Pretty Grads All in a Robe

Yesterday was Senior Sunday at our church. That’s “senior” as in high school, not the over-the-hill, AARP type. There were 26 seniors this year, which, as we say in the South, is a whole big mess of ’em.

They marched down the center aisle of the church, clad in their graduations robes–brown, burgundy, white, red, purple, power blue. This was the start of a new tradition this year. But just barely. It was announced last week that they would wear their robes, and as one might expect, there was a great hue and cry and a week’s worth of high drama. The seniors would like to have had more input into the decision, not to mention more notice. Much of the protest came from the young ladies, who, along with their mothers, had chosen that perfect dress for the occasion. Since we weren’t in that category and Number One didn’t really care that much, we were happy to sit that one out.

But the powers-that-be stuck to their guns, and I’m glad they did. The end result was a festive and apropos processional, some much-needed pomp, circumstance and color to spice up the usual gray, black and other muted tones. Those 26 pretty grads all in a robe were a sight to see. Put me down as a robe man.

As usual, they were an impressive bunch, with activities, honors, sports accomplishments, mission trips, service projects and Big Plans galore. There was a printed program (and a video at the brunch which followed) in which each of the grads recounted their fondest memories of youth group and relayed messages to their elders, ministers, parents and family. Needless to say, that had everyone reaching for those little mini-packages of Kleenex tissues that were tucked away in purses and pockets. If you own Kimberly-Clark stock, that big fat dividend check should arrive in the mailbox later this week.

Number One recalled several mission trips that he had been on, thanked his parents for preparing him well and reminding him to stay well-hydrated (an inside family joke) and his brothers for making growing up “so much fun.” And then he said something that left my mouth a little agape and had me reaching for the pack of Kleenex that I had just handed to Eyegal. In response to the question, “What has most influenced you?” he said this:

My father’s unwavering faith. He taught me to accept both hardships and joy with humility and grace, just as Christ would.

Do you know the sensation, the utter surprise and rush of blood to the face that one gets when they receive a gift that they truly do not deserve?

That’s Grace for you.

One of our traditions is to allow the young male grads to lead worship for the day. I like this because this means that the remarks and prayers will be short, sweet and to the point. Since most of the guys just want to get up there, get it done, and get outta there, you can bet that there will be no prattling on about how the memories of Aunt Gussie’s homemade apple pie are sorta like the Lord’s Supper if you just stop and think about it hard enough or long, wind-filled prayers to God containing detailed laundry lists of announcements of things that He probably already knows about anyway and other various and sundry sermonettes. I hope the guys who usually run The Show were watching–and learning.

Number One came to me earlier in the week and told me that our youth minister had said that he would be doing the talk for “the juice.” You know me and earwax. I thought he said that he would be doing the talk for “the Jews.” I thought, man, that’s not an easy topic to talk about your first time up there. Couldn’t they have given him something a little easier?

But Number One understood his assignment well, and in his brown robe and gold Honors sash, he stood before 1500 people and delivered the following words:

We seniors are starting our journey into the real world. We’ve learned a lot about traveling by watching those of you who have gone before us, and one of the things that you’ve taught us is the importance of this meal that we share together weekly. We’ve already broken the bread that represents Jesus’ body and now we will drink together the cup that represents his blood.

This cup is an intersection of things past, present and future. We recall from the past the blood that Jesus shed on the cross and the way that he conquered death and blazed a trail for us to follow. In the present, Jesus draws close to us during this meal and gives us comfort and strength for the long and difficult road we travel each day. The Cup is also a sign of things to come, a future free of suffering and death, as well as the victory meal we will all share together when we reach our ultimate destination.

Jesus invites you to partake of this cup now just as he did long ago when he spoke these words: “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

I was proud of him and the other young men who participated. The service had a wonderful brevity and rhythm, a chant-like cadence which bore us along with words “fitly spoken,” pointing toward and praising the God who made the day possible.

I hope I live to see the day when our female grads will also be allowed to share their talents and gifts with us in public worship, but this is the South and this is the Church of Christ, so that may take a while. But one can always hope. Hope is a good–and sustaining–thing.

But I can say that I have lived long enough to witness a Church of Christ service which started with a colorful processional and was conducted by young men in priest-like vestments.

