction and discover God’s wondrous presence in the ordinary gifts of life and in the ordinary hours of the day.

Still, regardless of your age, dreams play an important role in inspiring and challenging men and women how to act and take on life’s challenges.  Harriet Tubman, abolitionist and humanitarian wrote, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”   Even the imaginative mind of Walt Disney dared to write,  “You can design and create and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” “ Perhaps, not so surprisingly, the military tactician and diplomat Colin Powell said, “A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”

The Apostle Paul had a dream. Together with his three travelling companions, Silas, Timothy and Luke, they travelled to the Jewish communities in modern-day Turkey where he had together with Barnabas gathered the charter members of these congregation.  Through their visits they were being strengthened and growing in number. And so Paul thought that his ministry would simply continue as his life work. But surprisingly, we read that Paul and his companions were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach in the Roman Territory of Turkey called Asia. Instead, the Spirit was directing Paul away from the large cities he thought would have great potential. No doubt, Paul was wondering why the Holy Spirit would lead this faithful band away from what seemed to be such a good, biblical, efficient, and godly work. But God’s ways are not our ways.

My friends, that is an important insight for all of us to embrace early in life. Our dreams are sometimes determined as much by the closing of doors as by the opening of them. That is certainly what Paul discovered.  In the difficult times, when it seems all his dreams had been dashed, he needed to trust God and wait patiently. For whenever God closes a door, you need to be curious and discover where he has opened something new to you.

The four bewildered travelers stood at the port of Troas wondering where God was leading them next. There, “during the night, Paul had a vision: there stood a man of Macedonia pleading with him and saying, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’”  Paul’s vision in Troas suddenly made clear all the varied promptings and drawings of his journey.  God’s dream was greater than any Paul  could imagine on his own. This was the door that God had opened to him. The faith of Christ was to pass from Asia to Europe, and the cry, “Come over and help us,” was a call to the whole western world. As Luke would write, “When he had seen the vision, we immediately tried to cross over to Macedonia being convinced that God had called us to proclaim the good news to them.”

Dear graduates, I am not sure what vision God has for your life, but let me offer you three words of counsel for the years ahead. Be patient, be positive, and be prepared.

Let us consider the first word- be patient.  There is no doubt that the four disciples were anxious as they were waiting in Troas for some direction, but still they believed in the power of prayer and the Holy Spirit. I am reminded of the young woman whose car stalled at a stoplight.  She tried to get it started, but nothing would happen.  The light turned green, and there she sat embarrassed and holding up traffic.  The car behind her could have gone around, but instead the driver added to her embarrassment by laying on the horn.  After another desperate attempt to start her car, the young woman got out of her car and walked back to the honking driver.  The man rolled down his window in surprise.  “Tell you what,” she said.  “You go start my car, and I’ll sit back here and honk the horn for you.”

As graduates, you will be urged to rush to act, and you will be encouraged to sprint to catch your dreams.  You will be invited to live and learn with sacrifice.  At your first class reunion, five, ten, twenty years from now, you will be expected to state boldly how everything fell into place for you, and to describe your path to success.  And if you can’t, you will be lead by your acquaintances to the fearful judgment that your dreams have passed you by.  My friends, don’t be afraid- be patient.  For if you live with God’s dream, he will empower you with his Holy Spirit, and new and greater dreams will be offered to you. 47 years ago, when I walked across the auditorium stage of Austin High School, I could have never dreamed the life that was to unfold.  I pray that by being patient, you will discover God’s wonderful dream for you as well.

My second word of counsel is to be positive.  I know you have many dreams for your life, and hopefully, these dreams will serve you well.  But part of God’s dream for you is that your life will be a positive, living witness of Christ’s presence in the world.  Mind you, there will be many who will tell you to abandon the Christian faith of your parents. They believe that the Christian faith is nothing more than a set of rules to ruin a perfectly good time. You may be tempted like Mark Twain to view the Church and your faith as excess baggage best left behind.  Twain, however, wryly wrote, “When I was 17 years old, my father was the most ignorant man in the world.  But when I turned 22 years, I was surprised to discover how much he had learned in five years.”  Yes, there is something to be said about the faith of your parents.

A father was approached by his small son who told him proudly, “I know what the Bible means!” His father smiled and replied, “What do you mean, you ‘know’ what the Bible means?” The son replied, “I do know!” “Okay,” said his father.  “So, son, what does the Bible mean?” “That’s easy, Daddy. It stands for ‘Basic Information Before Leaving Earth.’”

Graduates, be discerning with your faith- search again for the core values so that you may remain a positive witness of God’s dream for you and the world.  Hold to your ideals, and simply put, don’t lie, cheat or steal. Have that dream — and go for it! But you too, may need to review your “Basic Information Before leaving Earth.” I pray that by being positive, you will discover God’s wonderful dream for you as well.

Finally, my third word of counsel is simply- be open and prepared.  It’s interesting that God didn’t open the doors to Greece and the Western world to Paul and his little band of fellow travelers first.  That was to be the final dream and destination. They needed to begin with the places that were closer to home, places they understood and communities they could embrace as their own.

As you are preparing for the future, do your own important work now in of staying in touch.  No matter the distance, hold tight to your parents, your sisters and brothers, and all your family. Remember who ran up to your school the art project you forgot at home, but don’t expect them to drive to Maine or Massachusetts to do the same next year.  Be positive in your reflections on the past and your attitude to the future. Be open to God’s dream for you, in the relationships that are nearest to you. And keep in touch with your other greatest supporters, your friends.

Dear 2024 graduates, I hope and pray that by being open and prepared, you will discover that God has wonderful dream for your life your life- far beyond anything you can envision now. Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.