What Have You Learned?

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org


Fifth Sunday of Easter: May 7, 2023

Scripture readings:  Proverbs 4:10-18 and 1st Peter 2:2-10

As we honor and celebrate the graduates in our midst, today is a perfect time to address the question: 

“What have you learned?”

Now Seniors…relax!  No one, especially me, is going to ask you this question and wait for your answers.  

First of all, it’s just a little rude to ask it and catch you off guard, as we sit in expectation waiting for your answers.  A little rude…

Second, this question applies to every single person in the room, myself included, and every single person hearing my voice today. 

“What have you learned?”

So, let’s address this question, and let’s begin as we should: with our Scripture readings from today.

The first reading was from the Book of Proverbs, which contains hundreds of statements of wisdom, written by possibly the wisest man who ever lived, King Solomon.  In these 31 chapters, all of us could read, study, acquire, and apply valuable lessons in learning about life, ourselves, and especially our relationship with our Lord.

To quote a small section from today’s reading, “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil people.”  Any parent, any friend, ANYONE knowing you, our dear graduates, would give you this advice and pray you will follow it.  Also, any adult can probably tell of a time in which he or she failed to heed this advice, and disaster entered joyfully into their lives.

This makes another point about learning:

Just because you know something, doesn’t mean you have learned it.  A perfect example is when you learn to drive a car.  You take the classes, you pass the written test, you go out on Sunday afternoon and practice with your mom or dad, you grow in confidence; this means you are learning…which is great!

But have you driven in heavy traffic?  In the pouring rain?  At night?  How about in heavy traffic and in the pouring rain and at night?  Have you driven on a section of heavy road construction?  Have you ever driven in a snowstorm?  (I only acquired this skill in 2009 and 2010 when my wife and I lived in New Jersey while I attended seminary.)

There is knowledge…and then there is LEARNING.

Next, how can you learn besides practicing what you learn?

In Peter’s first letter, he reminds early Christians that they are now out in the world, away from the relative safety and support of the Jerusalem Christian church.  They now need to seek out others who share their beliefs and faith – and seek out those who will help them.

Excellent advice for all us learners!  We are out in the world, not necessarily standing firmly in the circle of family, friends, and supporters.  So, seek out those who can help you grow in what you want to learn.  Why would you seek others who won’t do this for you?

Peter went further than this good and wise advice; he also reminded his friends that others may reject them, mock them, persecute them, and reject them.  This can happen you, graduates, because it has happened to each adult in the room at one time or another.  Each of us have been rejected or taunted or marginalized because of how we choose to live our lives.  Perhaps at those times it is best to also remember that you come from good stock.

Peter reminded his audience that they were “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and a people set apart and belonging to God.”  Nothing reminds us of our good stock more than this quote, which also applies to each of us.

We are God’s people.  We were chosen, cherished, and loved for better things than wasting our lives.

Final point: what about the future that comes with you and after you?  Right now, you are most likely thinking about your own future, your choices, your possibilities, your luck, and how things might turn out.  These are normal, wise things to consider, and we applaud you for doing them.  

But have you ever considered the difference you have already made with the life you are leading?  

We always think of the wisdom of elders when it comes to learning from others.  You also have the opportunity to teach others with the choices you make and the actions you take right now.  And you may never know the impact you will have until years later – if at all!

The mother of my best friend in high school told my own mother years later that the only time she didn’t worry about her son was when he and I went out together.  She may not have trusted her son – and maybe she didn’t trust me either! – but when her son and I were together, we kept each other out of trouble.  I never knew this until many years later.  At the funeral of this good woman, I ran into my old friend from high school, and he confirmed that this was true.

Graduates: you have the opportunity to live your life as an example to others.  Any prophet, any writer of any book in the Bible would confirm this has been true of God’s people for centuries:  learn from your elders, learn from others, make good choices, learning from your own mistakes, and live your life with joy and responsibility and love – and with the knowledge that you can and will be helping others as you do this.

Most important of all: remember that you are loved by your friends, by your church, most tenderly by your parents and your family, by your pastor – but most of all – loved by your Creator who watches you and tenderly loves you and never forgets about you.

Congratulations to our graduates, to learners everywhere, and to God’s people who do their best every day.  Amen!