Dear Risen Lord disciples:
Last Sunday at the Chapel of the Resurrection at Valparaiso University, the Baccalaureate Service concluded with this prayer:
“O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
This prayer has become something of a tradition for the end of the school year at Valpo (my Alma Mater), but also at Holden Village, a favorite Lutheran retreat center of mine in the Cascade mountains of Washington State. It is prayed over any guests who are going “back down the mountain” to return home to “normal life.” In both cases, this prayer isn’t just about ending. It’s actually more about beginning. Calling to mind Abraham’s journey, it is about new adventures. It’s a prayer for an unknowable future even as it looks back and reflects on the past.
“O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending…” The prayer begins in the middle, between our past and our future because it is a prayer that we are praying today. Because we are called to be disciples today.
See, neither retreat pilgrims returning home nor graduating students are the only ones undergoing the unpredictable rolling out of the past into the future. None of us could have imagined the wildly unpredictable nature of life after Pastor Lecia’s departure at the end of 2019, let alone the world-upside-down changes after March of 2020….these have been indeed “paths untrodden, through perils unknown.”
Yet, here we are, at the end of another academic year, and students all around us are looking back and looking forward. On my bike ride Sunday, I passed by a number of homes obviously celebrating someone’s graduation. My mind went back to Valpo, knowing that it was Baccalaureate day and this prayer would be said. My mind also went to you, the disciples of Risen Lord Lutheran Church. We all are praying for trust in the leading hand and supporting love of God through what will come. It’s a good prayer for commencement in any year. This year so defined by Covid, it’s nearly perfect. It strikes me as also a perfect prayer for this transitional time at Risen Lord.
Be well, friends. You are loved.
Pastor Dave Schreiber
PS: This prayer can be found in the ELW hymnal at the end of the Service of Evening Prayer.