* Last night I preached the baccalaureate service of Crawford High School. Here’s my manuscript.
Congratulations seniors on finishing the easiest part of your life. You’ve spent the last 18 years under the watchful eye of parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, and school administrators. People provided you with food, clothes, shelter, support, encouragement, and an education. Things will now get much tougher.
With that said, I want to provide you with something of substance this evening. I’ll share two stories and two wedges of wisdom.
Rest in Peace
The first story happened on Sunday May 6, 2018. I was doing what I always do around noon on Sunday mornings ~ I was finishing up a worship service at First Baptist Church. I conclude each service with a blessing of the congregation. My blessings are memorized Bible verse that I construct into a statement of blessing. They typically encourage the congregation to spend the week walking in faithfulness to God and mindfulness of the love of God. 90% of the time I memorize a verse specifically for the purpose of the blessing. 10% of the time I pull a Bible verse from the memories banks and provide a spontaneous blessing. On the morning of May 6 I did neither of those options. I did not memorize a specific Bible verse. It had been a long week and a long morning. I walked unto the stage, raised my right hand, paused for a moment and said “Rest … in peace.” Internally I laughed nervously at my blunder. A few chuckles scattered across the sanctuary. I relieved the awkwardness by trying to spin my blunder into something profound.
The pastoral blessing of “Rest in peace” is funny because “Rest in peace” is the phrase voiced when someone dies. It is not what you say to send out the congregation after worship.
This story leads me to two wedges of wisdom.
The passage read for us tonight contains what I like to call a glorious exchange. We can bring to God our anxiety, stress, worry, sin, addiction, junk, and He provides peace. We can exchange our junk for the peace of God. You don’t have to wait until death to rest in peace. You can rest in peace right here and now.
Don’t be deceived … you will be told to find peace through high paying jobs, social status, good friends, a happy marriage. Don’t buy the hype. I pray you find those things. But those things, in and of themselves, will not provide you peace.
The things of this world will rust, rot, and break down. The people of this world will fail you and disappoint you time and time again.
Here’s my first wedge of wisdom: Take God up on his offer of the glorious exchange. Lay your life down before him and rest in peace.
Here’s my second wedge of wisdom: Surround yourself with people of peace. Paul exhorted the church in Philippi to put into practice the things they learned, received, heard from him. You need people in your life willing to lead you in the ways of the Lord. All sorts of people will see to lead you to all different types of place. Don’t buy the hype. Follow people that trust in the Lord and rest in peace.
I almost died
The second story happened on May 8, 2018. Just two days after the rest in peace story. I was driving back to Crawford from McGregor on 317 and I narrowly avoided a head on collision with a man who fell asleep behind the wheel of his car. A mere two days after the “Rest in peace” story … I almost died. By what I can only describe as the grace of God, I avoided an accident and injury and the driver of the other vehicle walked away with only minor injuries from his seat belt. I’ve relived the moment countless times.
If you’re into Hollywood movies they would tell me it’s time “get the bucket list done. Live it up. Live life to the fullest.” Jesus tells me “Devote your life to the things that truly matter.”
I don’t want to cross items off the bucket list. I want to rest in peace. Today and forever more.
Let me leave you with a blessing. “Rest … in peace.”