And you’re through…whew, indeed! Good job everybody. Please sit down. Congratulations to all of you. Memorizing all that’s been required of you this year is not easy. Before I began leading our services in the Malott Chapel, I had been a 3rd grade Sunday school teacher when my son and his classmates learned the same prayer, verses and songs that you’ve learned this year. I know how hard you’ve been working. So all of you deserve the praise and admiration that your parents, family and friends will give to you on this day.
In just a few minutes, Dr. Chaney will present each of you with a shiny new Bible embossed with your name. All year long, we talked about so many of the stories that are found in this book. I think one of the cool things about this book is that, through its stories, we can learn how to live our lives the way God wants us to live.
Remember the story of Mary and Martha? The Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus and his disciples were welcomed into their home. As Mary sat at the feet of Jesus listening to what he was saying, Martha was busy, perhaps cleaning up the house or preparing a meal for her guests. When Martha complains to Jesus that Mary isn’t helping her, Jesus gently tells her that Mary is the one doing the right thing, listening to the words of Jesus. Now, I’m not telling you that it’s OK to ignore your Mom or Dad if they ask you to clean your room or to come and set the table for dinner. But if you ask nicely if you can finish reading a story in the Bible before you start your chores, I bet they might agree!
So when you get home today and in the months and years to come, open this book up and read its stories. These are the stories of ordinary men and women: shepherds and slaves, kings and revolutionaries. All of them human, all of them sinners like us. But all of them loved by the God who created them. All of them forgiven by God’s own son, who came here to earth to look us in the eye and tell us face to face-GOD LOVES YOU. GOD LOVES YOU. AND YOU AND YOU AND YOU and all of us here today.
This old Bible of mine looks like it’s seen better days, doesn’t it? I got this Bible from the minister of my church when I was just seven-years-old. It is my great hope that 44 years from now, all of those shiny new Bibles that you’re going to be receiving here shortly look like this one, well-worn after years of reading and re-reading.
This is a book that is filled with love. This is the book that tells us that goodness and mercy follow us every day of our lives because God loves us. This is the book that tells us that if you hunger and thirst for righteousness, you will be satisfied with God’s love. This is the book that tells us that nothing can keep us from God’s love. And now, it’s yours.
So, let’s get started! Dr. Chaney…