Tuesday, June 21, 2011
What is "baccalaureate"? That's a pretty good question. According to one source, the term originated at the University of Oxford in the 1400s when each bachelor (i.e. graduate - from the Latin bacca) had to present a sermon in Latin as part of his academic requirements. Modern baccalaureate services are held within a few days of a school's graduation exercises and, due to government restrictions, are not "official school events". They are student-initiated services of worship where thanks is given to the Lord for bringing the graduating seniors to such an accomplishment in their life's journey.
On Sunday, for the fourth consecutive year, I had the tremendous opportunity and honor to share the gospel of Jesus Christ at our local high school's baccalaureate service. About 40 graduating students from Gateway Regional High School, along with maybe 100 other friends and family, assembled in the school's auditorium on Father's Day for the service. Students led in prayer, Scripture reading, and singing (accompanied by our church pianist Sonja Rentschler!). But the opportunity to address the students and their families was mine.
I shared a message about wisdom--God's way--as the highest and greatest goal of our lives. I cited the Biblical story of Solomon and how he wisely asked God for a discerning mind to govern the people of Israel (1 Kings 3). I also shared about how Solomon lost focus on the glory and honor of God and turned away from the Lord (1 Kings 11:9). I cautioned the students about chasing after the "empty" goods of this world - mentioning some of the themes of the book of Ecclesiastes. Finally, I challenged the students to embrace God's greatest gift and provision of wisdom, the Lord Jesus Christ. I shared 1 Corinthians 1:18-25 which speaks of the power of the cross of Jesus Christ being "foolishness to the world", but to those who trust and believe it is "God's power". I pray God really spoke through me to the students and their families.
I remember back some 14 years ago to my own baccalaureate service as a graduate from Soddy-Daisy High School. The room was packed with people and most of my graduating class (some 350 students) was in attendance. I remembering having the opportunity to share my testimony and some Scripture at that service. I have come to realize clearly that things are a lot different in my setting in the Mid-Atlantic. The "church" is not a central part of cultural life for most people in our area. Still, I am amazed by God's power to provide relationships that lead to such opportunities for the gospel to be brought to these people. I thank God for giving me these chances to point people to their need for Jesus Christ. God's word never returns to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). So, I am confident that these opportunities are having an impact on my community and, in the end, will be shown to have made a difference in someone's life.