A High School graduate. Wow. That’s going to take a little bit of getting used to for all of us. It’s exciting and frightening all at the same time; for (them) you, (their) your parents, (their) your friends and (their) your family. Trying to figure out what college to attend. Trying to figure out what to do with the rest of your (their) life. When I graduated from High School I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in the next ten minutes, let alone what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. So, I went to college, the first time.
The first time didn’t work out so well academically. I guess you could say I fell in love and dropped out of school. That love part was great but my first attempt at school wasn’t. It was the 60’s, the draft was still in effect and we were fighting in Viet Nam. I didn’t believe in that war but I still believed in our country, so, I enlisted in the Coast Guard. It taught me a skill and it helped me grow up.
No! I’m not suggesting that you enlist in the Coast Guard. Or any other branch of the service for that matter. No! This is just to let you know that while it was a long time ago, I understand some of what you are going through and feeling right now. You’re excited that you are graduating. School has been long and tedious and you can’t wait to get out on your own. You can hardly wait to get started with the rest of your life.
But then that’s the million dollar question isn’t it. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? I had no idea I would be where I am today. I had all kinds of dreams about being in public broadcasting either on TV or Radio. I had all kinds of dreams about being a stunt man in Hollywood or on the stage acting someplace. I had all kinds of dreams of writing the great American Novel and being a professional writer. And one I’ve not told to very many people, I dreamt of being someone like Scaramouche, a character in a Raphael Sabatini novel about the French revolution. Someone who could be a leader and could persuade people to follow with his fiery and exciting words and change the world.
I sit back and marvel at what God has done with all of those dreams. And how each of them has played out in real life. It’s almost like they were characters in the play of my life. It started out as a comical mystery, but soon became a spiritual adventure story, laced with humor and good will.
I guess all of this rambling is two fold in nature. First it’s just one way of letting you know we love you and to let you know that, while the times and conditions have changed, we do have a little understanding of what you’re feeling right now. We’ve all felt it. We’ve gone through many of the stages of life already. We know how scary it can be.
But second, is to let you know that we want to help you; we want to help you succeed. We want you to be the best you can be. And we want to help you be all you can be.
One simple verse this morning from Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV) “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”
As your Pastor and friend, there are a couple of things I’d like each of you to remember. First, I’d like you to remember the “Three Simple Rules” for life and faith which John Wesley laid out for us and of which Bishop Reuben Job reminded us a couple of years ago. I personally think these three simple rules can be used as a pattern for life. I also believe that by living them we can have a Future With Hope. Do you remember them? Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay In Love With God
I. DO NO HARM:
A. Jesus taught us some very important things about doing no harm. As we go through life we’ll have millions of opportunities to make choices about how we treat other people; how we treat friends, family, and everyone else. So, what does it mean to do no harm?
Three simple passages that most of us learned in Vacation Bible School can be your guide.
1. Matthew 7:12 (NRSV) “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.”
2. Luke 6:37 (NRSV) “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven;”
3. Matthew 6:14-15 (NRSV) “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
I firmly believe that if you choose to live a life which intentionally obeys the Golden Rule, is not Judgmental and is filled with Forgiveness that in your faithfulness and obedience, you will come as close to leading a life which Does No Harm as anyone can.
II. DO GOOD:
A. You’ve probably guessed by now that “42” is one of my new favorite movies. It’s an incredible story of courage and faith. And I think the whole movie exemplifies the Wesleyan ideas of Do No Harm and Do Good. But there’s one particular scene which truly points to those very ideas.
After hearing Branch Rickey’s proposal Jackie Robinson asked, “So, you want a player who doesn’t have the guts to fight back?”
To which Branch Rickey answers, “No! I want a player whose got the guts NOT to fight back. People aren’t going to like this. They’re gonna do anything to get you to react. Echo a curse with a curse and they’ll hear only yours. Follow a blow with a blow and they’ll say, ‘The Negro lost his temper.’ Your enemy will be out in force and you cannot meet him on his own low ground. We win with hitting, running, fielding. Only that. We win if the world is convinced that of two things, that you are a fine gentleman and a great baseball player.”
