A message offered to my son and his cohort, the graduating class of Bay High School, 2014:
Thank you for the honour of being with you this afternoon.
I was struck by some of the words you all chose for today: “What I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart.”
Long ago, and far, far away, when I finished high school, I knew that one day I would be here. I mean, I hadn’t heard of Bay Village, Ohio; I didn’t know where here was, and I didn’t know what this day would look like, but I did know at least three things which eventually would get me here.
I knew that I wanted a life full of love.
I knew that I was called to serve God as a priest.
I also knew, by the time I finished high school, that I would never make it as a concert pianist, which helped considerably with narrowing down my focus.
I have to tell you that not everyone believed what I knew for myself to be true. My father had ambitions on my behalf; he thought, at one time, that traditional work was all well and good as a back-up plan, but that I should really be concentrating on my music.
I didn’t know, back then, who it was that I would love more than life itself. I had no idea that a person’s heart could be divided so many times, and drawn outside of themselves, and that person only become more alive. It’s like the loaves and the fishes; it seems that the more people love is shared amongst, the more there is. And because I am blessed to love a son who is in this class, I get to be here with you today.
As for the priest thing, I have to tell you that it took me a rather long time. I wasn’t as courageous or imaginative as the first women ordained in my church, so I wasn’t a pioneer. And when my children were small, it was all I could do to get three matching pairs of shoes onto three matching pairs of feet.
I read a poem this week by David Whyte:
has to be
so you can find
the one line
From ‘The Journey’: in ‘River Flow: New and Selected Poems’ ©David Whyte and Many Rivers Press
That word, that call was already written inside me; and though it took me a while, by God’s grace it is as a pastor as well as a parent that I have the privilege of being with you today.
And I stand here today in awe of all of you, because you have already everything you need to be the person whom God has called you to be, because you are made in the very image of God; because you are already exactly who you need to be.
Still, if I had to give you some advice to take on your journey, from my experience it would be this:
Work hard, put your energy, your life, your love into things that matter to you. Resist the temptation to be distracted by the ambitions that other people might have for you; if they don’t resonate with that word that God has placed in your heart, they are not yours.
Maya Angelou, whom you all know passed away this week, is quoted as saying, “You can only become truly accomplished at something you love.” http://www.neontommy.com/news/2014/05/maya-angelou-s-legacy-9-quotes-inspire
Go easy on yourself if some things that you know you are called to still take a little longer than you expect. Enjoy those little detours that life and the Holy Spirit have in store for you.
Live a life that you can love, and live it in the knowledge that you are loved.
There are people all over this room who are here simply because they love you and will support you every step of the way. And you have heard clearly from your classmates how much God loves you, the goodness God has in store for you.
My car has a bumper sticker on it from The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, of which I and some of you are a part. It says, God Loves You, No Exceptions.
Whether you worked your rear end off at school or scooted around the hallways on it, God loves you. No exceptions.
Whether you find the love of your life on your first day of work or college, or whether you are only just learning to love yourself, God loves you. No exceptions.
When the world fails you (because it will), remember that God loves you. No exceptions.
When you fail and falter (because you will), God still loves you; and God will help you put the pieces back together again.
When you fall in love with your life, God falls with you, never further from you than your own heart. No exceptions.
I quoted another poem in this morning’s sermon at my church (I like poetry):
Today was my son’s birth day;
his tiny hands beginning to unfurl,
a birthmark smeared beneath one arm;
this is the closest we come to perfection;
born between earth and eternity,
the closest we come to God.
(Rosalind C Hughes)
All of you were born into lives that are pregnant with infinite and eternal possibility, and you bear the image of God within you, the Word of God, in your mouths and in your hearts.
So my charge to you is also my prayer for you: to go out from here with confidence in the love that surrounds you. Live a life that you love, and live it in the knowledge that you are loved. Go in peace, and may each of you know that you go with God.