As I write these words, Emory graduates are wearing their caps and gowns, family and friends surround them, smiles abound, selfies are the order of the day, and there is a general air of celebration that is palpable. The ceremonies that are taking place on the quad, in the Glenn Sanctuary, at the Law School, Nursing School, Business School, Medical School and more all mark the end of years of hard work, study and the pursuit of a degree in higher education.
But while it might feel like the end of paper deadlines, exams and presentations, and endless sleepless nights, I believe the reason for the celebratory feel on campus today is the fact that this is really a day of new beginnings. I suppose that is why we call this day Commencement. It is the day when these graduates are launched into their future. It is the day when they commence on a new leg of their life’s journey.
While new beginnings can come with a certain sense of trepidation and anxiety over what the future may hold, new beginnings also come with endless opportunities. New beginnings come with the opportunity to learn from past mistakes, to build on the wisdom and lessons we have learned from our interaction with others, to leave behind painful experiences, to embrace possibility. The degrees that these graduates left campus with will open doors to new paths and experiences.
As Christians, we celebrate commencement everyday. Everyday is a promise of a new start, a new beginning, a new opportunity to live in God’s love. Everyday provides a chance to learn from past mistakes, to build on the wisdom and lessons we have learned from our interaction with others, to leave behind painful experiences, to embrace possibility.
I have been pondering the scripture verses that Chris Crosby sent me in a letter last week, Lamentations 3: 22-23 which read, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” As I’ve read and reread these verses, I have found myself celebrating the promise that with God every day is a new beginning, a new opportunity to experience the love of God, to start afresh with every intention to do my very best to love God and neighbor, and when I fail, to seek anew the forgiveness of a God who removes our sins and transgressions from us “as far as the east is from the west.”
We might not be walking around today in a cap and gown, yet we can give God thanks that everyday is commencement—a new beginning.
Grace and peace,