Jackie Robinson said, “You give me a uniform; you give me a number on my back and I’ll give you the guts.”
John Wesley said: “Do all the good you can; By all the means you can; In all the ways you can; In all the places you can; To all the people you can; As long as ever you can.”
We need people with guts like Jackie Robinson, guts to live like Christ in a world which seems increasingly devoid of any Christ-like behavior; guts to Do Good in all situations. Guts enough to Do Good and Do No Harm.
Do Good, that seems pretty straight forward and generic doesn’t it. So, how do we do good?
1. Matthew 22:39 (NRSV) “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Simple, straight forward, Love your neighbor. Well, maybe your neighbor isn’t so loveable. Love them anyway. There is not codicil or asterisk pointing to exceptions. You won’t find a picture of the person down the street who no one gets along with.
2. At the end of the Parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus asks the man who wanted to know who his neighbor was this question: Luke 10:36-37 (NRSV) “Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?” He said, “The one who showed him mercy.” Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”
We’re called to “Go and do likewise.” We’re called to show mercy and understanding in all we do. We’re called to treat everyone as our neighbor. Better yet, treat everyone you meet, both those who are like you and those who are completely unlike you; treat them as if they were Jesus Himself. If you do that you can’t go wrong.
B. To take it just a short step further, you can use your whole life to serve God. We are all called to serve God in some capacity. We’ve all been gifts and abilities which enable us to serve God. We can be in ministry as servants. Or maybe God is calling you into a deeper level of ministry. It doesn’t have to be Ordained Ministry. You don’t have to preach or be ordained to be in ministry; to do what I’m doing, yes. But we need ministers in all areas of life and service. Listen to God’s Call. Do No Harm. Do Good.
III. STAY IN LOVE WITH GOD:
A. As you Stay In Love With God, you open those channels of listening. So what does it mean to Stay In Love With God?
I think there is one verse which sums what Staying In Love With God is all about, Luke 10:27 (NRSV) “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind. . .”
We stay in love with God by keeping God in our heart, mind, soul and strength. The daily Spiritual Disciplines will naturally follow. Prayer, reading Scripture, Worship and fellowship with other Christians will become natural ways in which you express your love for God and experience God’s love for you. Sometimes it’s hard to do when you go off to College or start a family or go into the Service or take that first full time job. But it is very important to your spiritual health and your relationship with God. I believe it is as important as eating and breathing.
So, stay in love with God. Check in daily. Remind yourself of God’s love for you and God’s companionship with you.
In Romans 8:14-17 (NRSV) Paul writes: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. . . When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. . .”
Remember that. You are a child of God and a joint heir with Christ.
B. And when you wrestle with choices, ask yourself: “Does this honor God? Does this prove my love for God or strengthen that relationship?”
When things fall apart and go wrong, and they will; when you feel like you’re all alone, remember what Jesus said in John 16:33 (NIV): “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
One of the reasons for the practicing the spiritual disciplines which help us stay in love with God is so we remember that we are not alone. God is with us. Christ is with us. The Holy Spirit is with us for Comfort, Guidance and Strength.
Do No Harm. Do Good. Stay In Love With God.
Finally, there’s one more thing we would like you to know as you graduate. We love you. We are more than proud of you. We support you. We believe in you. And we are here for you. We will always be here for you. No matter what happens in your life, we will always love you.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” We wait with anticipation and hope for what God will do in your life. Watch.
This is the First Stage of the rest of your life. And we are proud to have been a part of it. We look forward to what God has in store for you. Our advice is simple: Do No Harm, Do Good, Stay In Love With God.
May the blessings of God go with each of you. Bear witness to God’s love and grace in all you do, so that for those to whom love and grace are strangers; may they experience that love and grace in you.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 (NRSV)
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.