To our beloved Class of 2016,
On this day, we seek to do the impossible – we attempt to wrap all these years together and put a bow on it. We celebrate your place in our community through tangible traditions that allow you to transition into the next life stage before you. You have many places in your life you’re marking this transition –lacrosse banquets, proms, and high school graduations. Though this moment is similar to those, I must tell you what today is not in order to make sure you know what this day here at Highland is all about.
Today is not to mark your final days in the church. Though you may be leaving behind many aspects of your life, your relationship with the Body of Christ that is Highland Baptist Church is not one of those. This is a place that holds the capacity to grow with you. You will realize, as the years pass, that this community is much wider than you ever realized. Community always becomes richer as it expands beyond peers of the exact same age or life stage.
Today is not about putting together your life’s experience at Highland into a frame-worthy image of the perfect youth group experience. We are not trying to gloss over the hard parts or project an image of idealism. This is not because this hasn’t been ideal. It is because if we only had good times together, we would not have lived our real lives together. Real life together requires showing up on the hard days so that we might love each other through them.
Through your time here, I hope that you have learned that we find God most profoundly when we come to the cross – when we find that place where it feels like we have met our end. It is precisely there that God shows up through granting us a community that waits with us through the long three days until we are able to see the miracle – that-which-terrified-you is nothing compared to the God who is by your side redeeming even your worst days.
Today is not about simply celebrating your success, your belovedness, and your greatness. You possess all of these things but you do not own them. They are gifts. They have come to you through the parents that have raised you, the teachers that have taught you, the mentors that have walked with you, and the friends that have made life livable and joy-filled.
They have come to you through our God that that has granted you belonging in the Body of Christ that is this youth group. In Christ, we see love become flesh through the giving of love away. It is my hope that in youth group, you have felt the magic that is embodying love in order to give it away. However, in these culminating moments, you must be careful not to let your belonging in the Body of Christ mistake itself for ownership. You belong to the Body of Christ, you do not own it. For if you buy into the owning of it, you will miss the immeasurable blessing it is to be part of the community God is building which is much bigger and grander than you or I could ever create.
You have been given the greatest gifts here…
…relationships that have held up a mirror to show you who you truly are
…lessons on forgiveness, empowerment, and empathy to teach you how to love this world,
…invitation to connect with the One who shapes our highs and lows into broken but beautiful vessels of love.
This is a gift that you must share. The world is desperate for you to go and put this into practice – to be Love’s hands and feet, mouths and ears, minds and hearts.
We speak to you the calling we receive from Jesus – to go and make youth groups of your hall-mates, communities of love out of your fraternities and sororities, teams of transformation out of your co-workers…or as the ancient words say, disciples of all nations preaching to them the good news that love is stronger than hatred, life is stronger than death, and hope is stronger than despair.
As we end this form of community, we welcome you into the larger body at Highland Baptist Church. It’s a wonderful place to be.
Love you always,