FROM THE PASTOR
The 2021 graduation season has now run its course. It seems to start in the colleges and universities of the Northeast and work its way down into the lower levels of education in the Southwest.
I remember when students only graduated from high school and college. Now they graduate from pre-school, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school, junior high, high school, junior college, college and graduate school. I think that the robe and diploma industry has successfully exploited a marketing opportunity. I don’t hear the students complaining about extra cards, gifts or recognition.
I decided to check Webster and see the meaning behind the word. Here is what he says. “A graduate is someone who has completed a course of training in some particular line and acquired proficiency in it. To graduate is to be recognized in this standing.”
Seen this way the pre-school graduate has learned to stand in line with other children, wait for his turn to speak, give the right sign to go to the bathroom, and eat lunch out of a paper bag or plastic box. The junior high graduate had demonstrated proficiency in finding his way from class to class and adjusting to a variety of teachers, along with a moderate level of academic achievement. The college graduate is supposed to have mastered a rigorous course of specialized education in a selected field.
The root idea of graduation is to pass by degrees from one condition to another. Yellow can be graduated to orange by slowly adding red. A laboratory scale is a graduated measuring device. Chemistry labs and kitchen cupboards have graduated containers that mark the amount of their contents. Graduation fundamentally has to do with progression.
So, it seems that life should be a continuing series of graduations. Fortunately we don’t wear sweaty robes and funny hats for most of them. By God’s grace and our hard work we graduate from what we were to what we should be. Children progress from innocence to accountability. This is a graduation with far reaching consequences. But, it is only the beginning. We continue to progress from naiveté to knowledge, weakness to strength, failure to mastery, selfishness to love.
Some graduations are natural. Progressing from infant size to adult size happens pretty much on its own. Some graduations are supernatural. Only God’s power can lift anyone from spiritual death into eternal life.
Our lives should be marked by progression. If we aren’t progressing, we are probably dying. When we aren’t graduating, we are failing. The material part of our being reaches its peak and refuses to go any farther. There is very little we can do about that. The spiritual and emotional parts of our being do not have this limitation. We can continue to graduate into greater spiritual maturity.
We can progress into greater relational sensitivity. We can become more like Christ each day of our life. In Philippians 3:14 the Apostle Paul shares his plan. “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He was pressing on to be ready for the graduation from this world to the next.
That is the really significant graduation. This life is only the entry way into an eternal experience. Passing the border into the heavenly city is the big event. New robes will be issued, awards will be handed out, testing will be completed and an eternal celebration will begin.
I wonder if that will actually be our final graduation. Will there be graduations in heaven? Will we live in a steady state of perfection, or will we continue to progress in understanding and experience? After we hear “Well done”, will we advance in ways we can’t imagine now? There will always be more to learn about God.
That is an interesting topic for speculation that will have to wait for another time when we have nothing more pressing at hand. Right now we need to be getting ready for graduation.