The last several months have been unlike anything that we have seen in most of our lifetimes. We have socially distanced, washed repeatedly, isolated ourselves in our home and adjusted to all sorts of protocols that have never been forced on us before. Certainly, the last several months have seen all sorts of changes, including the move from the classroom to the virtual world for our schools.
Our oldest grandson, Connor, has been one of the high school seniors who have had to complete their studies in the virtual environment and he has been denied the normal parties, events and celebrations that normally accompany the final semester and completion of high school.
Instead, our daughter, Kristin, and her three playgroup friends, who have been together for almost twenty years, arranged a graduation event for their four seniors who graduated this year. These kids have known each other since their birth and so it was special to the group to throw an appropriate socially distanced gathering. There was a rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner, speeches from the graduates, comments from the four mothers and a full bodied acknowledgment of the accomplishment of completing high school. All four families celebrated together. It was quite a deal!
Then yesterday, there was a parade of cars with the graduates who received their diplomas from administrators as they passed through the football stadium. Another “out of the ordinary” event more reminiscent of Homecoming than graduation.
Finally, today there was a local broadcast of the speeches from the Superintendent, Principal, Class President and others. In fact, each graduate had pre-recorded their image and name so that the entire community could celebrate with them. I have to admit that they did a great job with the limitations that have put on all of us during this pandemic.
I graduated from high school fifty years ago – in June, 1970. In all honesty, this weekend’s events were much more interesting and enjoyable than my own graduation way back then! And while the speeches and accolades have remained pretty much the same, the causes and social awareness of these emerging adults seem to be ahead of where we were when we started college.
Sure, we had hippies, draft dodgers, the war in Vietnam, drugs and the race issue. As we celebrate graduation weekend 2020, we are still dealing with racial inequality and riots; and protests are breaking out around the country in response to the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis. It seems that we haven’t made that much progress in the area of social justice after all.
But Connor and his generation are more committed to righting these wrongs than many folks from prior generations. When we graduated, we were challenged to change the world and while this has happened in many areas, such as technology, real work still remains in areas of human equality across the globe. Some progress has been made, but we are far from accepting all groups of people equally.
Jesus was the original one who championed equality. Whether it was the illustration of the Good Samaritan, the gleaning of the crops to feed the hungry, searching for the lost sheep, or even the sacrifice of the widow’s mite, Jesus has been an incredible example of what social justice looks like. We all need to study His example.
The verse for tonight is from Paul’s letter to the Romans. It has remained one of the most used verses during this graduation period. Paul tells us, in Romans 12:20-21, “On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
My encouragement this evening is to challenge the upcoming generations, and Connor in particular, to live out his convictions and continue to promote social justice and equality. My prayer is that we may all maintain our vigilance and encourage our young folks to go out and change the world, just as we were charged with that mandate at our respective graduations, whenever they were. Congratulations, Connor! We love you! Now, continue to follow Jesus, go out and make the world a better place. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…