This morning our congratulations to all who are graduating this spring at whatever level.
College and beyond.
And, congratulations to their families, as well.
Each step, in its own way, represents an important milestone for both graduates and parents.
But today is set aside specifically to recognize and honor our graduating high school seniors.
So, to all of you, this morning’s message is for you.
I Dare You.
In four parts.
First, I dare you to remember what we talked about in Confirmation. Not necessarily the week in, week out conversations – drawing pictures of God or how we might read and understand the Bible or what we do and do not know about Jesus (though I do hope you remember some of those things.). What I really want you remember are the two rules for Confirmation which I shared with you the very first time we met four years ago. So, just in case you forgot, let me remind you. The first rule was (and is) that it is okay to say anything, tp ask me anything, to agree with me and with each other or to disagree with me and with each other. And, the second rule was the only thing you were not allowed to say in Confirmation was “I don’t know.” said in such a way as to avoid thinking about a new idea or a hard question or doing the sometimes challenging work of finding words to express what you were thinking or feeling.
I dare you to remember those two rules as you step away from home and out into the world because they are rules for more than just Confirmation. Don’t just accept the easy answer or the pre-packaged ideas or the all too ready stereotypes.
Ask the next question.
Push your own understanding.
Listen well, but also reach for words to express your own thoughts and ideas.
Don’t just believe it because I said it or they said it you read it on Twitter or Facebook or saw it on the internet. This applies whether you are thinking or talking about economics or politics or social policy. Or whether you are thinking and talking about religion or God or the values around which you would like to build your life.
I dare you.
And, I dare you to remember what you have learned about who your neighbor is.
The four of you here today know Bonnie Gordon, the Bridges to Community staff person who lives in Masaya, Nicaragua and who works in the communities around Las Conchitas. Maybe you have heard Bonnie tell the story of being somewhere in Central America with her niece and traveling to a resort for some sort of special occasion and being on the bus that picked everyone up at the airport to take them to the hotel where they would be staying. As the bus was about to go through the poorer section of the community, the representative from the resort told everyone to “put their blinders on and not look out the windows” until they were through that part of town.
Bonnie then says…
And, I want to remind you is this.
The tour guide had it wrong.
Instead of putting on blinders and staring straight ahead, take your blinders off.
Look around you.
See the world.
See what it really looks like and not just what your own backyard looks like.
See the faces and learn the names of those whom God names as our neighbors.
And, remember what you have learned because you have been a part of this community. Your neighbor is not always the person who looks like you or speaks the same language you do or has the same opportunities as you. Those out there are your neighbors, as well. And, while you have gifts and abilities to share with them, you already know they have something important to teach and share with you, as well.
I dare you.
And, I dare you to take seriously that there is that Something More.
Something more than you and me.
Something larger than you and me.
Something More that has to do with love and life and gratitude and wonder.
And, having to do with justice and peace and a vision of the world where all have enough and all have a place.
I name it as God.
You may as well.
I believe it is all around us. And in us and through us linking our lives and all lives together. My hope for you is that you look for it and see it and experience it and name it in more and more moments of your life. It is there all the time, but let me remind you of one time when I think you stood in its presence. It is when you stood in that 16’x16’ home which you helped to build and listened to a mother or a father say Thank you.
Do you remember?
I believe with all my heart that God was in that moment and in that place.
So, in those moments to come…
Whether in college or beyond…
When you find yourself wondering about God or maybe even wondering about yourself remember that moment and use it as the starting place for asking your questions.
I dare you.
And, I dare you to remember Bedford Presbyterian Church.
Not necessarily the building.
Or Sunday School or Sunday mornings.
But remember the people.
Those here with you today and so many more.
And, remember the values which we try to do more than just talk about and, in fact, try to live towards. Knowing the four of you, my guess is that the most meaningful experiences you associate with church are what you experienced beyond these walls rather than in this place. But I would ask you to remember that it was and is a gathered community that believed in you and believed in what you were doing and believed the world around us should be better and safer and a more welcoming place for all that made what you did…what we did and do…possible.
None of our experiences are singular.
Just about us.
Done only by us.
Somewhere in the background, sometimes visible sometimes not, stands a larger circle of people who have supported us and cared for us and challenged us and believed in us that have led us into that moment.
I want you to remember Bedford Presbyterian not for our sake,
But to remind you and to encourage you…
Even to dare you…
To do what you can to find or to create and to be a part of a gathered community wherever you are that does for others something of what we have tried to do for you here.
The responsibility is now yours.
Pay it forward.
I dare you.