Year 12 Graduation is such a significant event. We gather as a combined High School student body with the members of our wider school community. For our parent and carers this may be your first child to graduate from school. I know there are a number of families where today marks the graduation of your last child and the culmination of a relationship with our School that spans decades.
My message today, Year 12, is going to centre on ‘who you are and who you can be’.
We can read in the Bible, a letter the Apostle Paul wrote (about 2000 years ago) to church in a city called Corinth. To a group of people who loved and trusted Jesus, but were struggling with a whole bunch of issues, including how to live well together as Christians.
Paul wrote this,
“And yet I will show you the most excellent way… And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13
I want to start by saying – you are already, all of you, people of faith, hope and love.
Faith, hope and love are not exclusively Christian. All people exercise faith, hope and love. What differs is:
* What we place faith in
* What we build our hope on
* What the focus of our love happens to be, and how this shapes how we live our lives.
You are all hard wired to be people of faith, hope and love. The reason being that you are all made in God’s image. This sets you apart from the rest of creation, all other things. You have been made to represent and reflect God’s character and gives you value. You have value:
* When you are feeling strong and confident
* When you feel weak and uncertain
* In your differences and similarities
* When we are achieving great things and when struggling to just live your life in ordinary ways.
Your value comes not from your achievements or what sort of person you are, rather your value is given to you by God who created you.
We are all people of faith, of hope and love – because God has created us all in his image.
But it is our natural inclination is to mistrust God and rely on ourselves. That is where things in life become unravelled.
Paul points us to faith.
The loud voice of atheism declares – “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence.” (Dawkins)
I would agree that some expressions of faith match this.
We all exercise faith of this kind at times. Consider the building around us now and the faith you have exercised (without thinking) in assuming it will not collapse on top of us:
* Who here has met the architect or the builder?
* Who here looked over the engineer’s plans to check that the load over our heads is held up?
* Who was here when it was built? Stood with the brick layers as they raised these walls?
* Who has checked the correct amount of foundations were laid
* Who sitting here actually considered these things as you walked in and took your seat?
The answer is no none of us thought about this or checked the evidence. We exercised faith that the building would remain standing throughout this assembly.
You see we naturally exercise faith in things around us without a great deal of thought.
It is the same when we climb into a car to drive home or eat fast food prepared from ingredients you did not choose and prepared by hands you did not wash.
We all exercise faith without evidence from time to time.
However, I actually want to reject the quote of the atheist.
Faith is not an excuse to ignore evidence. Rather it is an invitation to engage with the evidence. To look and read and think.
Something worth your faith will stand up to investigation. Given the opportunity to investigate.
We could investigate and find the evidence for our faith in this building:
* Check the plans
* Talk to builders and engineers
* Investigate and inspect the footings and framework.
When it comes to the Christian faith, I urge you to investigate the evidence – put aside presumption and bias and investigate carefully who Jesus is, what he accomplished in his death and resurrection and what it means for you personally.
Those of you who are Christian, continue to investigate your faith. Know what you believe and why you believe it.
Be prepared, for each of us will be required to give an account for where we have placed our faith and why.
Secondly Paul identified hope.
Hope is not the desire for something good for the future but the expectation that it will happen.
Hope is sometimes linked to perseverance, grit or resilience – the capacity to bounce back.
These are terms that are commonly used in society. The common message we hear in the world is to hope in yourself and rely on your own strength.
The world’s understanding of resilience has been described by the following anonymous quote.
“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because its trust is not on the branch but in it’s own wings. Always believe in yourself.”
A nice message for when things are going well. However, the reality is that self-belief alone will never be enough to save you from everything you must face.
The book of Matthew, Chapter 7 records a story that Jesus told:
24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. 26 But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
Self belief alone is like house built on sand. Without a strong foundation life can be unsteady and lead to destruction.
Year 12, take careful note of what you are building your life on.
Hope arises from confidence, ensure you place your confidence in what is strong, what will last, what is unshakable.
You can have confidence and place your hope on Christ. Our personal strengths will have highs and lows. But Christ will not shift no matter what. You can expect great things when your hope is built on Christ.
That leaves love.
Take the time to look at 1 Corinthians 13 and you will see Paul spends a lot time writing about what love looks like and nothing about what love feels like.
Authentic and long-lasting love is found in action not in emotion. Remember no feeling lasts forever (both the good feelings and the bad ones).
So, Year 12, if love is an action, I call on you to be counted amongst the world’s great lovers.
What you have faith in and where you place your hope will affect your life. Love in the ways that Paul describes will mean you can be counted the world’s great lovers.
I thought it might be interesting to see whether, Year 12, you are great lovers. So here is my ‘are you a great lover?’ test to find out.
* Do you use your strengths and interests to benefit others?
* When you speak, do you listen carefully, use words to encourage, and take time to ensure you understand others and they understand you? Do take steps to ensure you only get angry for the right reason?
* Do you forgive others readily and avoid holding a grudge?
* Do you work hard to build others up as part of a well functioning team and not work to control it?
* Do you accept others as equals and so treat them accordingly (even if you find them really annoying)?
* Do you act with generosity to serve others in need or take the lead when it is necessary to protect others, uphold the truth or challenge things that are wrong?
* Are you willing to make the right choices even when it requires a great deal of courage, choices which may cost you – acceptance by others, your dignity, your financial security or more?
So how did you go on the ‘world’s great lovers’ test’? I invite you to check out Jesus’ ministry and run this test for him. See if he is worth investigating further.
Year 12 you are a wonderful group of people because of who made you. You bring your own strengths and passions together to form who you are as a unique group within our school’s history.
You are of great value to us as a school and more significantly you are valued and loved by God.
Loved by God, enough for him to take action – sending Christ to die on the cross, so that if you believe in him you will be saved.
Let me encourage you to not leave this place without making the commitment to honestly and thoroughly investigate whether Jesus Christ is worth your faith.
Let me assure you, that you can have confidence in him, place your hope in him. He will not let you down. You can expect great things from God.
Let faith and hope shape you to be people who make a positive difference in the world by acting in love. Attempt great things for God by loving him first and loving others.
“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”
Year 12 – congratulations and go well.