Graduation and the Gospel

It's graduation season. Lots of people are going out into the world from one sphere or another--from high school, college, graduate school, etc.

Many graduation speeches will be given, and the resounding message will likely be, "go out! Do great things! Accomplish amazing feats! You are capable! Your generation is the future! Go and do, influence, effect, and create!" These speeches will be inspirational, sometimes even life-giving, but the trap which they create will be ignored. The trap which is created when we orient our future toward accomplishment, toward goals and capabilities, is that we lose sight of the value of those things from which we won't benefit, those lives which might not help us change the world, and those beautiful things in the world which are so easily labeled as insignificant. We are caged behind the bars of ambition, isolated from the incredible beauty and worthiness of the poor, the marginalized, the insignificant, the small church in the country filled with people over the age of 60, the struggling high school student who probably won't even get into college, the friends with laborious occupations who meet for coffee but don't seem to have any potential for so-called greatness... 

The message of ambition can bury us under the burden of expectation and requirement. But the gospel message extends a hope and a freedom from the burden of expectation. The gospel tells us that we are saved by grace for which no work is a prerequisite. The gospel invites us to dedicate ourselves to the poor, the marginalized, the insignificant... to those from whom we cannot and will not benefit. We are invited to see the sacredness of living with the church that won't change the world, the significance of loving the high school student who will not be influenced, the greatness of spending mundane time with friends who won't accomplish anything worth remembering. We are free to become nothing. Such is the way of the cross which brings resurrection and ironically announces a future of joy. 

So here's a shout-out to all my Seminary friends who are graduating today. Congratulations! Now go into the world with the freedom in Christ to become do no great things... to dedicate yourself to insignificance. Be free from the burden of expectation and requirement. Be only what grace requires of you and respond to grace with love. That is your mission.

"We can do no great things, only small things with great love." -Mother Theresa