[I've had lots of great opportunities while raising mydaughters. Speaking at Sarah's Baccalaureate Service is one of my highlights. I choose not to tell any Sarah stories. Instead, I spoke to the challenges and opportunities today's graduates have as natives of the post-modern, digital world. If you want a few Sarah stories - I have those too. Eric]
Habersham Central High School
Sunday, May 17, 2015
Good Afternoon – Superintendent Cooper, Principal McGee, Distinguished faculty, families and friends and most importantly – Good Afternoon to the 2015 Graduates of Habersham Central High School. The opportunity to speak briefly with you today brings me great joy and much honor. Thank you.
In 1997 - the year most of you graduates first appeared on the world’s stage - the world you entered was stable. Newspapers and television news delivered the world to us regularly each day. The internet - then known as the information superhighway – was still a novelty. Google did not exist so people still used books called encyclopedias. Your parents at their work and maybe their homes were just beginning to use something called email to communicate. When we traveled, we pulled out huge things from the glove compartment of our cars called maps to find our directions.
In 1997, the country was in an incredible mood - the stocks markets were beginning to soar. Stories of secretaries making millions though internet company stock options filled in the news. Russia was a disaster after the U.S. won the Cold War. Dreams of long lasting world peace were everywhere. Tiger Woods won his first masters in April. Hong Kong returned to China in June and Mother Teresa died in September.
In 1997 - parents like me pictured a great future for our new young infants. Life is never without its difficulties; but in 1997, hope filled our homes and our biggest fears were trying to get you to fall asleep each night - not what kind of world you would inherit.
This world no longer exits. The world I just described might as well be life on Mars for all of you. Over the course of your life, the 1997 world has morphed into a new world. And our world continues to change at a rapid pace. The only thing we know about the future is that change will continue and it will happen at even faster rates.
The peace of the late 1990's morphed into the longest wars in American history. Instead of world peace, you grew up with nightly images of combat, terror, and friends and family at war.
The financial dreams of the late 1990’s crashed into the Great Recession. Friends and family members lost their jobs, their homes, and their security. The financial security in which you were born became a life of financial instability. Slowly, I’m grateful to say, our world is pulling out of this – but this experience has shaped all of us.
The Internet of the 1990's has transformed our whole world and nothing is the same. There is no question Google cannot answer at the moment we want it. There is no place on earth we cannot locate – from the bottom the ocean to the top of Everest. We are connected to everyone via social media – sharing pictures, events and experiences. The Internet is no longer a computer it is everywhere.
The world that has formed you will always be a foreign country to me and to your parents. Yes, we visit and try to acclimate ourselves to this new, digital world. But we will never be citizens – only visitors. You, on the other hand, are natives. You belong in this world. What my generation causes distracted multi-tasking – doing your homework while watching a Netflix movie on an ipad while listening to music all while texting – you simply call life and work. What my generation calls oversharing, you simply call social networking.
While the world will continue to change dramatically, the one thing I know about each of you – these 18 years between 1997 and 2015 have prepared you to enter this brave new world. The world is wide open for each of you to discover. Yet, this new world can also eat you up. To survive you must prepare yourselves. The lives you want to live will not just happen – they require intentionality. Without intentionality and preparation – our lives will tumble in the rapid change of the world.
So - how do we live lives of intentionality and preparation? Let me offer you three orienting values from scripture and life to guide you. These values if embraced will orient your lives to the dreams and goals God has created for you.
1. Place matters.
This mobile world in which you find yourself will have youbelieve that place does not matter. We can do what we want from anywhere we want. Email, skype, or texting allows us to connect to people around the world and never get to know our neighbors. Online universities allow us to attend school with cohorts from around the country and never shake their hands or look into the eyes of the professor.
The scriptures bulldoze into our mobile fantasies to remind us of the power of a place. As much as the Bible tells the story of God’s work within humanity, the Bible also shares the story of God’s People in a place: Palestine, Israel – the Holy Land. When the Egyptian king releases the Hebrew slaves they travel across the desert to the Promised Land – a land full of trees, water, and fruit.
