May 09, 2012 - Graduation time will soon be upon us and for graduates everywhere it is an exciting season of celebration. It's a time to experience the satisfaction of accomplishment and to anticipate the future.
Yet this year in the midst of stressful economic times there is also some worry and concern about how things will work out, and we know they will probably be different from the way they used to be.
Above all graduation is a time of transition and there is an abundance of advice from many sources about life and how to live it.
Of all the wise and helpful words that can be shared at graduation time, I believe there is none more basic nor more easily forgotten in the busyness of life, than something I learned even before I "graduated" from preschool. You probably even know the song. It goes like this, "Jesus loves me this I know..."
I am loved and accepted by God no matter what career path I take; no matter how much I achieve or how much money I make; no matter if I go to college or go to work; no matter who I marry or if I marry, and no matter how things go during these tough times.
These simple words, "Jesus loves me this I knowÖ" assure me that God will love and forgive me no matter what mistakes I make along the journey of life or what difficulties I encounter. And above all, they let me know that God desires to have a loving relationship with me now and forever. When all else fails, God is faithful and will always be there for me.
When I base my life on this fundamental trust in God's goodness and grace I am free from having to always prove my worth as a person. I am free to mold my life around God's will and purpose regardless of the economic climate, and to follow Jesus' example. I am free to love God and others (the Great Commandment, Mark 12:28-31). I am free to try new things and to fail and learn and be all that I can be.
And the best news of all is that I am free to do this not to get God to love and accept me, but because he already does.
God never promises we will have an easy life if we stay close to him and follow his way, but he does promise that our life will have purpose and depth, and that we will not be alone. That is enough for me!
For the past few years I have shared with the graduates at Calvary Lutheran a word of blessing and challenge.
I have adapted it from something I found called simply "A Franciscan Blessing." For me it captures what is different about a life lived with and for Jesus. It is about so much more than just being "religious."
It is a different way of going about life that goes deeper. It is not the easy way, but I believe it is God's way, and I hope you will be open to it no matter what season of life you are in.
May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart.
May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace.
May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.
May God bless you with the assurance of his amazing grace, that you may always know that nothing can ever separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Amen.
The Rev. Jonathan Heierman is pastor of Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church