Tomorrow morning at the college where I teach, the annual graduation ceremony will be held. Dozens of my colleagues—the LOML included—will don their fancy robes and parade down the aisles of the grand old auditorium. Several hundred graduates—all bedecked in caps and gowns—will file in behind them while the organ belts Pomp and Circumstance. The balcony will be teeming with family and friends. Who will look on and snap photos and cheer wildly—despite the Dean’s request to hold all applause until the end. They can’t help themselves. This is a monumental moment.
This spring, though, I am on sabbatical. So for the first time in sixteen years, I will not be joining the march. And, actually, I will miss it. For as much as we faculty joke about hiding snacks in our long, wing-like sleeves and tucking stacks of grading under our flowing robes, I like to be there. It’s important. And a privilege.
And I get choked every time the sea of graduates stands on command and the old wooden seats rumble like a heavenly applause. Every time a student I know crosses the stage with head held high, shakes the president’s hand, takes the blue folder—where a diploma soon will live—and I know just a bit of what that thin binder represents. The sacrifices. The struggles. The triumphs. The failures. The late nights. The long haul. The lessons learned.
So in lieu of my attendance tomorrow, I thought to offer just a few words. Except they aren’t really my own. They are Peter’s. Not Peter the Husband. Who will sit at the ceremony, all robed up and in the third row. Who will come home and give me a full report. Not that Peter.
Rather, Peter the Apostle. Who wrote his own letter to the exiles who had been scattered throughout the land. Because, dear graduates, as you scatter—throughout this land and others far flung—you will realize more and more what you do know and what you don’t. Because it may surprise you, startle you, even shake you to the core that—after receiving such a well-earned and formal degree—you don’t know more. That you don’t always know where you will live or what job you will have or whom you will marry or what the future holds or to what you are called. That you don’t always know what is coming around the bend or how to handle whatever does.
But rest assured. What you do know—what Peter tells you in chapter one of letter one—will serve you well. So dig down deep and pour firm footings right there. And know these things above all else…
Know who you are. You are aliens. Not at home here. Not really. So don’t expect to be too comfy. You are just sojourners. On your way to a better place. You are grass and flowers. Falling and withering and blowing in the wind. Yet also—you are redeemed. Saved from a meaningless life. Born again to a new, eternal one. You are chosen by Him. Hand-picked. A part of His story. And purified. All cleaned up. By the precious blood of Christ.
Know what you can expect. That you will be sanctified along the way. Tested and taught. Torn apart and built back up by the Spirit. And that this is very hard work. That you will experience trials. But these can prove your faith. They can actually bring joy. Maybe not right away. But they will result in His glory and honor as Jesus is revealed. No doubt about that.
Know what you have. Grace and peace. In abundance. That means—more than enough for the journey. There for the taking. And, too, you have a living hope. A glorious and eternal inheritance. Reserved just for you. With your name on it. That will never perish. Will not be defiled. And cannot fade away.
Know what you need to do. Love Him. Fear Him. Believe Him. Even when you cannot see. Prepare your mind. Fix your sights. Rejoice with inexpressible joy. Love one another deeply. And obey.
This, says Peter, is the word that was preached to you. This is what you need to know.
So congratulations, dear graduates, on a job well done. A diploma hard-earned. I and many others are cheering you on. Wildly. From near and far. We can’t help ourselves. We love you deeply. We are on the journey with you. And we can’t wait to see where He’s going to take you next.