To the Word

Reflections on the call to live by the Word of God

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Location: Mud Creek, Tennessee, United States

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Thoughts on Graduation

The idea of graduation has been a big part of my life these few months. For one thing, I’ve finished my graduate studies at Harding University Graduate School of Religion and moved full-time into the work for which I’ve been preparing---serving the people of God and proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. As I look back over the past four years I am deeply grateful to God for allowing me to train for this work, and for the saints at New York Avenue Church of Christ for supporting me and my family financially. Now it’s time to put into practice what I’ve learned.

For another thing, watching my own first-born son finish high school has put graduation in an entirely different light. This past May Milton Jr. marched out onto on the same field, wearing the same-colored cap and gown, and received an almost identical diploma, right down to the name, as I had done twenty-four years earlier. An overwhelming range of emotions have filled me as I’ve watched my son turn eighteen and graduate into adulthood. I suppose for the graduates themselves, there is a feeling that the whole world is opening up to them, that possibilities for the future are vast, both in what they can do and how long they have to do it. And of course they are right. This Spring on Blankenship Field, new graduates celebrated their own successful journey through childhood and entry into the vast possibilities of adulthood. From the hill overlooking the field, I was overwhelmed with how quickly twenty-four years can pass, and how short our lives on earth really are.

And that brings to mind the final “graduation” each of us faces. For Christians, the briefness of life is bearable because we know that this life is not all there is. Those redeemed through the blood of Jesus Christ have a glorious inheritance awaiting us in heaven (Eph 1). In a certain sense our lives here are a training ground for heaven. How we live, and whom we trust, determines whether or not our future will be inconceivably bleak or bright. As Paul told the Romans, “to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life” (Rom 2:7). When Paul faced his own death, he had the assurance that no matter how short this life may be, the one awaiting God’s people is eternal and glorious: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Tim 4:7,8).
In the brief time since my family came to New York Avenue, several of our number have finished the race. Many more have gone before. While we mourn their passing, we who are in Christ rejoice in the glorious inheritance laid up for them--and for us. We know that if we abide in God, when we stand before him “we may have confidence and not shrink in shame at his coming” (1 John 2:28).

It seems that for those who are prepared, whether in high school, graduate school or life, graduation is less about endings than beginnings.

Copyright 2004, New York Avenue Church of Christ


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