I found a wonderful sermon by Hess, a contributor to Evangelical Lutheran, written for an 8th grade graduation. I'm posting this in preparation for my own son's graduation next spring. It is based on Psalm 25 and is titled “Let me not be put to shame”. It has a good message for the many students who will go on to public high school. Those going on to Lutheran high school will also be blessed by this sermon.
2 in you I trust, O my God.
Do not let me be put to shame,
nor let my enemies triumph over me.
3 No one whose hope is in you
will ever be put to shame,
but they will be put to shame
who are treacherous without excuse.
4 Show me your ways, O LORD,
teach me your paths;
5 guide me in your truth and teach me,
for you are God my Savior,
and my hope is in you all day long.
6 Remember, O LORD, your great mercy and love,
for they are from of old.
7 Remember not the sins of my youth
and my rebellious ways;
according to your love remember me,
for you are good, O LORD.
8 Good and upright is the LORD;
therefore he instructs sinners in his ways.
9 He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them his way.
10 All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful
for those who keep the demands of his covenant.
11 For the sake of your name, O LORD,
forgive my iniquity, though it is great.
12 Who, then, is the man that fears the LORD ?
He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.
13 He will spend his days in prosperity,
and his descendants will inherit the land.
14 The LORD confides in those who fear him;
he makes his covenant known to them.
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
18 Look upon my affliction and my distress
and take away all my sins.
19 See how my enemies have increased
and how fiercely they hate me!
20 Guard my life and rescue me;
let me not be put to shame,
for I take refuge in you.
21 May integrity and uprightness protect me,
because my hope is in you.
22 Redeem Israel, O God,
from all their troubles!
- Psalm 25:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem, the verses of which begin with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet.
In the list of big days in your life, 8th grade graduation may not make the top ten list. I thought about my 8th grade graduation, and I could barely remember it, much less what the speaker said at it. But you know, it’s not the big days that shape our destiny. It’s on non-special Sundays, through humble sermons, that God has chosen to give people faith in Christ and eternal life. It’s in very simple thing that God gives us his richest treasures. Simple water combined with God’s Name, which washes away our sins and makes us holy if we believe His promise, simple bread and wine where Jesus gives us His Body and Blood which takes away our sin.
You’ve been hearing about these things for many years. Now the years where you’ll have to sit in religion classes at school, and in school chapel, are over. You won’t be hearing so much about God in school, but God will still be there, just as He is here now, knowing everything about you—the talents and gifts he gave you, the good works He’s done in you, and your sins. Since God is here, I wonder what God thinks about your 8th grade graduation, which probably many of you don’t think much about. God thinks you are important enough to keep track of every hair on your head, so I think that He is probably very interested in the fact that you are graduating tonight. And I know that God, who caused you to be born and keeps you alive and is familiar with all of your ways, wants to speak to you on this day as much as on any other, although most days we don’t listen very closely to God.
What does God want to say to you on this big day among many big days in your life? See, what God says to us is far more important than what anyone else says about us, whether they compliment us or talk bad about us. God’s Words are not just friendly advice for how you should live. Instead, God’s words decide what our destinies are going to be. God’s Words created heaven and earth. They sustain the world, so that the sun still rises and sets, so that we still have food to eat and air to breathe. God’s words condemn us and forgive us, kill us and heal us.
The funny thing is that God has spoken to you many, many times in your life, though you may not have recognized it as God’s voice, nor believed what the voice of God said. He spoke His Name over you when you were baptized, and He named you with His Name. He spoke to you this year when you learned the ten commandments, and told you that you were sinners, and that those who sin earn death and hell. And God has spoken to you again and again throughout these years and declared to you that your sins were forgiven because Christ suffered for them on the cross. Every time pastor or one of your teachers told you that your sins were forgiven, that was God speaking. Did you realize it at the time? Did you listen? Did you believe God?
In the Psalm you picked today, King David uttered a very important prayer about his life. This is what he said, “To you, O Lord, I lift up my soul; in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.” God today wants you to know that it is His will that you never be ashamed in your life. He had St. Paul write many years after King David, “Whoever trusts in Him”—Jesus—“will never be put to shame.”
You are talented kids. Some of you are smart as a whip. Some of you are great athletes. Some of you are musicians, some are artists, some of you are all of the above, and some of you have talents that have not been revealed yet. Have you given much thought to what you want your lives to be? Four more years and then you’ll be grown, and no one will be able to tell you what to do with yourselves. What are you going to do, to be?
Read more: Evangelical Lutheran: Meditatio--Psalm 25
Photo from Chris Ross Gallery.