June 8, 2003
Good afternoon, and welcome to Graduation Day at Immanuel. It’s a special day for all of us connected with this church and school. Of course this day is important to all of you graduates, because it marks a milestone in your lives. A high school diploma is required for many jobs; it is essential for further education. This day also marks the end of your formal education here at Immanuel. Graduation Day at Immanuel is also important to your parents, your friends and relatives, your teachers and your underclassmen. All of us are proud of your achievements and have gathered here to ask God’s blessings upon your adult lives. The celebration of your graduation rightfully belongs here, in God’s house, where we thank Him together with you for all of His blessings.
This Graduation Day—the 40th graduation of Immanuel Lutheran High School—is significant to the members and friends who support the church and school through offerings, volunteer work, and prayer. This day is also very special to all of the people of Immanuel, because it marks the completion of another year of God’s extravagant grace to our church and school. Your graduation is tangible proof that the Lord has blessed the work done here. I have had the distinct privilege of working with you over the past 10 years. One of the goals of a Christian educator is to remind students placed in his care of the Lord’s goodness to them. The Lord’s goodness to you began in the most important way when you were baptized into Christ Jesus! What a miracle baptism is, that you and I should be adopted into the family of God, and made members of an eternal nation with Jesus as our King! Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called the children of God! (I John 3:1)
The goodness of the Lord is very evident in the blessings of your parents. They taught you the Word of God, brought you to church, and provided for a Christian education here at Immanuel. A Christian education is the best gift your could give you, because the spiritual components of a Christian education are meant to assist you through life, and guide you into eternity. Have you ever thought how different your life would be if you didn’t know about Jesus and His love? Would you have the comfort of the resurrection when a loved one dies? Would you be able to take problems in stride if you didn’t know that “all things work together for good to those who love God”? (Romans 8:28) Would you be able to see the majesty and the beauty of the Lord in His creation—if you didn’t know the world around us was designed by God and still controlled by Him? How would you regard yourself, if you didn’t know that Jesus knows you by name, and that the God who created you knows absolutely everything about you. In Psalm 139 we read, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down, and are aquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high I cannot attain unto it.” (Psalm 139: 1-6) “How precious also are Your thoughts toward me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with You.” (Psalm 139: 17,18) And how would you view your future on earth if you didn’t have the promise of God mentioned in Jeremiah: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
And finally, how would you consider your eternal future if you were not certain of the hope of eternal life in Christ? Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. And where I go you know, and the way you know” (John 14:2-4). That you have the answers to all of those questions is the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit! The foundation on which you have built your lives thus far is Jesus Christ.
What advice and encouragement can I offer on this special day in your lives? Your foundation is solid, and for that we thank God with you! But now you will be leaving us, having graduated from Immanuel Lutheran High School. Will you continue to establish God’s Word as the chief priority in your lives? We pray that you will! There’s that stereotypical scenario of the young Christian, who after confirmation drops out of church life and faith life altogether, because he or she knows enough about salvation in Christ. Yet most learned people of our day would agree that the more you know, the more you realize that there is so much more to know. The key to destroying your spiritual life is to do absolutely nothing: Simply ignore God’s Word and the hearing of it, and eventually you will become spiritually bankrupt.
I know of one of my friends who went to Immanuel from kindergarten through twelve grade, but dropped out of spiritual life so completely, that eventually this person couldn’t even reference John 3:16. That’s sad. I also remember seeing an ad for a church. The headline went like this: “Will it take six strong men to bring you back into the church again?” Below the text was a picture of pallbearers carrying a casket up the steps of a church.
So, I encourage you, I beg you to spend time with God’s Word. You receive the greatest benefits and blessings when you hear the Scriptures and praise God with other believers. Fellow Christians need to see you at worship - it has been a very gratifying experience for me to see you at church on a regular basis. You have encouraged me in my faith as I see you praying, singing, taking the Sacrament, and meditating.
Secondly, honor your father and your mother. I know that as young people we tend to think that once we’re out of the house and on our own, the Fourth Commandment doesn’t apply to us anymore, because now we don’t have to live by our parents’ rules. But the definition of the word “honor” is not limited to obeying and behaving! Now is the time to give them HONOR. When you were an infant, your parents fed, bathed, and took care of every one of your needs. The day may come when you will reciprocate and show them honor when they feel like they have none.
Thirdly, put some money away. In our “live-for-the-moment” society, we tend toward spending what we make as we make it, or before. God would have us be good stewards of our money. Save a small part of your income for emergency needs and for your retirement. When I think of the topic of earthly possessions, I am reminded of what Martin Luther once said, “I have tried to keep things in my own hands, and have lost them all. But what I have given into God’s hands, that I still possess.”
Finally, we commend you for all of the Christian service you have performed on our behalf in the name of Christ, both individually and collectively as a very dynamic class. Thank you for serving as Sunday School teachers, Vacation Bible School teachers, working with the Traveling VBS, going to Africa on a Mission Helper trip, for being ushers, for being part of the Ambassadors program, serving as student aids to our teachers and classrooms, and offering your time and talents in the High School and Church Choirs. Your kind and usually -quiet Christian demeanor in class, in the halls of the school, and in the community has proved to be a good reflection on Immanuel and its mission. Your conduct has been a good example for the younger students, and you have shown them respect and love, and have modeled the same toward the faculty. Speaking on behalf of the faculty and staff, you have made our work enjoyable and gratifying. You have encouraged us with kind words and actions. In all these things you have encouraged us in our faith. And so, your graduation is also an encouragement to continue this special work of Christian education on a K-12 basis. It is our prayer that you will always “trust in the Lord with all your heart,” that “in all your ways you will acknowledge Him.” We know that He will direct the paths of your lives. Like a field of sunflowers, whose blossoms face the rising sun in the east, and follow the sun on its course during the day, and face the sun as it sets in the west, it is our prayer that you will continue to follow the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our living Lord and Savior.
Congratulations on all of your labors among us, and may God bless you richly.
Go in peace. Serve the Lord with gladness. Amen.