Spirit Filled. Spirit Sent.

Among other things, the month of May is graduation season. Our little family experienced its power and joy when our son, Nathan, graduated from Valparaiso University on Pentecost Sunday. Spending the day with him and watching him walk across that stage to receive his diploma folder and shake hands with VU’s president, Mark Heckler, was emotional, heart-swelling, and joyous. We are so grateful for and proud of Nathan. And grateful for the ways in which the Valpo community embraced him, equipped him, and formed him and, in that moment, sent him out for the next stage of his baptismal journey.

A few days after graduation day, I saw a fairly close-up photo of Nathan’s handshake with President Heckler, snapped by a friend of Nathan’s. I could see the joyful gleam in President Heckler’s eyes and the happy determination in Nathan’s. Powerful emotions rose again for me as I gazed at the look between the two.

Photo courtesy Ian Olive
And then, later, my brain made a weird connection, perhaps because Nathan’s commencement occurred on the day of Pentecost. Apart from the fact that both Nathan and President Heckler were wearing robes, that photo triggered memories of all those times that, bedecked in my own liturgical robes, I have stood at the door at the end of worship to shake the hands of every worshipper as they head out the door.

I am sure you know or have experienced this time-honored tradition. Often this moment in the doorway or narthex includes some version of “Good sermon” or “How are you doing?” It might also include a prayer request or an update on someone’s situation or the introduction of a visitor.

This is all good, of course. Yet, I wonder, how might that moment at the door be different if it were a little more like the moment between Nathan and his university president on the commencement stage? What if that liturgical handshake were actually understood to be part of the sending rite?

After all, in worship God’s Spirit embraces, equips, forms, and sends us for the next steps in our baptismal journey with Jesus. We carry our diplomas in the mark of the cross on our brow and we don’t just leave worship, we are sent. That moment is its own form of commencement, another beginning in living the new life of Jesus in the world.

Looking carefully, as I shake the hands of worshippers across this territory I can see in their – in your – eyes both a sense of readiness and confidence that you have received what you need and a little nervousness at the challenge of the task ahead. But, thanks be to God, you are energized and ready to go. So stride across the stage and go! Use the gifts you’ve been given through water and Word, bread and wine, and the fellowship of the body of Christ to share the new, abundant, and lasting life of Jesus with the world that is desperately looking for what you have been given.

Go in peace! Serve the Lord!

No comments:

Creative Commons License
Table Scraps by William O. Gafkjen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.