Christian education is, first and foremost, an activity for the home. God has called parents to train their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4) and make them wise for salvation (2 Timothy 3:15).
A Christian fellowship is able to support the home by providing Sunday School, Christian Day school, Vacation Bible School, and other opportunities. Of these, a school is probably the most recognizable “face” of Christian education; if this is the case, then graduation becomes a visible “sign of success.”
The scope of Christian education is, however, much broader and deeper than successfully completing years of school. So, while the obvious is acknowledging the Lord’s blessing in bringing students to a graduation milestone, there is also much more to observe in a graduation worship service.
Such was the case on June 5, 2011, when Immanuel Lutheran High School – Mankato graduated its six seniors. Like others before and after it, this graduation was the climax and successful conclusion of time spent in the Christian classroom (which, for some in the class, was 13 years, including kindergarten!).
Speaking on behalf of the graduates, valedictorian Adam Geiger provided excellent reminders that graduation from a Christian high school is just one small part of the whole picture. He did this by using the analogy of a sports team:
God is the team founder, creator, and owner—The Holy Spirit has called, gathered, enlightened, and sanctified the whole Christian Church on earth. In addition, God provided the opportunity for Christian education at Immanuel and brought this “team” of classmates together.
Parents and teachers are the coaches and trainers—God uses these leaders to bring children up in the training and admonition of the Lord (parents) and to further the instruction in God’s Word (teachers), while equipping them to stand against temptation (injury) and to grow stronger in faith and Christian living (strength and endurance training).
The members of the congregation are the fans—The members of Immanuel support the school with their prayers and offerings, provide encouragement to the students, and also assist the Christian education through various support roles for the school and congregation.
The class is the team—They trained together, grew together, “played” the game of school together and by God’s grace have reached the end of their playing days on this team. However, they continue in the body of Christ and set out into the world to serve their Lord, giving testimony to His grace and saving Word.
Lane Fischer (Immanuel’s 3rd & 4th grade teacher) delivered the devotional address entitled, “Following and Leading.” He used Psalm 23:6 as text, correlating it with the seniors’ class verse (Proverbs 2:20).
“Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Psalm 23:6
“So you may walk in the way of goodness, and keep to the paths of righteousness.”
Going forward, our prayer for all the graduates is that they would follow our Shepherd as they are led by Him and that they also seek to lead others with His Word. There will be highs and lows, successes and failures, but their education in Christ and His saving Word will lead them in ongoing and eternal success.
Through the gospel and the salvation it brings, all graduates—indeed all children of God—are on God’s “winning team” as they cling to His Word, abide in it and follow it. The class hymn echoed the confidence of sheep who hear their Shepherd’s voice and follow Him (cf. John 10:7-18, 27-29, the service Scripture reading):
Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet
and a light unto my path.
When I feel afraid, think I’ve lost my way,
Still You’re there right beside me.
And nothing will I fear
as long as You are near.
Please be near me to the end.
I will not forget Your love for me
and yet my heart forever is wandering.
Jesus, be my guide and hold me to Your side,
And I will love You to the end.
[Psalm 119:105 — Amy Grant]