(In Taiwanese at the Tainan Theological College June 2018 Graduation Ceremony)
Luke 2: 29-32
Thank you, Dr. Wong, and everyone else here for allowing me to stand in this pulpit on this day. Though I still have a few more sermons to preach before leaving Taiwan, this is my final one at Tainan Theological College. The expression in English is, “I’m outta here.”
So, “Lord, now according to your word, allow your servant to depart in peace.”
I: Simeon Could Depart in Peace
When we grow older, as Simeon had, letting go of things is more and more common. Our Tainan Theological College visiting professor a few years ago told of how, after raising four children, he had his wife had step by step moved to smaller and smaller houses until they retired, reducing their possessions along the way. Even so, they still had many things remaining to them.
Simeon, no doubt, still retained several things, including which was God’s promise to him, that he would not die until he had seen God’s Messiah. The promise was enough. He had no details. He would know the Messiah when he saw him. He probably did not expect a baby.
But when he met Jesus on the day that Joseph and Mary brought him to the temple to present him to the Lord, Simeon knew that the promise had been fulfilled.
He knew it was time to go, and he welcomed it “in peace”. We don’t know what he expected upon that departure, but he willingly went to the God whom he trusted. And trusting God who keeps promises, he needed nothing more.
Simeon’s words to God were not just about departing, like going home after a day of work at the temple, he was ready to depart the world. I’m not quite that far along.
II: I can Depart in Peace
My own time to depart from Taiwan is at hand. Those who have served in the military will understand, “there remain only 41 pieces of mantou to me.”
Although I go, it is not because I have seen God’s promise fulfilled, but because God who has always proven trustworthy has shown me a bit of the future in you graduates who sit before me.
I go because my time has come. I’m already 66 years old, and I’ve given as much as is in me to give in Taiwan. I go because there are many capable younger teachers, pastors and theological educators who can occupy my spots at this school and in Taiwan’s church. I should not be occupying THEIR space.
I have a privilege that Simeon didn’t have. I know where I’m going from here. It’s not back to the place where I was born, but to the area where my wife was born. We go there to do something that I’d never imagined before I came to Taiwan… we will accompany an aged parent… something that you may have heard Americans don’t do. But I learned here in Taiwan that this is a right and good thing to do. Thank you for teaching me. When I get there, I hope to make new friends and learn new things.
Simeon went into an unknown, I go to a known. But these are not the only departures we mark today. After all, it’s graduation day.
III: To the Graduates: Depart in Peace
I recommend to all of you who graduate today that you, like Simeon, look for the signs that it is time for you to depart in peace. It doesn’t matter if you’ve spent one, two, three, four or as many as seven years as part of this community. If it’s your time to depart, you should go, and do so in peace. Go to wherever God calls you to go, if lot is drawn to a remote place or a struggling city church, go there. If you leave this school carrying a diploma to go to a social service agency or to another school, go there. If you leave here to go to a different country where you’ll have to learn a new language to serve, go there!
Go there in service of God. Go there to make new friends (don’t forget to make new friends). Go there to learn new things. Go in peace. Do not forget that you were part of this community, and that to the end of your lives you remain part of this community. Especially remember that every year in March when someone comes to your church asking for money. Become members of your new communities. Enrich them with how this place has formed you.
All of us: not just graduating students; or old folks who have come to the end of our careers; or prophets from the Bible (like Simeon and others); have to know when and how to let go, how to move on, how to depart. God who is trustworthy stands ahead of us. God’s promise to our parents and teachers has been fulfilled. God’s promises to us are being fulfilled every day. God stands before us, ready to receive us wherever we go next.
Let us sing with gladness, let us dance with gladness.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, AMEN
(Response Hymn: “Let Us Sing With Gladness”)
Let us sing with gladness Ho-lak-ki-ma Let us dance with gladness, Ka-la-u-a-he.
Let us sing with gladness. Let us dance with gladness Ho-lak-ki-ma, Ka-la-u-a-he
Let us praise the Lord God Ho-lak-ki-ma Offer thanks unceasing Ka-la-u-a-he
Let us praise the Lord God, offer thanks unceasing. Ho-lak-ki-ma, Ka-la-u-a-he
Let us trust God always Ho-lak-ki-ma Live in hope all our days. Ka-la-u-a-he
Let us trust God always, live in hope all our days. Ho-lak-ki-ma , Ka-la-u-a-he
Let us spread the gospel, Ho-lak-ki-ma Follow Jesus’ true light, Ka-la-u-a-he
Let us spread the gospel, follow Jesus’ true light. Ho-lak-ki-ma, Ka-la-u-a-he