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“As You Go”
The Fourth Sunday in Eastertide, Senior Recognition Sunday
As Thomas, Lindley, Michaela, Ben, Zoë, Sydney, Katie, Nevin and Madeleine prepare to close one chapter and open another, I would like to take this opportunity to thank each of them for all the ways they have lifted and blessed this family of faith across the years.
Those of you who are graduating this year have often heard it said that the church has formed and shaped your lives, which is true. But, as surely as the church has formed you, you have formed the church. And, once you open the next new chapter of your lives, Northminster will miss you.
We will miss you. But, in quiet, strong ways, we will also be with you. As you go, from this place to all your other places, there are some things which you have learned in, and from, your church, which will follow you, and be with you, in life’s next new chapter.
For example, across your many years at Northminster, you have learned that, when Jesus was asked what matters most, Jesus said, “What matters most is that we love God with all that is in us, and that we love all other people as we love ourselves.” That will follow you, and stay with you; the north star on your moral compass, the measure for how you live your life, the central standard which Jesus said matters most; loving God with all that is in you, which will help you to be a person of integrity, and loving others as you love yourself, which will help you to be a person of compassion.
Across your years at Northminster, you have also learned that how we use words matters, and that, too, will follow and stay with you. Careful speech is first of all truthful speech; no spinning or lying, no exaggeration or flattery, no speech designed to put down or embarrass anyone. In an increasingly reckless world of boundariless texts and posts, emails and tweets, you have been equipped, by your church, to set, for others, an example of careful speech. You learned that, in here, and you know how to live that, out there.
Across the years, here at Northminster, you have also learned the importance of both kindness and courage; the kindness and courage it takes to sit down with and stand up for the same people Jesus would sit down with and stand up for; kindness and courage which will follow you as you go.
Finally, you have learned, across a lifetime here at Northminster, that, no matter where, no matter what, God is with you. As the sentence at the center of today’s psalm says, “Even though we walk through the darkest valley, we will fear no evil, for God is with us.” As you go, hold that truth deep in your heart. It will not protect you from every sorrow, but it will support you in every sorrow; the deep and abiding assurance that God is with you and for you, giving you the strength you need to go through what you did not get to go around.
Today’s psalm ends, of course, with that familiar promise, “Surely goodness and mercy will follow us all the days of our lives.” Which is true. And, we will too. God’s goodness and mercy will follow you as you go, and, so will we, your Northminster family of faith; following you all the days of your life; showing up in the muscle memory of your soul, which, in some critical moment of decision, might give you the courage and clarity you need to do the right thing . . . . Or, in some painful moment of failure, the grace you need, to let go of the guilt and start over . . . . Or, in some heartbreaking moment of sadness and loss, the strength you will need to go through what you did not get to go around.
“Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,” said the one who wrote this morning’s psalm, “And I will live in the house of the Lord my whole life long.”
Yes, and, also, the house of the Lord will live in you, too; your Northminster family of faith, with you and for you, deep down inside you, as you go. Amen.