Today we are blessed to honor eight graduates. Not all of them could be here today but we’ll honor all eight and recognize those absent when they are next with us.
There are several overlapping patterns to note with this rather august group. First, all of our graduates, including two from high school, five from college and one with a master’s degree, are moving into areas of public care and service.
Zach Landes and Abbie Putnam are graduating from high school. Zach has enlisted in the US Army and plans to leave for boot camp in July. Abbie is going to the University of Florida and will major in International Food and Resource Economics.
Samantha Hall earned a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Philosophy at Florida State University and will begin law school at American University in Washington D.C. this fall.
Dale Lutton is graduating next week from the U.S. Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering and will serve in the U.S. Navy.
Julia Marbutt earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of South Florida and is pursuing positions in neonatal intensive care units.
Meredith McKenna earned a Bachelor of Science in Family, Youth and Community Service at the University of Florida and will help Camp Wingmann develop its business and marketing plans over the next year.
Glynda Meadows earned a Bachelor of Science in nursing at Polk State College and is serving at Winter Haven Hospital.
Serena Hall earned a Masters in Health Administration at the University of Florida and has begun her job at a hospital in Washington D.C.
Each of them is pursuing very real and practical ways to serve their communities, this nation and even the world.
Another pattern is that each of them was formed in a significant way by the life and ministry of this church. And, of course, each of them has in various ways touched the lives of others in this church.
Those patterns overlap to illustrate in how Jesus’ words shape our lives. Jesus said, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another...By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
I understand another tradition of Graduation Sunday is to thank, as a group, all of the volunteers who have served in various ministries and roles at Good Shepherd in the past year. Let’s go ahead and do that now. If you have volunteered, if you have sung in the choir or ushered or read, or served at the altar, or cooked, or cleaned, or served on the Vestry or that fabulous search committee, taught and cared for our children, the golf tournament, please stand.
Graduates, you’re all pretty bright. You’ve got the papers to prove it now. Look around. This doesn’t just happen. Many of these people have been in this church their whole lives. Every one of your parents is standing. Others have come here later in life but have been formed elsewhere. Others are newly being formed in Christ. Others aren’t here because they are away and others can’t be here because they don’t have the strength or the health to make it, so we go to them.
Look at Ray Bassett. He just turned 90. He was raised in this church and he’s still here. He scheduled our readers for decades, as long as anyone can remember. That means he scheduled the reading of God’s word for you your whole life. He wants nothing more than that God’s word would shape your life as it has his. And his daughters and sons-in-law, and their families, are following right along. He passed scheduling those readers to his son-in-law.
And Fleet. Fleet Ryland came into the office a few weeks ago to tell us about his granddaughter, Julia, graduating summa cum laude in nursing. He was in the office as he his is several times a week because he’s our Junior Warden, taking care of our buildings and grounds. He’s got a list of projects as long as your arm. And he was in tears of pride and joy talking about Julia. Meanwhile her grandmother Theresa was busy with the Thrift Store and the Care Center and otherwise serving our Lord in our community.
I could go on with dozens of such examples, examples that testify to the ways our faith is being lived and borne forth for each other and this community.
My point is this doesn’t just happen. There is a tremendous, indescribable, unfathomable amount of faith and commitment here in little old Good Shepherd and Lake Wales that is rooted in Jesus’ command that we love one another. And through that, the Kingdom of God keeps breaking into our world in wonderful and surprising ways.
I encourage each of the graduates to remember that each of the fields you’ve chosen to serve is grounded, rooted in The Lord. And remembering that, don’t assume it. Don’t assume that you’ve got God or Jesus or your faith figured out. Attend to it. Study it. Work at it just as you will your physical health, your social life, your finances and your professional education and training.
And share that blessing wherever you go. Be a light of grace wherever life takes you, be it Gainesville, Washington D.C. (please take it to Washington D.C.), around the world on a Navy ship or in an Army unit, all the way to Winter Haven, Avon Park or right here. Please stand.
I encourage this congregation to take a long, joyful look at this group. Their degrees, their very lives carry the ministry of Good Shepherd to every endeavor and every person they encounter wherever that may be. We are a church that lives and functions like a large extended family to bless the world for Jesus.