Dear Members and Friends of St. John,
It is graduation season again. And, with many high schools and colleges in the area, there are numerous opportunities to join those graduating as they celebrate this milestone in their life. At St. John we have students graduating from various schools here in the valley, graduating from schools throughout Alaska, and even graduating from schools around the country. I am proud of our students who have persevered to get to this point of accomplishment in their lives.
So, on Tuesday evening I attended graduation ceremonies at Palmer High School. St. John has quite a few students who graduated from Palmer High this year. I attended the graduation with my daughter, Mary, who has taught some of these students, and who also wanted to be there for her students. As graduations go, this one was similar to many others I have attended. Various adults, including principal, Paul Reid, gave the students some good advice. Ceremonies included student speakers who shared hopes and dreams with their classmates. A number of students graced the evening with their musical talents. As is often the case, the students had also chosen a specific person they wanted to speak to them. So Kim Akers gave the graduates some good direction for life. A slide show and diplomas were presented. Graduation was special because we know many who were graduating. But, in some ways this graduation ceremony was like many others.
Nevertheless, certain moments at this year’s graduation touched the heart. Two special moments stood out for me, even though these moments perhaps weren’t intended to be special, but were special, nonetheless.
First, as the students processed into the gym, the first one in line was Kamerin Ewart. If you know Kamerin, he has faced life trials with an attitude of faith and love. Because of complications at birth, Kam needs a wheelchair to get around, and he uses a computer to help him communicate. Sometimes people who are handicapped can be forgotten or ignored by others. But, it seems that everyone knows Kam. He was the first one to process in, because of his wheelchair. I heard lots of people applauding and speaking Kam’s name as he simply entered. In addition, because of his wheelchair, Kam could not walk up the steps of the stage to receive his diploma. But, there was a ramp on the back of the stage. It took Kam a while to manipulate his electric chair up the ramp, through the line, and then back down the ramp again. But, the students and those on stage waited patiently. And again, I heard cheers and shouts for this handicapped young man. This love and recognition from Kam’s fellow students touched my heart.
The other moment that stood out in my mind, and perhaps that of others who attended, was the presentation of diploma to one student. Her diploma was not presented by the school board, nor by staff. Bryanna Ash received her diploma from her step-father, who had just returned from Afghanistan 5 days earlier. Bryanna’s step-dad had been deployed since the fall of the school year. He came out on stage in uniform to present Bryanna’s diploma. Presentation of other diplomas stopped right then as the whole gymnasium rose to honor this serviceman who had served his country, and served each of us, by putting his life on the line. It was a moving moment.
What strikes me, however, is that Kam and Bryanna were not those intentionally highlighted in the graduation ceremony. They weren’t performing music. Neither Kam nor Bryanna were speaking. However, every person has their story. Each one of the Palmer High graduates is special in the eyes of their family, and those who know them. And, on graduation night 2018, two students who were not highlighted were noticed as being special and cherished.
That is also true for all children of God. He cares for all the people of the earth, even though we may forget His love. We have recently read in worship from the book of Acts about an incident in Peter’s life that taught him that all people are beloved by God. Peter knew of ceremonial laws of the Jewish people concerning others who were not of the Jewish faith, who were Gentiles. Jewish believers separated themselves from non-Jewish people in order to protect the integrity of their faith. So, we read in Acts that it took a vision from God and a visit from a messenger for a faithful Roman soldier to teach Peter that God cares for everyone, even Gentiles. When Peter finally saw God’s word create faith in the heart of the Roman centurian, Cornelius, and create faith in those with Cornelius, Peter was led by God to declare,
34 . . . "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men [people] from every nation who fear him and do what is right. . . . 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name." (Acts 10:34-35, 43)
We are often taught in our world that those of high position, or those of special accomplishment, are the ones that deserve special honor and recognition. In a way that is true. But, that does not mean that God only cares for those the world honors. Even if we are not in a place of significance, even if we haven’t accomplished significant milestones, we are children of God and beloved by Him. “ . . . God does not show favoritism 35 but accepts men [people] from every nation who fear him and do what is right. . . . 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name." I saw this truth illustrated again Tuesday night at the Palmer High graduation.
A Child of God, Learning Again that God Loves EVERYONE,
P.S. No fishing last week - Too much unsafe ice. However, I am glad to share with you that Spring IS on the way. Here are some pictures of flowers at our house. https://photos.app.goo.gl/WpFsKs5kRxFSBS6d6
P.P.S. Here is a picture of another one of God’s special people, Bim Hoylman, umpiring with Pastor Rockey. https://photos.app.goo.gl/JjM6pfqBH9BPXD569
ABOUT ‘THOUGHTS FROM THE PASTOR’ - I am sending these e-mail messages, hopefully weekly, to all St. John members and friends whose e-mails I have. (I am regularly adding new names of friends and members – in case you are just receiving this e-mail for the first time.) However, if you do not want to receive this e-mail, please let me know, and I’ll gladly leave your name off my list for this message.