Greetings class of 2020. My name is Rev Darrin Harvey of the First United Church of Christ here in Galion, and it is an honor to bring you this letter. Obviously, the ending of your seminal year did not go as planned. No one could have foreseen such circumstances surrounding and overshadowing this time in your lives, and that is unfortunate. By now of course you know to expect that life will not always be coming up roses for you. However, global pandemics are not your usual challenge and difficulty. So, on behalf of the world, we apologize, as you deserved much better.
We hope that you have been able to have celebrations with family and have taken time out to enjoy this milestone in life. From what I have seen, you all have borne the challenges of these times with grace, humility, perspective, and wisdom beyond your years. I am not surprised since I have gotten to know several of you. I have seen many examples when your class has displayed good citizenship, creativity, talent, maturity, and passion.
I would like to share a passage of scripture from Paul’s first letter to Timothy. This is from the final chapter of that letter.
“But as for you, man of God, shun all this; pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith; take hold of the eternal life, to which you were called and for which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. In the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you to keep the commandment without spot or blame until the manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will bring about at the right time — he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords. It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see; to him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.”
Paul was of course a well-known and respected Christian leader in the early movement of Christianity. But he was not going to be around forever, so wherever he went he trained up leaders to lead the churches that he started. One of them was Timothy, who from all accounts was a capable and enthusiastic leader in his own right. Paul invested time in Timothy and then handed him the keys to drive. So, in his letters to him he often reminds him what is important and encourages him to take up God’s call to continue to preach and teach.
First, Paul says to “shun all this”. What is he talking about here? Well, he just gets done telling Timothy that “money is the root of all evil.” I hope that you have heard that before. Most of us have, yet somehow, we all seem to make it an aim in life nonetheless, (at least in some respect). Money is a useful tool to live, but not something to live your life for.
Paul goes on to give more advice. “Pursue” these things — righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, gentleness. These qualities are things we must strive for because they do not come naturally to us. The world advances messages contrary to these things. It is implicit in our culture. Righteousness does not get you ahead in the eyes of the world. Most often, it is used in a negative way when we say someone is “self-righteous”. Show them instead the righteousness of Christ. Righteousness that does not derive from you. For you are attached to something else — God.
Let your godliness show! Testify to your faith by living it out. Love generously! Show the world your endurance. You have persevered through 2020, the year that was supposed to be yours. Do not let it define who you become. Learn from this time to become people generous and kind. Do not let it spoil your plans, Persist, and keep dreaming. Many people give up their dreams after a few setbacks, be known for your enduring and persistent qualities.
Practice gentleness. In the eyes of the world gentleness is often seen as weakness. In the world people get their way through force and aggression and the personalities that are celebrated are driven by their egos. Be different. Humility and gentleness are a sign of inner strength-the strength of God. This is the kind of strength that you will win you fights. Use this and you will persevere all trials and tribulations.
If you are listening to this or reading this, then your faith is important to you. This is a gift to you. This gift of faith was planted inside of you when you were baptized and blessed. After this, at some point in your life you made a confession of faith. From that day forward you are claimed as a child of God. Take hold of that gift of eternal life and live an abundant life under God’s providence and care.
Congratulations once again class of 2020. May God bless and keep you as your journey continues.
Galion Area Ministerial Association