Graduation

But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. (2 Corinthians 4:7 ESV)

In 1972 I spent an evening in the Cincinnati Music Hall. Growing up I visited this imposing facility numerous times to enjoy presentations by such greats as Pete Fountain, Peter, Paul and Mary, Van Cliburn, Carlos Montoya, Vladimir Horowitz, the Cincinnati Symphony and others. A lot of memories were tied to this one location and another was born that warm June evening.

As the last combined, Greenhills and Forest Park High School class to graduate we were also the largest class to ever graduate from Greenhills High School. Our school couldn’t hold the largest graduating student body, parents and friends. The school administration was pressed to consider alternatives. So the Music Hall, with all its history and magnificence, was rented and prepared.

I was one of more than 500 students gathered in the basement, caps and gowns carefully arranged for the ceremony. In spite of the valiant efforts by the principals to herd us into one room; we scattered like roaches when the light turns on to explore the underbelly of the auditorium.

Eventually we were rounded up and lined up in alphabetical order. It was our time of recognition. It was time to fill the bleachers set up on the platform with a mosaic of green and white caps and gowns. It was time to receive our diplomas and start the next step in life. We were thrilled to cross the same platform previously hosting such a long list of famous people. I’m not sure what was more exciting, receiving my diploma or walking the boards of the rich and famous.

From the front row to the third floor balcony parents and friends celebrated with us. Normal people gathered to celebrate great possibilities. Each hoped their son or daughter would grow to become someone great who would impact the world. Bright eyes and smiles beamed from the student body as we considered the seemingly limitless opportunities which lay before us. Time would reveal all.

Thirty two years later I sat with the parents and friends of the largest graduating class of Vienna Christian School. The school couldn’t hold such a large gathering of parents and friends so we rented a local church auditorium.

Twenty three students gathered together in the simple room to celebrate a new step in life. This time my second son, James, was to graduate with honors. When the Principal handed him the honor chords he didn’t know what they were or what to do with them. None of us, mom, dad, or friends, expected to see this academic honor bestowed. A fellow student saw the chords in his hand and said, “James, put those back! They’re not yours!”

Not only did James display his honor chords but he also shared his testimony as part of the ceremony. Christians, Muslims, Hindus heard the message of the Gospel working in our young son’s life. Normal people gathered to celebrate great possibilities. Each of us hoped our son or daughter would grow up to become someone great would would impact the world. Their eyes gleamed and lips grew into large smiles as they considered the seemingly limitless opportunities which lay before them.

Me, I prayed for James; not that he would complete the speech without disaster but that he would remain true to  Lord and Savior he just proclaimed was part of his life. Sharing with his class, the faculty of the school, and others, my jar of clay was opening the Gospel to people in need. James wasn’t just a normal person but a child of God taking the next step in life.

God’s surpassing power is amazing. Never did I imagine, as I strolled across the stage in Cincinnati, where God would place me more than thirty years later. Here, in a foreign land, I was watching my own son graduate from High School. He was a normal person, using normal skills to proclaim the Gospel message to the world.

At times I’m reminded God doesn’t reveal everything in our life until it’s necessary. Think of where you were, where you are, and what God has done in between. You’ll be amazed. We’re just normal people, using normal skills to bring the Gospel message to the world.

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