These are my comments directed to Lakeside’s Class of 2020 at this year’s graduation. I extend my words to all graduates in our federation.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way.
In recent weeks, everyone’s lives were overturned. Many lost their jobs. Busy schedules were vacated and then made busy again in other ways. Pandemic, social distancing, and the new normal are today’s buzzwords. Face masks, shortages, and uncertainty about life are what we face today.
No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.
Yet, the Class of 2020 is not the first group to think or utter these words. There have been other upheavals throughout history that quickly reshaped society: the 1950s polio scare, the attack on Pearl Harbor, and the Great Depression, to name several. In a matter of minutes or days, the fragile flow of life—as we know it—can be overturned or even destroyed. It has happened before. It will likely happen again. No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.
Nearly 2,000 years ago, a group of bewildered men huddled behind locked doors. Their rabbi had been arrested, tortured, and crucified. They may well have wondered if they were next. All likely felt guilt since they deserted their Master in his hour of need. One, particularly, may well have felt this pain most keenly because his actions fulfilled the very words of his Master’s prophecy. Among them, there was fear, uncertainty, and perhaps even the sentiment, “No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.”
Then, the risen Savior entered that room. He stood among his disciples with visible nail marks in his hands and a spear slash in his side. He spoke words that were most unexpected. Instead of chastising and berating those who failed him, he said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). These were ordinary words of greeting. Yet, they bear extraordinary meaning.
In John’s gospel, Jesus explained peace. It’s not the peace “as the world gives” (John 14:27). It is peace from the forgiveness of sins that he earned for all. It is the assurance that whatever happens “will [not] be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39).
“Peace be with you.” This was the Savior’s greeting to those confused men. It assured them that their sins were forgiven. It gave them courage to meet the challenges, trials, and death threats they would face in the coming years for preaching the gospel. The Savior’s promise of peace was their sure hope in dark and uncertain times.
Jesus’ words of greeting are also for us. Like believers of all times, you and I have the assurance of our Savior’s forgiveness. No matter how unsteady our lives become or how unsure our future appears, we have the same peace that Jesus spoke to his disciples. We know that God loves us, has made us his own through baptism, and will see us through whatever the future brings.
Some might still be tempted to say, “No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way.” The end of senior year of high school should have been a time of fun, celebration, and joy. Yet, it wasn’t this year. The events of the pandemic are so close to us that we cannot see the larger picture. But, God can. He will use all that has happened in the past months to praise and glorify his name and even serve as blessings for all who trust in him.
Congratulations, Class of 2020. You have made it! It did end in the way it was supposed to. You will receive your high school diplomas. Most importantly, you have the certainty of your Savior’s forgiveness with the peace that can never be taken from you.
“Peace be with you.”
God bless you always with Jesus’ peace. Amen.
Jim Grasby is principal of Lakeside Lutheran.
Reach him at 920.648.2321 or email@example.com