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Synopsis of Is There Life after High School?
Good and joyful morning this morning to all Christian brothers and sisters on this the day the lord has made. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee, or tea, or milk, or whatever is your favorite…. We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life, the word of god. And today’s slice comes from….
James 1 : 5-6 If you need wisdom – if you want to know what God wants you to do – ask him, and he will gladly tell you. He will not resent your asking.6 But when you ask him, be sure that you really expect him to answer, for a doubtful mind is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.
I think it was George Burns who, one day, put down his cigar long enough to suggest that life begins at eighty. I think it was Art Linkletter, among others, who argued that life begins at forty. There are a lot of kids who think that life begins when they get out of the house, and more than a few parents who agree with them. And I have a good friend who contends that life begins when the last kid leaves home and the dog dies. Which explains why, when his youngest son graduated from high school.
The implied question of today’s title is rhetorical and even maybe a little silly. Of course there is life after high school. There is also life after college. There is life after graduate school. There is even life after ordination. There is life after thirty. There is life after forty. And, God be praised, there is even life after my 75 years.
But my title does have something behind it. Life’s major transitions always have a hint of death in them. Before one can graduate to something, one must graduate from something. And where there are separations, there are bound to be separation anxieties. For every graduate who shouts: “I can’t wait to get out of here,” or “Free at last,” there is another graduate who says (so that no one can hear): “I am afraid to leave.” More often than not, those feelings reside in the same person. A high school class President, a lovely girl named Dawn said, in the midst of a marvelous graduation speech: “Do you realize that tonight is the very last time we will ever all be together again?” And the sound of 325 people sucking in their breath at the same time, spoke with an eloquence that more than matched her words.
By the way. That does not have to be so. My graduation class of 1955 still have reunions every year. As class President I am planning it for June 4th this year
So, to be sure, there is life after high school. But there is just enough death in the transition, so as to make whatever comes next look a little bit like being reborn. The whole business of graduation is powerful and promising. But it is more than a little bit painful.
And what is it you are graduating to? There are some who would say that you are graduating to the “real world.” But I would suggest that such thinking is fraudulent and badly in need of correction. Allow me to volunteer for the job of Corrections Officer.
The “real world” is not out there! If it is, what does that have to say about your world? Are you living in a fantasy world? A play world? A preparatory world? To graduate from high school means, among other things, that some of you may have already:
- coped with the divorce, or severe discord in the marriage of your parents.
- watched an ambulance pull up to your high school and haul off a friends.
- watched them close your school … or conduct a day’s worth of classes under armed guards … because one of your classmates phoned in a threat to blow it up or shoot it up.
- found at least two jobs … quit at least one job … and groaned about the wages you received at all of them.
- experienced your first (ever) brush with failure or rejection.
- confronted the blunt edge of your own limitations.
- didn’t get the grade you wanted … the part you wanted … the letter of acceptance you wanted … the date you wanted … or the position on the team you wanted.
- broken a law, gotten a ticket or crunched a fender.
- been forced to make some rather personal decisions (under the influence of some very powerful pressures) about whether you would drink too much, go too far or stoop too low … only to discover that destiny (as a teenager) often turns on what you uncap, uncork, or unzip.
If those things don’t constitute slices of the real world, I don’t know what the “real world” looks like. So, if someone tells you that you are not a part of the real world yet, what they mean is that you are not fully earning your way. Which is probably true, …but it carries with it the extremely dangerous assumption, that the only thing separating you from the real world is money and the fact that you are not making very much of it. As assumptions go, that is not a very good one to get trapped into believing. For it implies that retirees, housewives, and others who are not a part of the full-time work force, are also without a position in the real world. But that is another sermon, and in order to hear it you will have to come back another day.
Whether or not you are making any money, you are learning a great deal. And you must have gotten to be halfway decent at it, or you would not be graduating. So do not let anyone disparage the thought of either graduating or learning. I issue that as a warning. Because I fear that serious learning is somewhat under fire these days, especially if there does not appear to be an obvious and immediate connection between serious learning and financial benefits to be gained therefrom.
And I can understand how learning can get a bad press. After all, the Apostle Paul reminds us that knowledge is one of the things that will pass away, while love is one of the things that will abide. Elsewhere in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul suggests that “God has made foolish the wisdom of the world.” It is Paul’s way of telling us that knowledge is not God, and that reason has its limits. After all, if you dissect a frog, you will have a great deal of information on how frogs are put together. But you won’t have a frog anymore. And if you subject your faith to too much dissection, you might not have a faith anymore. Or so the argument goes. I, myself, have preached on this station that the Greek think is all reasoning, as opposed to the Hebrew think, “If God said it is so.”
But having spoken his piece about the folly of worshipping knowledge, Paul is not saying we ought to be fools. Neither is he writing a brief in defense of stupidity. For the human mind is a wonderful thing. I would submit that the human mind may be the most indisputable proof that a Divine Mind is guiding the unfolding process of creation.
As Harold Kushner writes, “When you realize that human beings are born weaker, slower, more naked (in terms of protective body hair) and ever-so-much more vulnerable than most other creatures, you come to understand that apart from our intellect … and the ability to apply it … we wouldn’t be able to survive at all.”
Or, as I have often heard, “You dumb cluck … why don’t you use the brains God gave you?” At that point, they were a pretty fair theologian.
But enough, dear graduates, from the soapbox. Let me turn, to a different matter. Allow me to ask what you are going to do with all this present and future learning. I am talking “vocation” here. Not vacation….. as in chilling out … kicking back … blowing the summer off … sleeping ’til noon, but vocation, as in what are you going to do with your life, most days, from nine o’clock to five.
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