May is the time for graduations from college and high school. In my church this week we recognized our high school graduates during morning worship. We asked them to come forward and stand around the baptismal font. My husband, Bob, was given the opportunity to talk to them about God’s faithfulness. Here is what he said:
Many of you have plans for next year – some of you may not. Even if you have plans they won’t always work out the way you intended. There will be times when you are facing a difficult situation and you just don’t see a clear path. We’ve all been there. Sometimes it might seem like minor stuff like an exam or a boyfriend or girlfriend problem. But it might be something a lot bigger than that. King Jehoshaphat was looking at the destruction of the people of Israel – that’s pretty big. We read about it in 2 Chronicles 20.
The Kings of Ammon and Moab were converging on Jerusalem and the Israelites clearly did not have enough of an army to mount a serious defense. Jehoshaphat knew they were in serious trouble so he told all the people to fast and gathered them from all over in the temple court – he stood up in the middle of them and prayed to God. And he prayed.
He started out by reminding God of who he is – he said “aren’t you the God who is in heaven? Aren’t you such a great God that no one can withstand you? Didn’t you bring us here to this land?” Then he laid out the problem: the Ammonites and Moabites are coming and we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us.” Then he said a line, which has stuck with me for a long time: “Lord we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” Actually, it is another translation that I remember better – “we don’t know what to do, but our eyes are fixed on you.”
That’s the first thing I’d like you to remember. When in doubt, turn to God. You can’t lose when your eyes are fixed on God.
God’s answers are not always miraculous, they’re not always immediate and they’re not always the way we would want them to be. But God does answer us. Soon after Jehoshaphat prays this prayer a man stands up with a word from the Lord for Jehoshaphat and for the people. His name is Jehaziel.
He said, “Listen, people of Israel – this is what the Lord is saying to you! Do not be discouraged because of this vast army for the battle is not yours, but God’s.” He then gives some specific instructions on how they are to lay in wait for the army and ambush them but then he comes back around to this same theme: Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.”
You’re at the end of your final year of high school. Many of us have watched you and cared for you since you were baptized here at this font many years ago. For others of you, you came to us after being baptized somewhere else and we rejoiced when your family joined the family here at 14th St. We’re standing here by this font because this is an important place – this is the place that tells you who you are – it tells all of us who we are. We are baptized people, called by God. You might be sticking around. You might be leaving us for a time – maybe for a long time, but you never leave the promises of God sealed to you in your baptism.
We want to remind you of that. We want to remind you that you always have a place here at 14th St because we love you. But more importantly you always have the promises of God. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out and face tomorrow and the Lord will be with you.”
Each graduate was then presented with a blanket from our church. We began doing this a few years ago and the congregation really enjoyed it so we’ve kept it up. Blankets for Seniors has even ended up in our budget! What do you do to recognize the graduates in your congregation?