Educators call it a commencement. Students call it a celebration.
They are both right.
It takes years of time, treasure, testing and tedium to give and to gain an education. For every hour a teacher spends in a classroom, there are many more hours spent in preparing lessons, grading exams and papers, and continuing their own education. Students fare no better. Every course means reading, homework, study, projects, papers, and exams. It’s not enough to say you’re educated; students have to demonstrate they know, understand, and can apply their knowledge over a course of years that eventually comes to day when they decorate their hats, receive a heartfelt well-done, say their farewells, and walk into our future with pride, gratitude, relief, pomp and circumstance.
Been there. Done that.
Some commencements have been quiet and respectful, while others have been raucous and joyful. There were speeches filled with visions for a brighter future. There were warnings of the challenges ahead. Many wise words were shared. Together, they told the truth that an education is learning how to learn, and that the only people who know all they need to know are buried in cemeteries; so don’t let this ending be your ending, let this ending be your beginning.
Easter works that way.
When Jesus rises from the dead, a tomb is left empty, and forever filled with Christ working good in the world: Mary Magdalene finds a risen Jesus tending a garden. Cleopas sees the risen Christ in the breaking of the bread. Peter hears the risen Lord giving him work to do. Forty days after Easter, the disciples are told to wait for the Spirit who will launch them on a mission to carry Christ to the world. Ten days later, Pentecost came, and the church began the work of making disciples of Jesus Christ that goes on to this day.
Ministry works that way.
In a few weeks, I’ll be retiring. We bought a house. Our moving date and last Sunday is set. We’re beginning to pack. My time with Mt. Zion Church is coming to an end, but our life of following Christ as makers of disciples will go on. Ministry is more than a job; it’s a calling that is the life of every follower of Christ. A disciple of Christ who is gifted to serve will find joy in serving others in the name of Christ, just as President Carter, who is gifted to teach, continue to teach a Sunday School Class as time and health allow. The end of one season of ministry always leads to another, because when Christ is our life, working with Christ is the always a good way to live the day.