Monday, June 1, 2015

Holy Spirit Episcopal School Graduation Eucharist

28 May 2015

O Eternal God, who helps us move from one place in our lives to another, bless our graduates this day as they move forward into a new place in their lives. Grant to all of us the knowledge that we can trust you to be with us wherever we go, through your holy Name we pray. Amen. 

There is a book called, All I really need to know I learned in Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum. It is a book of essays, sermons, and stories. One of the essays takes lessons we all learn in kindergarten and applies them to grown up life. One of those lessons is, “Hold hands and stick together.” Most of us know this rule under the guise of the Buddy system. For many of us in the room, the buddy system is a natural part of our day to day lives. Each of us has to work together with the other students in our classes or other adults on our teams to safely complete our projects. A great example is last week's Olympic Day or chapel buddies. Our younger students each had an older student as their buddy. Each helped the other and in the case of Olympic day worked together to compete in the games of the day. 

This idea of having a buddy to help you work and be safe is really really old. One of the early agricultural inventions was called a yoke. (More than five thousand years ago). It is made of wood usually and attaches across the necks or shoulders of two animals, like oxen or donkeys. The yoke allows the farmers to have more than one animal pulling plows or carts. Imagine with me a wooden cart. It has four wheels and two long arms in front where someone could hold on to it and pull it. In that cart are all sorts of heavy things. Rocks, weights, and logs. These are things a farmer would not want in his field when he was trying to plant seeds. But when he goes to push or pull the cart, its too heavy. So, he goes and gets his ox and uses a harness to connect the ox to the cart. But the ox cannot go anywhere, the cart is still too heavy. So the farmer gets another ox and uses a yoke to attach the two ox together. Now, the oxen can pull the cart out of the field so the farmer can do his work. The yoke allows for more power, two animals have more strength than one, and for more stability. Another wonderful thing about yokes are that they allow farmers to train new animals by matching them up with older animals that know what to do. The help each other and work together to complete their work. Kind of like our buddy system of Olympic Day. 

The buddy system works for us as people because we are community people. We live in communities called families, we work with other people, we join groups such as scouts, or sports teams in order to enjoy and play together. God created people as community beings. God does not expect us to live our lives alone. We are created to be in relationship, with each other and with God. In the gospel reading from Matthew today, Jesus says, “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” This passage is about us being in relationship with Jesus, being in community with God. 

Jesus invites us to come to him. He invites all of us who are weary or carrying heavy burdens. That means all of us. We all have to carry things we don't want to carry. We all have to deal with things we don't want to have to deal with. Things we don't want to do. Homework, chores, moving, growing up, changing, making decisions, being responsible for ourselves and for others. All those things can weigh on us and make us feel very heavy. Perhaps what you are carrying today is the anticipation, the questions about the unknown of what is ahead, going to high school. But, Jesus invites us to come to him. It doesn't matter when we hear the invitation or when we answer it. We are always welcome to come to Jesus with our burdens, even if we have never done so before in our lives. Jesus will always be waiting for us to come. And that's not all. Jesus says come to me, and I will give you rest. Come to me with your burdens and I will give you rest. Isn't that what we all want? Rest? The rest that Jesus is talking about is the rest from all the questions and doubts, all the should have's, could have's, would have's. Rest from all the other people's expectations that drive us crazy. We come to this kind of rest in prayer. In giving over our burdens to Jesus. By bringing Jesus everything and laying it in his lap. We set everything down for Jesus and ourselves to see. We do this, but that doesn't mean all those things simply vanish. It means that we do not have to take care of those things by ourselves. The next thing Jesus says is, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.” As I said before, a yoke brings two animals together. When two animals work together the job is easier. The burden is lighter. A yoke also allows younger animals to learn from older animals. We could think about each of us being in a yoke with Jesus. If we took Jesus's yoke, we would never be alone. We are never pulling the full weight of what is happening by ourselves. Whatever it is, confusion, doubt, worries, pain, we always know that God is pulling along with us. Like oxen that are yoked together and pulling a cart full of heavy stuff, we have a partner in Jesus, who helps us with the heavy stuff that we are carrying. When we are working together with Jesus it is like those young animals that are learning from the older animals. We learn from Jesus, we learn his ways, and how to follow his path. Together, carrying our burdens is much easier to do than if we were all on our own. While we may not be carrying the same things around our whole lives, there are always things we carry. Moving on in life is exciting! And moving on means new possibilities, new opportunities, but also new worries. It may seem that everything is changing, but there are always some constants, some things that stay the same. Jesus being with you is a constant. Jesus will always be ready to help you with whatever you are carrying. 

Graduates, today is an exciting day. Moving on is exciting! Graduation day. Not the first time you have graduated from one place in your life to another, and neither will it be the last. Each of us on our journeys go through many different places in life. Here, you have accomplished much with God's love, care, and help, along with the help of your teachers and parents. Here you have done great things, learned important lessons, served the community, and created magnificent art. Where you are going, high school, you will have opportunities to build on what you have accomplished here. But there will be a few changes. No longer will you have school-appointed buddies. You may be going where you do not know anyone else. But you will find friends who will support you. No longer will you have assigned buddies, but you get to choose who will be your buddies to help you on the journey. You are going where there are many more options for activities to do than here. You are going places where new classes will beckon, decisions will become harder to figure out, but you do not go alone. God is going with you. No matter where you go, God will be there with you. You can always take your burdens to Jesus and have him help you carry them. Jesus will give you the gift of rest and help you along the way.

We give thanks and celebrate the life that we have had together in this place. We look forward to the lives that you will have going forward. I wonder what they will be like, and you may wonder what they may be like, but do not worry. God is going with you.