Spring has sprung! Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that the grass is greener than it was at the beginning of April. The buds on the maple trees in my yard are already raining down on the porch and driveway. The dogwood tree is starting to blossom too. I don’t have any tulips, but I know that the annual tulip festival in Holland is only a few days away.
The season of new growth has begun. Over the next few weeks, we may notice how quickly all those plants and flowers, that have been hibernating all winter, begin to show off, bringing their own shades of brightness and color to our world.
On Sunday, as I was driving through Grand Rapids and saw a group of students, dressed in their graduation robes, taking pictures near the entrance to their school. I was driving through another town when I noticed that there were banners displaying pictures of the graduating class on city lamp posts. I had to keep my eyes on the road, so I could only glimpse at the pictures. These young men and women will be headed off to college, trade school or a gap year in the next few weeks.
These students were sophomores when the pandemic first caused us to shelter in place, bringing a new meaning to homeschooling. For the first time in two years, parents, grandparents and others will be able to watch their children walk across a stage and receive a diploma signifying they have made it to the next phase of their lives.
I have often wondered why the ceremonies celebrating the end of high school and college are called Commencement. Speeches on this day encourage the graduating class to look toward the future which has yet to be written. Their entire lives are ahead of them. For each student, this is a time of new beginnings.
As guidelines for wearing masks, sheltering in place and other COVID restrictions are going away, we are entering a new time for our faith communities and how we will be able to renew our relationships with each other and with our Lord. Our time of hibernation due to the virus is, hopefully, coming to an end. I have considered this time away as a wilderness journey. I have dedicated part of these past two years in reflection and meditation, waiting for the commencement of how we will engage in mission and ministry going forward.
It is time to begin planting seeds again. As we enter a new appointment year, I invite all of us to consider how we may be of service to those in need in our churches and neighborhoods. How are we able to make a difference? How do we live out the passages of Matthew 25 and John 20? What other passages inspire and invite us to look outside of our church walls to support and connect with our sisters and brothers?
It may not seem to be the case, but who we are and what we do is more important now than ever. This is our Commencement. We have the opportunity to create new relationships with people who hunger and thirst to know that God is with us. This is also a time when we can reconnect with each other, learning from our time apart, what we need to help and support each other as we continue our journeys of faith. I share this song with you as we explore where these new roads will lead us. And Amen.