This Monday, Saint John’s will graduate another class of 8th graders. Graduation is always a bittersweet time for those of us involved in our wonderful school. Consider this: half of the class has been at Saint John’s for ten years. Three-quarters have been at Saint John’s for at least five years. For many students, Saint John’s is their second home and their primary spiritual home. For some, Saint John’s has been the most stable thing in their life. There will be no other experience like this in their academic lives. They went through very important life transitions including, to be blunt, puberty. So there are two sides to graduation, the bitter and the sweet. The bitter is those graduates will never have a community like this; and neither will Saint John’s ever have a community just like them again.
The sweet side of graduation is that they are ready to go. We can’t hold them here any longer. God is calling them out and the world needs them.
As the students take their graduation walk on Monday and depart from Saint John’s, I am confident of many things. First and foremost, I am confident about the education they received. We educate the whole child: mind, body and spirit. They have been soaked in the Anglican moral tradition, which at its core holds Christ as exemplar for how we are to conduct ourselves with God and one another. From that core notion of Christ-as-exemplar we show the virtues of patience, forgiveness, humility and most of all, love. They know they are loved by God through Christ, forgiven by God through Christ, and called to serve others through Christ. This moral theology and tradition reverberated through all their studies even in subjects like art, PE, and science where we might not expect to see those values. Christ as exemplar is the standard we hold up to them in their daily conduct with one another on campus and off campus; we even teach about Christ in their online activity.
I am confident our graduates are going to change the world for the better. We have shaped a holy people for the sake of the world and, frankly, the world needs them.
Another thing I am confident of is that they are being commissioned as apostles from Saint John’s. They’ve been disciples, which at the root means “students.” They are now ambassadors, as those who are sent into the world. Ambassador shares its root with “apostle." They were students, but now are the sent-ones.
This process is not unique to our school. It repeats itself each and every Sunday. On Sunday morning, we come to Saint John’s as students to learn, be fed, and worship God. The lessons, sermon and prayers lead us to follow Christ as exemplar. Then, with the final words, “Thanks be to God!” we become the sent-ones to bring Christ to the world. We are the same as those eighth graders who will be graduated in a few days, holy people for the sake of the world.
There are many Sundays where I have a bittersweet moment. I stand at the open gate in the early afternoon and miss the congregation and the worship experience we just had. I wonder where everyone went. The sweet part is the knowledge that the world will be changed by what we learned and experienced through Christ our exemplar. Likewise, on Monday late afternoon I’ll stand at the gate and think about our new apostles and experience a bittersweet moment. I will miss them but also have the sweet hope that they continue living Christ-as-exemplar and that as a result, the world will be changed.