Graduation Sunday

2 Timothy 1:3-7
3-4 Every time I say your name in prayer—which is practically all the time—I thank God for you, the God I worship with my whole life in the tradition of my ancestors. I miss you a lot, especially when I remember that last tearful good-bye, and I look forward to a joy-packed reunion.
5 I’m reminded of your authentic faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice. I’m sure that this faith is also inside you. 6 Because of this, I’m reminding you to revive God’s gift that is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 God didn’t give us a spirit that is timid but one that is but bold and loving and sensible.

Threshold moments.

A Threshold is a space between. An opening between what is behind and what is ahead. They are entry points, day #1 of whatever journey we are embarking on.

Throughout life, there are physical/human thresholds of development that occur: infancy to childhood, adolescence to adulthood, adulthood to elder status, until we reach that ultimate threshold that divides this world and the next.

There are social/political thresholds; those cultural markers of our lives; births, deaths, coming of age markers, graduations, weddings, parenthood, etc.

There are spiritual threshold moments too like getting your first bible, baptism, and confirmation.

Threshold moments bring change. Some we recognize as they are happening, we plan and prepare for them. Sometimes we are excited about them. But sometimes change is hard and we resist and try to remain in old patterns of life.

There are others that we only recognized later when we look back in reflection; first dates that turn into lifelong partnerships, job interviews that turn into careers, decisions about my education, unwanted illnesses that present themselves, wandering into a particular church that sits on the corner of Capital and 11th and finding a place to belong, and moments of quiet that reveal truths about ourselves, our God and our place in all of this.
What is common of all threshold moments is the requirement to make a choice, to take an action, to risk not knowing what the outcome will be.

How then do we muster up enough trust and faith to boldly approach threshold moments?

In our scripture today, we find the story of a hero of our faith, traditionally, considered to be Paul, but more modern commentary says it was most likely written by an anonymous follower of Paul long after Paul has died. Nevertheless this letter shows the importance of knowing and preserving our stories and our legacy and in essence, this letter records the passing the baton from one traveler to the younger/next generation. In it the writer/narrator tells us they are standing in a threshold moment. In chapter 4 we read that “Paul” is dying and so he has writing this very personal and encouraging farewell letter to the younger minister Timothy, who too is standing on the threshold.

In the Bible we call this a “testament”, the passing of wisdom based on a life reflections from one leader to the next before their death. There are other examples of this throughout the bible including in 1 Kings when David calls his son Solomon and gives him instructions on how he should live. Jesus does so also with his disciples.

Not exactly graduation commencement speeches, but more similar than one might imagine at first read.

After all aren’t most graduation speeches just alumni standing up and remembering with fondness when they themselves were on the cusp of graduating and adding their wisdom of years and experiences to celebrate and encourage new graduates to new heights and adventures. There are talks of “Oh the Places you will Go”, marching to the beat of your own drum and taking the road less traveled and following your own path. Unless you are as Ellen DeGeneres told the graduating class of Tulane University, “Never follow anyone else’s path, unless you’re in the woods and you’re lost and you see a path. Then by all means follow that path.”

We find our reading for today words of encouragement for all of us standing in a threshold moment. I wonder what is the threshold moment of your life right now? Take a moment to look back and look ahead. John O’Donohue in his book To Bless the Space Between Us, asks these questions when pondering threshold moments; “At which threshold am I know standing? At this time in my life, what am I leaving? Where am I about to enter? What is preventing me from crossing the next threshold? What gift would enable me to do it? “ (p.48)

We tend to think of threshold moments as those moments that fill our scrapbooks. They are significant, that is why we mark them with rituals. We have all had them and we will all have more.

As we approach these important transitions of life, consider these three things as spoken in 2 Timothy 1.

#1 I am grateful to God for you. May you know that We, the church are grateful to God for you and how you contribute to our spiritual growth because you are a part of our legacy and our journey, our very experience of God. Each of us is on a personal journey we are also each a member of the body of Christ manifested in this time and in this place. Let us be grateful for each one who enters here because all contribute to the well-being and future vitality of this place. Marian Wright Edelman has said,

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

As we acknowledged last week during the celebration of Pentecost, this place is the collective work of all of us seeking and striving to honor and love God and love our neighbors as ourselves, being guided by the Spirit. I am grateful for you who see the powerful intersection of faith and justice and how you serve one another in this place. As people enter and exit, crossing the physical threshold of this place, my prayer is that you feel you gave and received love in this place.

#2 Remember the faith that is in you has a strong heritage and will carry you over the threshold. We are products of our ancestors of family and faith. And it is in you always. Paul mentions the faith of Timothy that began in his grandmother and mother that is now in him. Many of us have people of faith in our lives that we can recall; family members, partners, teachers, friends, neighbors, co-workers. People who kindled in us a love and wonder about God. We are also the decedents of Old Testament prophets and New Testament radicals. We have the same spirit in us. And the teachings of our ancestors and movement of the Spirit guides us as we stand on the cusp of new adventures of life.

Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods. Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”
~Linda Hogan

May these words burn in our hearts, when we feel alone or confused or doubt the presence of God in our life.

#3 God has given you a spirit of power and love and self-discipline. Last week, we celebrated the coming of the Spirit in a new way and the dawn of the church. A threshold moment, if ever there was one. Like then, with each new dawn the Spirit is here with us and gives us gifts us with power and love and self-discipline. We just need to claim them (through prayer and study and deed). And Act accordingly.

For these reasons, the writer says, flame the fire of your faith in the days to come, don’t be shy. Stand up for what you believe. And in doing so we can as Marion Wright Edelman says,

“Be a good ancestor. Stand for something bigger than yourself. Add value to the Earth during your sojourn.”

Sounds like a pretty good commencement speech to me!

Today we celebrate all our graduates, and specifically Noah. This is one of those threshold moments that you have watched come with great anticipation. You have prepared for it. Maybe you have worried just a little. But now it is here. Have faith and trust. I hope you enjoy every minute of it.