(When my daughter Bethany – pictured here – graduated from Grade 8 last year, I was asked to deliver the “Parent’s Speech”. This post was that graduation speech I delivered to my daughter’s graduating Grade 8 class of 2015 for John Knox Christian School, Brampton on June 12, 2015)
Text: 1 Peter 5:7-8a
Dear graduating class of 2015,
It is dangerous to ask a pastor, even a campus pastor like myself, to speak. Because you know that I am going to give you a sermon, right? Especially when you give me a bible text! You chose as your class verse, 1 Peter 5:7-8a – “Cast all your anxiety on him because God cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.” (NIV) My thoughts are drawn to verse 7: “Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you.”
Let me begin with a question: “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” Ok, besides being best-selling novels aimed at young adults that became movies. “What do the Hunger Games, Divergent, and the Maze Runner have in common?” I think all three have the same basic plot when you boil it down: in the future, the grown-ups have created a mess of the world, often despite their best intentions, and it is up to the youth to rise up and save the world. Does that sound like the basic plot in a nutshell? Is that why these novels are so popular among your generation of youth and young adults? Do they touch a chord or a nerve deep inside each of you? Is that a generational anxiety or fear or worry that your generation feels about the future?
Have we, grown-ups, despite our best intentions, messed up the world, and messed up the future, so much so that you feel the burden and the responsibility of fixing the world? You may not follow the news but the news sure follows you around, don’t they? You can’t help but hear about the environmental problems, the economic problems, the racial conflicts, the broken families, etc. etc. etc. Is that why you chose this verse: “Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you”? Because in addition to all the usual anxieties or worries that a young person like yourself feel – changing schools, growing older, gaining more responsibilities, thinking about future careers, about friendships, and so forth – in addition to all that, your generation, deep down maybe, are a little more pessimistic about the future, with a foreboding sense that, whether you like it or not, you are left with the job of fixing the mess the grown-ups have left behind. If that is the subconscious, deep down psychological reason why you ended up with this verse, then I think you chose a good verse!
God is saying to you: “You do not have to carry this burden or this anxiety. Let me carry it instead.” Cast all your anxiety on God. The image we have here from the original Greek is that of throwing something over the back of an animal, a beast of burden, The only other place in the New Testament that this word for cast or throw occurs is in Luke 19:35 where the disciples cast or threw their cloaks on the donkey for Jesus to sit on it. That’s the image you have here in 1 Peter 5. Cast your worries on God like you would cast your burdens on the donkey. God is saying to you, “Let me carry it for you. Throw it over my back.” You can pray and give it over to God. Just dump it on God!
Now that does not mean you don’t have to work, don’t have to find solutions to problems, or don’t have to be alert and self-controlled and try to avoid troubles. I can’t remember where I read or heard this from but a wise saying says, “Work like everything depends on you but pray like everything depends on God.” I think that is wise.
You can pray and dump it on God. You do not have to carry this burden of saving the world or fixing the mess you are inheriting. Because you know what? The job of savior is already taken and his name is Jesus Christ. You don’t need to be the savior. You just need to be his servant. Let God worry about saving and fixing the world. Just be faithful in serving God and joining his mission, and you will be part of the solution.
Cast all your anxiety on God because God cares for you. In other words, you matter to God. The world matters to God, yes, but you, each and every one of you matters to God as well. Remember that. Don’t let anyone or anything that will happen make you believe otherwise.
I have been a campus pastor at York University in Toronto for close to 14 years now. I have met students who have suffered all kinds of difficult things in life that I do not wish on any of you. I have met students who came from broken families. I have met a student whose parents neglected her and she had, at the age of seven, had to become the acting parent to her little sister. I have met students who have alcoholic parents. I have met another student who had suffered sexual abuse as a little girl over a number of years. And they are all Christian students who still love God.
Did they ever doubt that God cares for them? Sure, during those dark days or years, yes, many of them doubted. The doubts crossed their minds. But they never “saved” or “downloaded” those doubts into their hearts. Because today if you ask them, they will say that God helped them through those dark times. God, through God’s people, God’s servants, cared for them even in the midst of their sufferings and pain. And they not only survived but they triumphed; they made it to university! And some have graduated now to serve God and to help others. Cast all your anxiety on God because you matter to God.
I would to like end by praying a blessing for you. Let us pray.
Dear God who cares for each and every one of us,
I pray that you bless these young people before me with the comfort that they matter to you, and you care for each of them. I pray that you bless them with courage so that even though they may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they will fear no evil but cast their fears onto you, and trust in you to pull them through. I pray that you bless them with the conviction that you are saving and fixing the world, and that they are your servants in your mission. Bless them with your guidance, your peace, and your presence, I pray in Jesus’ name, amen.