Last Saturday, we shared a beautiful Baccalaureate with our eighth grade students and their parents. After reading the homilies given by our eighth grade and considering the school theme for 2015-16 (flourishing), Rev. Melissa Hinnen (parent ’02) wrote this homily for our graduates. I was so touched by her words that I wanted to share them with you, too.
A Message for Mustard Seed Class of 2016
by Melissa Hinnen
3-6 Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.
Phillippians 1:3-6 (The Message Translation)
As I was preparing to speak with you tonight, it brought back so many memories of my own relationship with Mustard Seed School. I have been
- a MSS sister,
- a MSS mother,
- a MSS aunt,
- a MSS staff person, and
- the mother of a Nest teacher.
And now that I am a new grandmother, I know that Coach Neals and my daughter, Ms. Cassie Hinnen have their hearts set on sending their daughter SophiAna to Mustard Seed School. It is a very special place and I often, as Paul wrote to the Philippians “give thanks to God for you and this school community.”
Through my different roles, I have a sense of the experiences and learnings and preparations that you have been part of in your time here. My last year at Mustard Seed was when you were in Kindergarten. It is a blessing today to have the opportunity to see how far you have already come in your journey.
While reading about your accomplishments online, and in conversation with Ms. Hanson, and through lovely updates in my actual mailbox(!), I have been in prayer with you as you approach this time of transition.
I have begun to glimpse the good work that God has begun in you and trust that, as Paul wrote to the Philippians, God will be faithful to complete the good work that has begun in you as you move to places beyond Mustard Seed.
I want to share with you tonight some of the ways that I believe God, through your teachers, parents, and your own faithfulness, is preparing each of you to be a prophet—a messenger of God—in high school and other areas of your life. You have studied prophets and shared the words of prophets. And each one of you has shown gifts of prophesy by sharing the Good News as leaders in this school community.
Since there are nine of you, I will give you nine short points to consider based loosely on your own prophetic words and gifts exhibited in your 8th grade projects. They will each be only about 45 minutes each … just kidding! Here are the nine points briefly …
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Everybody can be great because everybody can serve.”
Your entire time at this school, you have lived the truth that the “first shall be last and the last shall be first.” When you care for your neighbors through
- service projects,
- holding the door for others,
- and collecting money to share with those in need,
you are a reflection of the kin-dom, the family of God. I encourage you to continue to seek ways to help others and build up justice until it rolls down like a mighty water.
All we have to do is turn on the TV to see how hurting and broken our world is. Right? You have learned the importance of saying “I’m sorry” and asking for forgiveness when you have hurt someone.
And if you are the person who is hurt, you understand the importance of forgiving.
As people who know how to reconcile, you are an important part of healing the brokenness and you can help build peace between others. Just as God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, we are called to forgive others as part of building a just and peaceful world.
Love your neighbor, respond in love
You are fearfully and wonderfully made and beloved by God and by every teacher in this school and your families because you are of sacred worth. At the beginning of each school year each teacher has prayed for you by name.
I remember when my daughter, Cassie started first grade in the middle of the school year. Each child in her class welcomed her with a card. I will never forget that. It is intentional love like those acts of kindness that transform the world.
Because you are loved, you are now equipped to love others. Even and maybe especially when it is hard. You begin to see the face of Jesus in others and reach out in love to your neighbor. When a classmate is acting in ways that are annoying or unkind, you recognize that God calls us to respond with love.
practice spiritual disciplines, rituals, and traditions
Rituals and traditions and spiritual disciplines like
- Las Posadas,
- the Jesse Tree Song,
- daily worship,
- The Way of the Cross, and
- Lenten Journals
help shape who you are and your relationship with God. You can decide which of these you will continue or adapt and what new rituals, traditions, and spiritual disciplines you will add to your life.
When we are disciplined in our focus on God, and when we participate in various reenactments of Jesus’ experiences, we can better understand God’s message for us to as Micah said, “seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.”
Cultivate artistic expression and share your gifts
Art and music are as important as math, science, and reading and they are all integrated. From wax museums in the lower school to your 8th grade projects, you have learned how to understand and share information from different perspectives. Through
you are able to imaginatively captivate people through multi-media and convey prophetic messages of justice, love, and peace. Continue to cultivate these talents. There will come a time that it will be up to you to carve out time for artistic expression. I encourage you to make it a priority.
Make a plan
Making a plan will always make your life easier. Whether it’s preparing for a big project or just trying to be organized to get through the week, if you, as another minor prophet, Habbakuk, says, “write the vision and make it plain,” you will be able to tackle the surprises with grace. And the time you take planning will free up additional time in ways that you wouldn’t otherwise have.
Learn from others, especially those who are different from you
We can all learn from each other
- rich or poor,
- girls and boys,
- young and old,
each one of us brings a unique, authentic, God-given vision to different circumstances. Loving our neighbor includes recognizing what each person brings to the table – recognizing the fruit of the spirit that is being nurtured in her or him. Remember to value what other people have to say even and perhaps especially if they are different than you.
Explore and engage the world
The best learning does not happen only within the walls of the school. Mustard Seed School is unique in the amount of field trips that students take – from
- visiting farms in Pennsylvania to
- going to museums in the city to
- utilizing the park across the street,
you have had a wonderful opportunity to learn by doing, not just reading about experiences and history in books.
- engage in the world around you,
- wonder about what you see,
- ask questions and share what you learn.
Stay connected and be connectors
Finally, you are not left on your own to complete this good work that God has started in you. Here you have been taught the value of learning and living in community. I have loved my work since I left Mustard Seed. I’ve traveled the world, and been part of amazing church communities and am doing what God has called me to do.
But I have never been part of a community like Mustard Seed and in each of my new assignments; I have yearned for that sense of “fully being in this together.” And I have been grateful for being able to share the example of what I was a part of here with new places and new people so that we can build each other up and support each other as a reflection of the kin-dom of God.
As you separate from each other and go to different schools, I encourage you to find ways to stay connected and come back for alumni events and visit your teachers.
But more importantly, take what you have learned and be community builders in your high school and in your new environments.
When you see someone who is left out, invite her or him in. Surround yourself with people who will hold you accountable and who will bring out the best in you.
Allow Christ’s love to always shine in you. You are not alone in this. No matter what happens or where you go, you are loved.
As Paul wrote, “There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work
- in you, Vienne
- in you, Jonas
- in you, Danny
- in you, Sofia
- in you, Sebastian
- in you, Paulo
- in you, Saskia
- in you, Isa
- in you, Henry
“The God who started this great work in you will keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish.”
May God bless you as you step into the future with the confidence that you are each a beloved child of God, anointed and equipped to do God’s good work. Amen.