Lead - 1st Timothy 4:12 - Graduate Sunday Homily
Graduates, what a big time it is for each of you. Kindergarteners, how does it feel to have finished that first year of school? Look over here to the eighth graders…one day you will be sitting where they are. Eighth graders, elementary and middle school are now behind you. If you went to kindergarten you have finished at least nine years of school. That means that, including a bachelor’s degree from college, you have officially passed the halfway point in your education…you have less to go than you have already completed…and in just four years, you’ll be where our seniors are sitting. Seniors, you have been in school for nearly three quarters of your life….and by the end of this week, you will officially be done. Yet, probably from as soon as you finished last year, folks have been asking you, “what’s next?” And next will be here soon…because whether it is “basic training” or college, your education will soon be back underway. College grads…congratulations…you’ve gone above and beyond…next up is the school of life. Graduates, today’s message is for you…everyone else just gets to overhear it, with God hopefully helping them glean something from it as well.
Graduates, let me ask you a question. How many of you have ever been told, or at least heard, “Children are meant to be seen and not heard”? I heard it a lot growing up…let’s find out how many of these other folks have heard it. Raise your hands if you grew up hearing or at any point heard someone say, “Children are meant to be seen and not heard.” Adults, confession time. How many of us have actually said it?
Those that raised their hands…either time…who knows where that phrase comes from? How many think it is a good, solid, Biblical principal? Well, it’s not! Its origin is most likely out of medieval history in England. The earliest written record of it is actually found in a sermon written by a minister during the 15th century, but he suggested it originated a few centuries earlier. So, sadly, evidence seems to suggest that it did originate in the church, but the statement is anything but Biblical.
Scripture suggests quite a different thing for each of you graduates and all our young folks. Now there was an attitude of the Biblical culture that children were insignificant, they weren’t valued in that time period for being much more than security for the future. However, the Bible does not suggest that children should be silent. In fact, it offers quite a different picture and quite a different message for each of you.
In the book of 1st Samuel we find the men of Israel, he grownups, cowering for 40 days as a giant of a man from the Philistine army came out to challenge them to battle every day. No one would take him on. Save one person…and he was not one of the adults. He was the youngest eight sons and was not old enough to be in the Hebrew army. He showed up delivering food and was appalled at the fear of his elders…David took up five stones, went onto the battlefield, and trusting in the strength of God brought down that giant with one small stone launched from his slingshot.[i]
In 2nd Chronicles, we read that in a period where the bad kings of Judah had outnumbered the good, seven-year-old Joash,[ii] took the throne and began to reign as king—doing what was right in the sight of God.
In the book of Jeremiah, we find that God called forth the prophet to begin his ministry during the reign of King Josiah, another good king who began as a child. Jeremiah tried to convince God otherwise, reminding God that he was but a boy,”[iii] yet God continued to call him, reminding Jeremiah that it was His message that Jeremiah was to deliver and that He would be with him.
We travel forward to the time of Jesus and find Jesus in the Gospel of John on a hillside with thousands of folks and apparently no food among them all. As Jesus sends the disciples among the people to see what food is there, we encounter one young boy[iv] who was either the only one wise enough to pack dinner, or the only one generous enough to offer his for Jesus to use.
Graduates, these young folks were anything but silent…they were seen and heard…and they were not just heard…they led. God does not expect any of you to stand silently in the shadows or on the sidelines. God expects you to lead. God wants you to be David’s and Joash’s, and Jeremiah’s. And He does’t want you to let any Goliath’s or anyone else intimidate you.
Hold on to those words that our sister Peyton read this morning: “Let no one despise your youth but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” Lead us…show us what it means to be faithful…show us what it means to trust God wholeheartedly…show us what it means to love unconditionally…show us what it means to live live pure and holy…show us what it means to live innocently…show us what it means to live fearlessly…show us what it means to offer forgiveness…show us what it means to cherish life…show us what it means hope without fear…
Lead like David…like Joash…like Jeremiah…
Lead like 9 year old Samantha Vance who took the lead with the small dream of collecting bottlecaps to build a buddy bench for her school…and ended up raising four years’ worth of bottle caps in two months …
Lead like Isabella Miller who took a small dream of providing toiletries for the homeless and sober living centers in an effort to combat drug addiction relapses and ended up spearheading a movement create Blessing Bags of toiletry items to provide for the homeless and sober living centers…
Lead like Chase Hartman (10) and Vance Tomasi (11) who had a small dream getting others to read and decided to spend their summers collecting and distributing books to combat illiteracy, and in two months’ time donated more than 10,000 books.
Graduates…lead us…listen for God, follow Jesus, and lead us!
Friends, brothers and sisters who are overhearing this message to the graduates, those of you, like I, who have at times said, “children are meant to be seen and not heard,” let us listen for God too, remembering his words through the prophet Isaiah, “The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leap lard shall like down with the kid, the fall and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.”[v] Let us follow Jesus too, remember His words, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”[vi] They have something to teach us…let them lead.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
[i] 1st Samuel 17
[ii] 2nd Chronicles 24:1
[iii] Jeremiah 1:6
[iv] John 6:9
[v] Isaiah 11:6
[vi] Matthew 18:3