Wednesday, May 16, 2012

New Lives

          Seniors, you have come to a milestone in your journey of life, that of graduation from high school. Most of you have made plans for what you will do with the rest of your lives. Some of you have made the choice to continue with your education and will go on to college or university; some of you have made the decision to go to schools that will teach you a trade; and some of you have decided to do other things such as serving our country in the military or finding a job or one of the many other options that have been presented to you by counselors, friends, mentors, or family.
          Most of us like to think we’ve got it all figured out. We know where we’re going and what we’re going to do. And, we don’t need anyone to tell us what to do.
          The people of Israel weren’t any different. They thought they had it all figured out and didn’t need God. It just so happened they didn’t have it figured out.  The Babylonians attacked and defeated their nation. They deported quite a few of the leaders to the city of Babylonia where they were in exile for 70 years.
          Along comes Jeremiah prophesying to them that God has a plan for them, “…plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” 
          Friends, God has plans for you too. The plans He has for you may not be immediately evident to you but at some point in your life you will discover that he indeed has plans for you.
This evening I’m not going to tell you how to make a living but I do want to share with you what I believe God has called all of us to do. That is to service to others. After Jesus had risen from the grave he appeared to Peter and the disciples at the beach along the Sea of Galilee. And this is what the poet Ann Weems wrote in ‘Searching for Shalom’ that he told Peter…
‘He said, “Feed my sheep.” There were no conditions: Least of all, Feed my sheep if they deserve it. Feed my sheep if you feel like it. Feed my sheep if you have any leftovers. Feed my sheep if the mood strikes you…if the economy’s okay…if you’re not too busy…
No conditions…just, “Feed my sheep.” Could it be that God’s Kingdom will come when each lamb is fed? We who have agreed to keep covenant are called to feed sheep even when it means the grazing will be done on our own front lawns.’
Now you’re saying that’s not what I’ve planned for my life. No, this might not be on your list of things that you need to accomplish but friends, it’s on God’s list. You’ve all just completed the first step in God’s plan. And now you’re beginning a new adventure. It’s a blank slate, a clean sheet of paper, a blank computer screen, a new day that awaits you.
‘Born in the light of the Bright and Morning Star, we are new. Not patched, not mended…but new, like a newborn…like the morning…the guilt-blotched yesterdays are gone; there is no looking back; there are no regrets. In our newness, we are free. In the power of God’s continuing creation we are: new shoots from the root of Jesse, new branches from the one true Vine, new songs breaking through the world’s deafness. This then is a new day. New shoots, new branches, new songs, new day…Bathed in the promise of God’s New Creation, we begin!’ Searching for Shalom-Ann Weems
As your take the first steps on this new path you probably have thought about what it is that you’d like to do, what are your gifts, skills, talents. Maybe you’ve been thinking you’d like to do something to make a difference in this world you live in.
The gifts we’ve been blessed with are gifts of hope. ‘Our yearning after God, our hope for a better way creates infinite possibilities to touch the lives of the untouched, to reach the hearts of the unreached, to heal the wounds of the unhealed, to feed the bodies of the unfed, to accept the personhood of the unaccepted, to love the being of the unloved.
Our gifts are gifts of hope; O God, touch, reach, heal, feed, accept, and love us  that we might love one another.’ Searching for Shalom-Ann Weems
Now some of you are dreaming of the day when you’ll be wealthy with all the trappings that the world says make us successful. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is…” “…some of us have mites and some of us have millions and most of us fall somewhere in between. We know it’s our responsibility to give from what we’ve been given, and Jesus made it very clear that it was not the size of the gift, but the size of the giver’s heart that matters. You, O Lord, know our treasures and our hearts. May our hearts swell to the occasion!” Searching for Shalom-Ann Weems
So, are all your plans set in stone? “Is it all sewn up—your life? Is it at this point so predictable, so orderly, so neat, so arranged, so right, that you don’t have time or space for listening for the rustle of angels’ wings or running to stables to see a baby? Could this be what he meant when he said, “Listen, those who have ears to hear…Look, those who have eyes to see?” May we pray that God will give us the humbleness to see into the darkness that surrounds to see the Coming of the Light.”
“Too often our answer to the darkness is not running toward the light but running away. We ought to know by now that we can’t see where we’re going in the dark. But, running away is rampant…separation is stylish: separation from mates, from friends, from self.
Run and tranquilize, don’t talk about it, avoid. Run away and join the army of those who have already run away. When are we going to learn that Peace comes only when we turn and face the darkness? Only then will we be able to see the Light of the world.” Kneeling in Bethlehem-Ann Weems
Good friends, tomorrow is indeed a new day. How are you going to greet it? What are you going to do with the gifts you’ve been blessed with? Who are you going to turn to for advice? Who are you going to trust to talk to about your deepest desires and your worst fears?
My friends, I pray that you will go to the One who has…”plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back …”
Seniors, we all wish you the best there is for your lives. We pray that you will listen to God’s Spirit who lives within you.
I would leave you with one last thought. Know that God loves you and is with you every day, every step that you take. And everyone here loves you and will be holding you in their prayers as you go into this new day.

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