There are those moments in time that we hold up as significant. Meaning absolutely no disrespect to the 99.99% of the wonderfully normal times, there are interspersed times that do transcend the ordinary. One of these times is graduation.
Back in early May on a Saturday morning, one of my children graduated from college. He received his Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Tennessee Chattanooga in Art with a special emphasis in sculpture. He, along with approximately four hundred other students, received their Undergraduate Degrees under the broad range of opportunities afforded by the School of Arts and Sciences in a diversity of subjects. This did not even include the later graduation of the completely separate School of Business.
Anne and I, along with another son, were there to participate in the ceremony. There is not a word or words in our language to describe the feelings one has when their child walks across the stage, shakes the President of the University’s hand, and then receives that piece of parchment that proves they have graduated. It was undeniably a celebration.
I did not even attend my college graduation – though I promise you I did graduate with an Undergraduate Degree! The graduation ceremony was not required. On the other hand, Seminary graduation was certainly mandatory. Not one of my classmates outwardly showed or verbally shared that they did not wish to partake in that wonderful moment of our spiritual formation. It was three years of Master’s Degree work with many late, late nights of study and then followed by early, early Chapel. Seminary was, therefore, both academic and spiritual.
Father Bill went to a Seminary called Nashotah House; I went to Virginia Seminary. They both had their own way of approaching what it means to be a Christian through the lens of being an Episcopalian. We bring our seminary educations to you for your growth in those holy, sacramental markers in time.
The sacraments are both holy and markers in time: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Unction (prayer for healing), Reconciliation of a Penitent (private confession), and Ordination. Defining Holy or Holiness is impossible, though it is real - it is what God does and not what we do by studying harder. We may have to get there – or be available at our house or in the hospital - for that sacramental marker in time for God to do it, however. It’s not magic done from a distance.
For instance, to receive that little wafer and sip of wine we believe are the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, we hold out our hands or open our mouth to receive the Eucharist. When I miss the Sunday Eucharist, I know I have literally missed something. That bread and wine do literally feed us. It is my strongest inclination that God, as our Heavenly Father, is just like any proud parent watching his or her child receive their diploma. It doesn’t matter, however, what our grade point average is in order to be baptized, or confirmed, receive the Holy Eucharist, be married, receive prayers for healing, confess our sins, or even ordained. I think that there is this sense of overwhelming joy in God’s heart for you to show up and receive all the wonderful gifts of the sacraments that God has made especially for you. It is a holy time – a holy marker in time – when you show up. And God celebrates!