A graduation is a rite of passage, step into a new part of life. It is a gathering of God’s faithful to commemorate an event. In many ways, Class of 2020, you move from your childhood and adolescence, into the world of Young Adults. We are here to commemorate that today!
Let’s think of Samuel, that story as a commemoration of God’s faithfulness to his Israelites, he raised a monument, the Ebenezer, at Mizpah, to proclaim, “thus far the Lord has helped us”. Similar to our monument that commemorates the first 25 years of the story of JRHS that sits behind campus, today we raise our Ebenezer called the class of 2020!
I have always loved history, and the thought of us participating in History is so exciting to me! From a Providential point of view, we realize that we are all part of a greater story that God is writing all the time, like a grand stage play, that comes to completion at some future time, in his perfect and appointed time.
Many of us love the Narnia narrative, because over 7 books, it is in essence the whole drama of God’s plan of creation, the fall, and the ultimate redemption of the characters back to Him in a place of eternal peace and rest.
As much as this is a rite of passage today for you students, we realize it is just the dress rehearsal for the great passage from this world to our eternal home with Jesus in Heaven. God has allowed you to walk the line today, and to cross over to your next chapter in His great narrative for you, in essence rehearsing what we need to do every day: walk in His way, towards his plan.
Let’s consider where we are today, on these lovely grounds we call “The Joy House”, fittingly named, and perhaps in some respect hallowed ground. On any other year, for graduation, we would be within the beautiful Candia Church, right over there. It would have been last night, a pristine June night. But last winter, that all began to change, first in Asia, then the US, then around the world. And it is still changing, and we do not know where it is going, but do we truly believe that God is in control, and that God orchestrates things for the glorification of His people? – I do!
A young man grew up in this area, not all that unlike you students. He would have been familiar with the big towns of this area: Portsmouth, Exeter for example. He would know of the growing fishing village to our west, Amoskeag. He would have keenly known of the war that defined his youth, now called the American Revolution. He would come to realize how it would define his generation, and the people he would minister to throughout his life. His name was Jesse Remington, and in the 1780’s, he would be called to work in the town church, which sat right over there…
Perhaps he walked on the very grounds we celebrate on today. That house, and that house would have been there, and we would be in someone’s field or pasture here. He began to lead his post war people towards greater Christ-likeness day by day. Soon he would realize that just like there had been a battle for the lives of his parents and grandparents during the War, there now was emerging a virus form the East that was battling for the souls of his parishioners. This virus, soon to be named Deism, or Secularism, or Enlightenment Humanism, was pushing his Jesus out of culture, and wanted to make it all about science, and rational thought. Faith was for the weak, or maybe the old people.
So Jesse went to War, for the hearts, minds and souls of the flock that God gave him. He put an immovable stake in the ground, that he would build a Christ-honoring community here in Candia; he would lead them in a biblical world view (garnered in Wisdom, Knowledge and Understanding rooted in Scripture alone, and only supported by man’s learning and thought); he himself would exhibit strong and directed leadership, all towards the advancement of God’s Kingdom; and he would call all of his people towards that same goal.
Young men and women, soon to be graduates of JRHS, I want to suggest to you that your story is no different than many of the great heroes of the faith who have gone before you. In this unprecedented year of the coronavirus, you might be prone to fall into a “woe is me” mindset, yet, let us give thanks to God for the opportunity it presents, and out of the War, will come a direction for each of you to lead first yourself, and then your flock towards a Kingdom life, one reflecting the mission of this great institution.
World events influence who we are, and our outlook on life. You are the Generation issued into this world at 9-11; your childhood was disrupted in some ways by a stock market crash of ‘08; and now you are making the passage out of adolescence at the coronavirus. In the years ahead, the anthropologist will document all the characteristics of your generation; right now, the pen is in your hand to write that story. Like Remington, there is incredible power in being the counter-cultural one, the one who stands for God in all situation, and does not follow the ‘ism’s” of your Generation Z.
And now, to the listening audience, the real center point of the JRHS graduation is when each Senior tells his/her part of God’s story while at JRHS. They get to raise their Ebenezer here in a moment. I’m drawn back to our year theme, “Stay Focused 20/20”, and the verse that supported our goal: Colossians 3:1-2 , “Since then you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Graduation class of 2020, I commend you on your part of this process, and may it be a model for years of leadership ahead of you. May the Lord Bless you as individuals and an Alumni class as you go forth from here!