Next Sunday, May 31, is the Day of Pentecost, the day we celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit enlivening the Church, the Body of Christ. You are invited on Pentecost Sunday, May 31, at 7 p.m., to join a Virtual Hymn Sing sponsored by the North/West Lower Michigan Synod and University Lutheran Church in East Lansing. We cannot yet sing together in worship onsite at Trinity, but we can sing from home with friends from around our synod – be welcome to join in and raise your voice in song!
Join in on Facebook for the Virtual Hymn Sing!
Commencement 2020 – “Let the Adulting Begin”
Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.
The texts from Joshua and Jeremiah reflect our spirit of blessing upon the class of 2020 – the Lord God is with you and has a plan for you, to give you a future with hope. For high school and college graduates, who have had so much of their graduation transition stripped away amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the spring of this year, with the blessings of Moses’ apprentice and the reluctant prophet we pray for God’s presence in all their future endeavors. Even as we grieve all that we have lost in this time of separation and distancing, we know the promises of God. We pray that our graduates will know those promises in everything that is before them.
The one thing that the class of 2020 has not had stripped away is the commencement address. Former presidents, corporate leaders, entertainers and sports heroes have been extensively profiled on multiple platforms in recent weeks offering their words of wisdom to tomorrow’s leaders, the class of 2020. Class Valedictorians have had their graduation speeches broadcast to national and international audiences, reaching a far wider cross section of the human community than ever before, and a word of hope for tomorrow from many voices has permeated the 2020 graduation season.
I have noted something about this year’s commencement addresses that is not always evident but is perhaps more desperately needed in this time than it has been in recent decades. This year’s speakers seem to be very intentional in speaking to all of us. To some degree that is always the case – good advice for living in the future is pertinent for all of us, all the time. But in this time of division and fear, political polarization, shocking incidents of racial injustice and the public health in crisis, we are all being asked to “let the adulting begin.”
“Let the adulting begin.” It’s a phrase I encountered in a column by Cynthia Lindner of the University of Chicago Divinity School last week. 1 Lindner noted that in a few short months, a virus of historic proportions has pulled back the veil to reveal the liabilities of some of our most cherished assumptions, that expertise has all the answers, that powerful leaders can protect us, that we are free to choose our own adventure and find our own bliss, etc. We have been reminded that full, mature humanity “demands that we grow up, face reality, and own our responsibility to, for, and alongside the entire human community.” Commencement speakers routinely announce that if the world is going to get better, it is up to the new graduates to make it happen, and every graduation includes a ‘passing of the torch’ to those who are now called to bear light to the world. Witnesses in the bleachers, to some degree, wash their hands of the mess they’ve made and commend new ‘adulting’ to the graduating class. This year, however, we are invited to not wash our hands of the mess we’re in, but to join hands (‘virtually’) in shared responsibility and in shaping vision for a new day.
Lindner writes that members of the class of 2020 have certainly “sensed the urgency of their hour, felt the claim of history, and already shown themselves to be capable moral agents.” However, the responsibility is not solely theirs. Commencement speeches are meant to be overheard and taken up by everyone within earshot. The world needs the rest of us to commence as well in 2020, to take up our roles and responsibilities as adults. Lindner wrote, “We have all been found out, even as our sons and daughters have been found, by history. Let the adulting begin.”
Twelve years ago, speaking at the commencement of the Harvard University class of 2008, author J. K. Rowling defended the importance of perseverance and imagination. “We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already; we have the power to imagine better.” Earlier this spring, graduating seniors at the College of the Holy Cross received their virtual commencement message from an alumnus who has been in the news quite a bit of late. Dr. Anthony Fauci, Holy Cross class of 1962, encouraged the graduates to stay strong and unflinching, and to lead by moral mentorship. “Now is the time,” Dr. Fauci said, “if ever there was one, for us to care selflessly for one another.”
We have the power to imagine better, to stay strong and unflinching, and to care selflessly for one another. Let us take the words to our graduates to heart, to be inspired with them to care well for our world as we emerge from this time of pandemic. Let the adulting begin.
Finally, a word of benediction to our graduates, and to all within earshot:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
the LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
the LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.
Grace and peace,
Pastor Robert Linstrom
1 “Commencement 2020: Let the Adulting Begin,” by columnist Cynthia Lindner, in the May 21 edition of Sightings, published by the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion at the University of Chicago Divinity School.