It is that time of year. The time when graduation invitations compete with gardening catalogues for space in our mailbox. With each invitation comes the challenge of selecting the perfect gift – a gift that reflects the interests and achievements of the graduate, yet communicates a larger vision for their future. What will you get for the graduate in your life? Graduates, what gifts do you hope to receive? When I graduated, the most popular gifts were Cross Pen and Pencil sets, inspirational books, written especially for the graduation gift market by positivity-power gurus, and the perennial favorite of graduates, cash. I appreciated the kindness of the givers – especially those who gave money – but none of the gifts challenged me with a vision for the next step.
Many graduation gifts are congratulatory, but not visionary. Graduation is often celebrated as the last step and not the next step. But the word graduation inherently anticipates the next step, which is why it is sometimes called ‘commencement.’ Like a mark on a graduated cylinder, graduation is the line that marks the beginning of the next stage of life. What is now behind was preparation for what is ahead. The entire focus is on what is next. What will our gifts communicate about the next step? What vision will our gifts paint for our graduates, for their future, their identity and their way of life?
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew we encounter a remarkable graduation of sorts. Jesus’ time with his disciples has come to an end. Their three years watching him, learning from him, loving him, and following him in his earthly ministry are giving way to what is next – making disciples of the nations by going, baptizing and teaching in the power of the Holy Spirit which he sends. The disciples have graduated from the rabbinic school of the Lord Jesus Christ. They no longer call him Teacher. Now he is Lord. Their language has radically changed and their lives are about to radically change as well.
Jesus has summoned them to a mountain in Galilee to receive their commission, to graduate to the next step in their calling to follow Him. They were moving out and into uncharted territory, leaving the comforts of the homes and towns they knew so well without the visible presence of the teacher who had guided them every day for three years. Jesus calls them to a mountain top to give them a vision, not of what they can potentially do if they work hard enough, but a vision of what He will do by working in and through them. Jesus gives them gifts – a vision, an identity, and a way of life – that will turn the world upside down.
Join us this Sunday, April 28, as we examine Matthew 28:16-20 and consider the vision, identity and way of life that Christ gives us as He turns the world upside down through the work of His Church in the world. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.