Eighth Grade Recognition Sunday is always a highlight of the year here at Westchester Lutheran, a day on which we honor the precious young women and young men of our middle school who are about to embark on the great adventure of high school. They go forward armed with an excellent education, an enviable collection of fantastic memories, and the assurance they will always be cherished and welcome as members of our family of faith.

This is also a day on which we can each be reminded that, at every important turning point of our lives, we are similarly well-armed. When we become children of the Lord, we graduate from a life weighted down by sin and sorrow to a life blessed by grace. But hardship can distract us and doubt can wear us down. That’s why we have to seek out moments like today, to be reminded that we have the knowledge we need to take the next step – the knowledge that God loves us, forgives us, and supports us. And we need to create moments – in prayer, Scripture reading, and fellowship – to rebuild our strength and refocus our purpose. When we remember how much God loves us, and all He has done for us, we can put aside fear and accept each new challenge with confidence.

Just as our graduates will continue to learn and grow as they move forward in their education, we must also be willing to learn and grow in our relationship with the Lord. Life changes every day and God’s all-encompassing love embraces that change, guiding us and protecting us. When we walk with Him and with our brothers and sisters in faith, we step forward in love, leaving doubt and fear behind.

As we applaud and celebrate our graduates today, let us pledge to remember them in our prayers. Let us also renew our own pledge to walk with the Lord, in times of joy and trial, in stability and in transition. Let us celebrate the strength and vitality of our community of faith, and take those next steps, boldly and together.

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

Joshua 1:9