This week my congregation's pre-school held graduation ceremonies for those who are leaving to attend public school Kindergarten, as well as those students who attended our Kindergarten, and will be attending first grade somewhere else.
Lat year at this time I was not in town for the graduation ceremonies. My husband had been in a car accident in Minnesota, and I was caring for him. So I looked at the pictures and felt regret as I saw the students who were leaving our school.
This year I made sure I was there. I got to give the opening prayer, and tell the parents how much I enjoyed being with their children every week in chapel, singing songs and praying and telling stories from the Bible. But all of the important things happened after I sat back down.
The children marched to the tune of Pomp and Circumstance. They recited the Pledge of Allegiance and the Lord's Prayer. They sang one of their chapel songs. And then, one at a time, they came forward to receive a Bible. Each Bible contained a note from our congregation.
But that was not all they received. They also received a Word.
Each student received a special word from their teachers. The teachers prayed and agonized over each word. You can tell that they want more than anything for that one word to be the Right Word, to be a True word. And then, on graduation day, the teachers revealed the Word. Tenacious. Spunky. Compassionate. Spontaneous. Energetic. Inspirational. Courageous. Ambitious. Every word was a gift. Every word revealed depth. Every word was one both to embrace and to live into. Every word revealed teachers who both knew and loved their students.
There was something so powerful about this: to be given a word, your word. The word is like a mirror, but it is also a challenge.
Here. This is who you are. This is what I see in you. It is not everything, but it is something. It is your reflection in my eyes. It is something you can take with you, and use, and add to.
I loved how the teachers didn't worry about whether the children could understand the word they chose or not. They said "Tenacious", for example, which might not be a word that most five year olds would understand. But the words were not just for now: they were words to grow into.
Every word was different. But behind each word there was one: Beloved. Every single child in that school was beloved.
That's the power of One Word. It is the word behind it, underneath it, the word Beloved.
It seems to me that this is the power behind all of our words. It is the word "Beloved" that gives them power. If we cannot speak the truth in love, then all of our words are worthless. They can destroy, but they can't create anything.
But with the word "beloved" behind it, One Word can do anything: it can send us out into the world.
I can't imagine what all of these tenacious, ambitious, wise, energetic, charismatic, courageous, beloved children will do. Maybe change the world.