The following is a sermon that was delivered to the graduating students of Towanda High School at the 2016 Baccalaureate Service. I pray that you also find some meaning in the words.
1 Timothy 4:7b-12
Train yourself in godliness, 8for, while physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. 9The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance. 10For to this end we toil and struggle, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 11These are the things you must insist on and teach. 12Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.
You are finally through…almost anyway. You can feel the breeze of the summer air calling your name. Freedom is just beyond the doors of the school. It is time to break out of this place!
This sort of excitement for the future lingers close by, but it is probably mixed with the sense that you are leaving something behind, friends, beloved teachers, and academic subjects that actually interested you and have already begun to shape who you are.
What you learned in those subjects, whether it be calculus, or physics, or nursing, or auto mechanics and the passion that you have in those subjects are all gifts from God for the sake of the world.
The Apostle Paul tells us that we are all part of one body, but we have many gifts…and though you probably have not thought of it this way, your education is one of those gifts from God.
Granted, I admit, I have a hard time believing that calculus is a gift from God…but there is a reason I am a pastor and not a mathematician. Even now I can hear my mom saying, “You didn’t like math, I loved calculus!” But, that is what I am saying; each of us has a different gift from the Lord and that is a good thing because I am the last person those of you going to college want to call as you try to fill out your FAFSA for next year.
As you probably already know, not everyone in the world gets an education of any kind at all. So, your learning and passions are a gift from God as you head out into the world to serve and do good!
I am not saying this just to make you feel good as you go off to college, to work, or to serve in the military. There is a good reason.
When I finally got my career underway, I was passionate what I would be able to contribute. I graduated with an emphasis in both theatre and religion. And, as a pastor, I saw great possibilities using both. Imagine, moving stage lights focusing their brilliant piercing light on the baby at the waters of baptism, and dual rotating gobos creating the affect of water all over the church, as if the Holy Spirit was descending upon to baptized person with power and glory, befitting of the work of God’s grace. My baptisms could be great! What in the world could threaten such passion?
Well, words like this. “Look here, it’s the kid pastor again. Whatcha got for us kid pastor?”
Ok, so I did not exactly have grey slicked hair and a tie with a powerful voice when I first got into the ministry. I was…well…me. A young pastor with a young face and young clothes.
You are going to get it too.
“Look here, it’s the kid lawyer again. Do you know your stuff?” and “Aren’t you a little young to be a doctor?” and “These tax laws are older than you, can you really help me?” and “It’s the new nurse on the floor, why don’t you get the rest of us some coffee.”
Despite the gifts you have been given by the Lord, there will be those who try to throw up walls against your gifts and your passions.
Because of this, Timothy, a young, young apostle is given some words of encouragement.
“Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”
The fact others cannot see beyond your lack of years does not in any way negate the gifts God has given you for the benefit of the world; gifts of caring and love along with your knowledge in your own areas of passion.
You are a gift to your neighbor.
You have been shaped by God to be a gift.
Do not let anyone push you away simply because of your age.
Instead, display your gifts anyway, in the purest and most wonderful way possible.
The kid pastor can give comfort to the man who lost his mother and has not stopped crying for the last four hours despite the best efforts of the other pastors present. Now understand, it was not because I was better than the other pastors. That is not the point. The point is that this kid pastor knew he had the gifts from God that could help, and was not held back by the “Kid Pastor” designation. In time, “kid pastor” became a badge of honor, because “kid pastor” started to mean, someone who uses their gifts (not their authority) for the sake of others.
You are a gift from Jesus Christ to your neighbor. You have been shaped by God to be that gift. “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” in all that you do as God sends you out from this place.
All Scripture quotes are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyrighted, 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and is used by permission. All rights reserved.