And that, as they say, is a sight for sore eyes.

  1. Jon

    It was a great service. I am glad that Mayfair took the time to properly honor these young adults and impress upon them that they always have the entire church ‘backing them up’ as they go out into the world. I was impressed with the words from the guys, in prayers and in the Lord’s Supper. They defintely exemplified 1 Tim 4:12.

  2. Hal

    WOW! What a tremendous compliment #1 had for you yesterday. That’s as high an honor as any I can think of. In fact, I would rather hear those words from my son than be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. In your case, I’m sure they are well deserved.

    I hope that my TSP “C” fund is heavily invested in Kimberly-Clark.

  3. Stoogelover

    Sounds like a great tradition to start! Great comment by your son, too.

  4. Laura

    New to your blog, but really enjoy what I’ve read so far. This past Sunday was also senior day at my church (Jason Bybee’s old church, Northeast).

    We are slowly but surely becoming more progressive. I would love to have seen all of our graduates come in like a processional but since they were all from the same school this year it might not have been as exciting as yours!

  5. Mike the Eyeguy

    Thanks all for you nice thoughts and comments (especially first-time commenter Laura). I just got back from the doctoral convocation and hooding ceremony at the UAB School of Optometry (watched a couple of students of mine graduate). There’s a graduation party tonight for a friend, baccalaureate service tomorrow night, more family celebrations and then Grissom graduation on Friday.

    I’m up to my eyeballs in pomp and circumstance–and loving it!

  6. Tarwater

    Well done M. I only hope to be able to say the same in a few years!

  7. Mike the Eyeguy

    Thanks Tw. You, better than most, know I have a weakness for “pomp and circumstance.” 😉

  8. Stoogelover

    Speaking of robes … years ago I attended the Promise Keepers conference for clergy in Atlanta. Our youth minister went with me, or I went with him, however that worked out. The first night a Catholic priest walked past us wearing a black satin robe with a velvet red sash (I guess that’s what it was) and a very classy purple something around him. We looked at each other and said at the same time, “I gotta have me a robe like that!”

  9. Mike the Eyeguy

    It’s called “Dressing for Success.”

    Other professions do it, why not clergy (at least on special occasions)?

    It’s really more than than that though. It’s full of symbolism, a connection with the long train of previous saints on whose shoulders we stand and a way to hold in check the tyranny of modernity.

  10. Jason Bybee

    I was proud of #1, too. His communion thoughts were beautiful. And I was watching you when he dropped the emo bomb on you with his video comment! Great stuff, man.

  11. Mike the Eyeguy

    Jason, your sermon was spot on and short! Just the way I like ’em. 🙂

    Thanks to you and Corey for being such an important part of Number One’s (and Two and Three’s) spiritual formation.

  12. lAURA

    Mike, Thanks for the recount. It was great and they did a great job. I was very proud of all of them. I would like to go back and see a video because I was so nervous and praying not to cry because I have a hard time stopping once I start. Tonights Baccalaureate was great too. Wow their class pres did a fantastic job. He made me cry. I was impressed. Jamie was a little sad today because she found out she could have been in the national honor society but missed it because of her surgery. We told her she would always be our honor student. We have some smart kids. Looking forward to what their future holds. Number One did do a great job Sunday I know you all are very proud.

  13. Brady

    As we say in French, “The habit does not make the monk”. It is what is in your son’s heart, and not hanging off his shoulders, that makes the impact. But you know that already…

    But please stop talking about robes, or they’re going to make me start wearing a coat and tie when I preach on Sunday mornings.

  14. Mike the Eyeguy

    Laura–The class prez and the main speaker were hilarious. I had a good view of Jamie, and she seemed to be really enjoying herself. One more ceremony–the big one.

    Brady–I never figured you were a robe man. I bet Wife is happy if she can just get you to wear a pair of decent slacks and button your shirt at least somewhere near the top.

  15. Brady

    Hey, don’t make fun of me. I still haven’t figured out how those button thing-of-a-ma-jigs work. But one day I’ll get it.

  16. Mike the Eyeguy

    You better figure it out soon or it’ll be a clerical collar for you, my friend.

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