The Class of 2020. These days, I think about them often. I think about all of the hard work and countless hours over the years they have endured to earn their diplomas from high school or degrees from a college, university, seminary or other educational institution. I think about their parents who have loved and supported them through their journeys. But by now, due to the risk of spreading COVID-19, traditional graduation ceremonies across the globe have either been postponed or have been replaced by virtual ceremonies over the Internet. Needless to say, this isn't how it's supposed to be. These students deserve to walk across the stage and be officially recognized by receiving their diplomas or degrees. These people are our future! They are our doctors, nurses, teachers, civic and political leaders, coaches, administrators, pastors, manufacturer and industry workers among many other professions. Many will be going onto college or a trade school to carve out a career of their choice.
All this being said, the Class of 2020 has been caught in the throes of a pandemic not seen in over 100 years. Quite frankly, it is very unfortunate that they won't be able to enjoy a normal graduation. Yes, I believe they will be stronger because of the sacrifices they are forced to accept. But it's still a difficult pill to swallow. Like all of you, I have no idea why this virus came and paralyzed the world. That question will definitely go unanswered. Yes, we would love to know why, but from a spiritual standpoint, we place our faith in God and we trust in a divine plan to heal and emerge stronger as God's creation.
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus Christ told his disciples, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth," (Book of Acts 1:8). When discussing the "power" believers receive from the Holy Spirit, we are referring to the qualities of Jesus. Qualities such as courage, insight, confidence, boldness, and authority reflect the divinity of Christ and they apply to the way we respond to this pandemic. Each of these qualities also pertain specifically to the Class of 2020 like no other graduating class. This class has demonstrated courage in understanding the uncertainty of the world - that you can only control the things you can control. The Class of 2020 has gained insight into change and the ability to adapt during a health crisis that has claimed the lives of over 356,000 people worldwide, including over 100,000 in the United States.
This class has also helped and participated in the development of alternative ways to plan for a "new normal" without the certainty that their community, nation or world would be safe to resume life as we knew it. This class has gained confidence in knowing that if they can get through this, they can get through anything! The 2020 Class has exhibited boldness as it adapted to online learning as the primary resource for completing their classes in their final semester. The Class of 2020 has accepted the quality of authority as many people from this class have grown stronger and resilient, and will become wonderful leaders as a result of this unprecedented health crisis.
All of these qualities: courage, insight, confidence, boldness and authority reflect the ministry of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. As an expansive faith community, we are blessed that the Class of 2020 will be able share these qualities in order to help our world heal, change and transition to a new kind of world. Through the love and grace of God, we will get through this together!
On Thursday, many members of the First Presbyterian Church of Valparaiso community honored the Class of 2020 with a Celebration Parade, driving past graduates' homes in their decorated cars, honking and cheering for these amazing people. As a congregation, we will continue to pray for each graduate and their families as they take their own unique journeys to fulfill God's mission on earth.
Congratulations to the special Class of 2020!