My son Nicholai and I attended the high school graduation ceremony of another young Emmausite, Sarah, and it was quite interesting. She's been homeschooled to this point, but she and her family have participated in a rather impressive co-op, which hosted the graduation for her and nine other students. Of the ten graduates, there were nine girls and only one young man. Nicholai and I were both amused by the young man's "speech," in which he noted that he found himself exactly where he wanted to be in life: surrounded by girls. He certainly did have a big grin on his face, but perhaps that was unrelated.
The co-op is not Lutheran, but interdenominationally Christian. As far as I know, Sarah was the only Lutheran among the graduates. The ceremony took place in a church (Presbyterian, I think), but I don't believe the church has any particular connection to the co-op per se. There was lots of religion, and frequent references to God, but almost no reference to Christ and His Gospel. We sang several hymns, a couple of which were vaguely familiar to me, but I was briefly perplexed and confused as I tried to sing the first one out of the hymnal in the pew, until I discovered that everyone else was singing the somewhat different words and stanzas that were being projected on the front wall. The pervading theme of the evening was the stalwart commitment of the graduates and their families, coinciding and cooperating with the providential blessings of God. It was what I might describe as an interesting blend of classic Calvinism and enthusiastic Arminianism. Lots of blessings were acknowledged, the vast majority of them having to do with overcoming adversity and achieving success through good choices, hard work and determination. Each of the fathers gave a speech in presenting a high school diploma to his daughter (or son), and I couldn't help but chuckle when Sarah's Dad declined to mention any more blessings than had already been itinerated. I was almost ready to throttle another of the fathers, however, who indicated that he and his wife would have liked to give their daughter guidance, but, since she had chosen to follow the Lord's guidance, they figured they best not get in her way. How in the world does he suppose the Lord will guide her ways, if not especially by giving her a father?
Now, I should say that I was generally impressed with the students and their families, and I honestly do commend them on their commitments to education. I don't believe that homeschooling would work for everyone, nor do I consider it a necessary approach for anyone, but I certainly do think it is a very sound and salutary way for parents to exercise their God-given responsibility for the instruction and well-being of their children. So, I applaud not only Sarah but her classmates and their parents. All of these young people comported themselves admirably, and their various accomplishments are surely a significant tribute to their dedication and efforts. I do not doubt or question that the Lord has blessed them in all these things, first of all by giving them fathers and mothers who have taken an active interest in them along the way.
What most pleased and impressed me, above and beyond anything else, was Sarah's graduation speech. Of course I was biased, since she's one of the sheep entrusted to my pastoral care, but it was not only for that reason that her speech stood out. It was different. She's a brilliant young lady, articulate and eloquent, but many of her classmates were at least comparably well spoken. No, the difference was chiefly in what she said. She confessed her faith, as did many of the others in their own fashion, but the content of her confession distinguished itself from all the rest. In the midst of seemingly endless accolades to "God" for all His "blessings," Sarah spoke concretely of Christ and His Cross, of His mercy and forgiveness, of her church and her pastors and the preaching of the Gospel and the means of grace.
I cannot even put into words how proud I was of Sarah; how proud of her I am. Not only because she "gets it" and confessed her faith most beautifully, but because she spoke the Gospel that was otherwise not heard anywhere else in the graduation ceremony. With all those other sincere and well-meaning Christians, it was Sarah who actually spoke of Christ Jesus. The heart and center of His grace and every blessing are not found in temporal successes and achievements, but in His Cross and His forgiveness of sins. It is not in our strengths but in our weaknesses that His providence and almight power are made known, chiefly in showing mercy and pity toward us poor, miserable sinners, who surely deserve nothing but punishment. Thank you, Sarah, for confessing that, which is most certainly true, which alone is most comforting and precious.