Today – you are two airplane rides from that same land. You can take a boat out onto the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water. You can walk up the Via Delosa where Jesus carried his cross. These places are sacred. They have power to settle and remind us of God’s power in our lives.
Place matters in our lives too. As you make your way in the world – learn the sacred power of the locations God places you. Learn its history. Get to know its people. Meet your neighbors. Preserve its resources. You see, in a mobile world - place anchors our lives.
You have been blessed to live and learn in a place full of meaning and power – Habersham County. I know some of you are eager to leave these hills to make your mark in the world. At some point, though, you will realize the gift of this place and you will hear the siren songs calling you home. You may never come back, but don’t let that keep you from finding the power of place where ever you are. The first orienting value is this: Place matters!
2. People matter
is this: People matter. While we are more connected to more people in more places than ever in all of history, physiologists and researchers also tell us we as a whole feel more isolated, lonely and depressed.
The fast pace of communication today also allows us to be emboldened to say online what we would never to say to someone in person. Hatred and bigotry fill the online worlds we create through false personas. We release our anger or fear on the world. Our tweets, texts, and snap-chats can cut other people (friends, acquaintances, and strangers) to core and we just see it as communicating honestly.
In the Bible, Jesus gives his followers a command as he prepares to leave them. In John 13 he says: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”
Jesus says – people matter. Our family matters. Our friends matter. Our new roommate matters. Our parents matter. Our followers on Instagram matter. Our Facebook friends matter. These are real people whom Jesus loves and to whom Jesus invites us to treat as valuable objects.
Over the course of the next few years you will be making choices about people that will impact the rest of your lives. As you do this – let me remind you of this value: People matter. The friends we make matter – so choose wisely. Will they make you better? Will they challenge you to love more?
The spouse you choose matters – choose wisely. “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised,” is how the proverbs state it. Choose Wisely.
The children we raise matter – so, choose your careers wisely. Our parents matter – so, choose to honor them in their older years. Even people we don’t know matter – the ones who come behind you, the ones who struggle to get by, the ones living in poverty around the world.
The gifts you have been given to this point in your life are great gifts – so use them wisely to make a difference in the lives of other people. Remember – People matter.
3. Purpose matters
Finally, the last orienting value is this: purpose matters.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker today currently will hold ten different jobs before age forty. Forrester Research predicts that today's youngest workers - that's all of you - will hold twelve to fifteen jobs in their lifetime.
There once were days – maybe for your grandparents – where a worker would join a company, work his or her way up, and eventually retire with a solid pension. Those days are also over. If no job is ever a certainty, the challenge for each of you this – find your purpose, your calling, your vocation and let this guide your life. Purpose matters.
Several years ago Michael Lerner wrote a book called “The Politics of Meaning.” Lerner said that too often we give up on our deepest held values of compassion, caring and community because they do not seem practical in the real world. We lose our passionate purpose and our values because we simply have to make a living. An ethos of selfishness and materialism then prevails by default. These are the values that we settle for when our deeper values seem out of reach.
The story of Jonah in the Bible reveals a man running from his God given purpose. Jonah did not want the purpose God had for him so he ran. And almost died in the ocean as a result until God saved him in a pretty epic way.
God had a vocation, a calling, for Jonah. Vocation is different from career. We work our way up in a career. We live out our purpose in our vocation. Our vocation may never be what funds our family – but it is what brings our living to life.
This week as you release your lives from the moorings of home and family, let me invite you to listen to God’s voice in your life. Discover your vocation. And remember – purpose matters.
These three orienting values have given shape to my life and the lives of many people I respect. I pray for each of you – for your families – and for your futures.
This week – amid all of the exciting graduation events of graduation let invite you to type into your phone or write in a journal or even your bible these important orienting values:
- Place Matters
- People Matter
- Purpose matters.
If you allow them, they shape our lives and allow god to guide you to the great adventure and journey of your lives. Thanks be to God. Amen.