Friday, May 22, 2009
Racine Lutheran High School
Graduation Day Service
May 22, 2009
“It's Not What You Know”
Dear friends and family, parents and teachers, Mr. Baganz and the Board of Directors, honored guests, and especially you, the Racine Lutheran High School class of 2009. Grace and peace to you.... Amen.
It's my honor and privilege to preach this evening for this special occasion. I myself am a graduate of a Lutheran High School (in Baltimore). Years ago I sat where you sit now... anxiously waiting for all the ceremonies to be over, so that the party could begin. Looking forward to my summer off from school, to college, and to life in the “real world”.
These four years for you have been a time of great growth. When you came here as Freshmen, you were not the young adults you are now. When you came here to a new school, you hadn't made all these friends – some of whom will last a lifetime.
And when you came here 4 years and 60-something credits ago, there was much you didn't know. You've learned a lot. Algebra. Biology. Computer technologies. Social Studies. Even Theology.
You have amassed quite a bit of “book knowledge” from your studies, and our prayer is that it will serve you well. After all, that's what an education is about – learning.
But there are some who see all this as a hoop to jump through. A formality – just something that people do. That all that learning really isn't what makes for success in life. That a diploma and a degree are just pieces of paper. That it's not about what you know, instead it's about WHO you know.
And for some people that seems true. We hear of the “success stories” don't we – people who accomplish great things (or at least seem to get far in life), and have little education. They make their way perhaps through determination and talent, but perhaps sometimes because they have lots of connections – and for them, it's really not what you know – it's who you know.
But anyway....this is not just any school you are graduating from. It's a Lutheran High School. So there's more to your learning that the three R's. You've gotten much more here than book learning and a piece of paper. Your daily adventures in this place have really not been all about what you know. They've also been about who you know. And who knows you. Jesus Christ.
“I know my sheep and my sheep know me”, Jesus says. He is the Good Shepherd. He, our Savior, lays down his life for us, the sheep. Jesus died on the cross for sinners like you and me. He died to take away your sins and mine. That's a message you've heard over and over again here at Lutheran High. Jesus died for you.
While your studies have prepared you well for what lies next – while your piece of paper really does represent an achievement of great importance – while your friends and family should all celebrate on this important occasion... Still, it's not what you know. It's who you know, and who knows you, that counts the most.
“I knew you before you were born” The Lord said to Jeremiah. And we believe that God has a plan for each of us whom he knows. That plan is first of all to forgive our sins and promise us eternal life in Christ. But it's also a plan for us to live as his people on Earth – in the meantime. Whether that plan means that you are to become a professor or a mechanic, an entrepreneur or a stay-at-home mom, a salesman or a brigadier general, it will all unfold in time. Whatever you do, do to the glory of God and in thanks and praise for his many blessings.
Through it all – it's important to know things. God gives us this gray stuff between our ears for good reason. He expects us to use it. So keep studying and learning! If you're off to college, hit those books hard! If you're done with school for now, don't think your learning is over either. Each day is a new day for us to grow and mature. Even Jesus himself grew in “wisdom and stature” before God and men. So keep learning!
But salvation is not between the ears, it's in the heart. In the faith that trusts in his promise. In the spirit that clings to his word. Baptized and believing children of God – knowing him and known by him – this is what matters for eternity. He knows you better than you will ever know yourself.
Scripture says that God even knows how many hairs you have on your head! He cares so deeply and intimately about you, he knows you so well... Yes, its not so much about what you know as it is who you know. And for us, it's not even about who we know, as much as it is about who knows us.
We know very little about God and his business. He tells us what we need to know in Holy Scripture – but much about him and his ways is a mystery. But all-knowing God has you totally figured out.
He knows you are a sinner, who does things everyday that are just plain bad and wrong. He knows that you are weak, and that you can't do anything to save yourself. That all your best intentions are still flawed and failing. He knows your limitations, your personality flaws, your deep dark secrets. And the good news is, knowing all that, he loves you anyway!
“I know my sheep, and my sheep know me”. You've heard of some people so ugly – they've got a face that only a mother could love? How about someone that's so sinful, only our Savior could love? That's all of us. He knows our sins and loves us anyway. That's because in Christ our sins are put away. It's not what he knows, it's what he forgives! As far as the east is from the west – and he remembers our sins no more.
You've learned a lot here at Lutheran High. You've made some good friends too. But in the end it's not what you know. And it's not even who you know, that counts. It's who knows YOU. And we know who that is – the one who loves us, the one who died for us, the one who is with us wherever life's journey leads. Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. May we, may you especially (graduates as you move on from here), continue to listen to his voice.