On my way to the church this morning I drove by Greencastle Middle School and High School. And the regular signs of life were not there. No busy movement of buses. No parking lot full of cars and teenagers with bags on backs. Through absence and stillness the message was clear: school is out for summer.
Many of our lives are affected by this news though it affects us in different ways. For some there are no more children to teach, which means freedom and loss. For some (for a while at least) there are no more tests to prepare for; there is room to stretch and play and discover and be. For some the grandkids will be around more – more time to pour love into their lives and to cherish small wonders. For some there will be more chances to be together as a family; there will be trips and vacations and camps. And, for some there will be more stress in trying to juggle parenting and working because for some summer never really comes.
It is also around this time some of us celebrate graduations. We mark the end of a journey and the start of a new one. Jim and Norma DeLabar are preparing to celebrate graduations this weekend. So is Juliette January – our daycare director. And so are Bill and Corky and Luke. Those are just a few in our fold.
When I graduated from high school I can remember receiving a card – one of the many. But this card still remains implanted in my mind. Inside the card was a quote by Andre Gide: “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
Great quote isn’t it? And so apt for this season.
So often the beginning of summer seems like a blank canvas to us, an uncharted territory. And we know that whatever we do with that blank canvas, wherever we go on that blank map, only today and tomorrow await. That is the joy, the freedom, the possibility.
But graduations, the end of a school year: these are points that seal up time as well. The closing of a school year means it has been moved to the past, to be chronicled in yearbooks. We’ve grown up, we’ve moved on. This is the sadness, the loss, the “done”.
So when we cry while sitting through a graduation ceremony we cry both tears: joy and sadness, hope and remembering. We cry because we are losing sight of a shore; we are losing familiarity and what is known. But, we are hoping and trusting there are new lands beyond the horizon. There is more to discover and enjoy.
As a congregation – a community – we experience not just the changes in our own lives but also the changes throughout all of our lives. Everything is intensified; the highs become higher and the lows lower. But, either way, the gift of community is that we get to experience whatever it is together. We get to support one another when the sadness comes and we get to cheer one another on as we press on to discover a new land.
This weekend we’ll have the occasion to do both things. On Saturday we’ll have an opportunity to celebrate the life of Barbara Silander – child of God, wife, mother, teacher, poet, servant. We will be able to thank God for the “past” of Barbara’s life even as we claim the promise that she has already discovered the best land of all: life evermore with God.
And on Sunday we will gather on the day of Pentecost, the day when the Holy Spirit came as a wind of promise, blowing strength and direction into the early church. We pray God will do the same through the Holy Spirit for us: giving us renewed vision and unity individually and as a body.
At the beginning of our worship service this Sunday we’ll have the chance to hear one of our youngsters, Zach Wilkerson, lead us in a call to worship that he wrote. Truly, we will be led forward to another shore – even by the visions of our sons and daughters.