A Letter for the Class of 2011 (or a shameless crib of Philippians)

I have to commend the class of 2011 for their taste. They chose our scripture for today and I can think of few things more appropriate to graduation Sunday than Philippians.  It is some of Paul’s best work; a letter full of joy and hope and love.  It is also a letter of goodbye.

Paul is in prison.  He is clear several times that his trial, and probably his death, are eminent.  So he writes to a people who loved him and supported him–a people he holds in his heart–to give them last things; to say, whether i see you again or not,remember this, hold in to these things.

So, if i may be so bold, I’d like to offer a letter for our graduates, in the Spirit–and occasionally  the words– of Paul.

From the Chapelwood family,  servants of Christ, to the graduates of 2011 as God guides you into the world.

We love you. We watched you grow up, some over the last 4 years some, all your lives. We worried over you and prayed over you. We’ve been blessed to see God in you.

Though sad to see you go, we know a good work is going on in you. And we know God, who began it, leads you in to the world now to complete it. Hold us in your heart.  God knows we will always hold you in ours.

We pray your love will overflow.  More and more each day, let love guide you to grow in knowledge and wisdom.  Learn from it what truly matters in life.

That isn’t easy.     Even in the church, where we are to glorify Christ, sometimes rivalries creep in, factions develop.  Sometimes when we disagree, we do it badly.  We know we’ve shown you that beloved, and we’re sorry.  If you were hurt by it, forgive us.  Try to see only, how much we wanted you to know Jesus.  Remember us proclaiming Christ in many ways, and rejoice in that.

Remember and outdo us.  Live lives worthy of the gospel of Christ. Make us proud whether we are there to see it  or not.

If there is any encouragement, any love or counsel we can give you as you go, it is this: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit. In humility treat others as better than yourselves. Don’t look to your own interests, but to the interests of others. In short See the world as Jesus saw it.

Hopefully we taught you that.  So many people supported you here.  We played games, made crafts, taught Sunday school and choir.  We laughed we preached, we built wheel chair ramps and painted houses, all so you would know the love of Christ.  Take charge of that faith.  Own it, contemplate it, work it out with the honor and dedication it deserves.  God is at work in you, every good thing you do springs from there.

Never forget that, and always, always, rejoice in the Lord.  Like Paul, you may have great success in life. Like Paul, you may lose everything. But If you gain Christ, it is worth it. If you learn to hold fast in the Spirit, it is worth it.  If you experience and share the love of God it    Is   Worth it.

None of us is perfect.  But as you work through the stages of your life, don’t waste time on regrets.  Leave temptations behind you, forget the roads not taken, strain forward to the kingdom God has in store.

True, not everyone lives like this, today.  You will meet many people whose minds are set on earthly things; they glory in shameful deeds, their God is greed, and their end is destruction.

But we look to Christ, who is our glory and our end.

Therefore, graduates rejoice, Rejoice, REJOICE in the Lord always; and again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone.

Know that God is with you always. Do not worry about anything, but take everything to God in prayer. Offer your joys and concerns; though you may not understand everything, the peace of God, come to your heart and mind.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Live the lessons you learned here.

We are so   very   proud of you and– though this isn’t the last time we’ll see you– we’ll miss you while your gone.  Go with the peace of God.  Find joy, find love. Be who you were meant to be. And remember, you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

May God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his richness. To God be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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