I don’t remember the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I imagine that it was like plenty of other summers before it: sleeping late, riding my bike, dreaming about cars, swimming, and eating ice cream. Truth be told, in some ways not much has changed from those years, and the summer break that ended today with my kids getting on the bus, Isaac to second grade and Amelia to Kindergarten. Well, that’s pretty different, but still I did sleep in a bit this summer (not as late as back then), I watched my kids ride their bikes (Amelia without training wheels for the first time), I still dream about cars, I did plenty of swimming, and I ate my fair share of ice cream. Sitting here at my desk, I’m reflecting on the last few months and also the last number of years (OK, decades); my guess is you might be doing the same thing. It’s a funny thing how after 12-13 (or more) years that we spend in school it’s so hard to shake the feeling of going back. We have dreams about it (see previous sermon comments), and it still feels a little weird to me not to hop on the big yellow bus when the calendar hits late August or early September. Maybe that’s why I’ve been thinking so much about sophomore year, sophomore efforts (think music albums), and the sophomore slump.
For all that I can’t recall specifically about that long ago summer, I can still clearly recall the first assembly of my sophomore year. Our principal spoke to us about what it meant to be sophomores, the definition of the word, and how it could define us. He chose to use the folk etymology, which states that the word is a portmanteau of the Greek words for wiseand foolish. While dictionaries don’t always include that background it has stuck with me, and over the years I’ve interpreted it to mean that the sophomore or second year can be a make or break year. With hard work, determination, and some luck it can be a great time and provide a launch pad into new things. Conversely, it can be a slippery slope to lower realms.
Part of my thinking has also been reflecting on our first year together. That so-called honeymoon phase was especially sweet for me and my family. New experiences, multiple services, all of you (and you’re all pretty amazing), and this wonderful church and wider community to play in and grow with. I was asked sometime in the fall of last year if I really felt like I had landed yet, and the truth is I still look out that window in my office, see our beautiful church and can’t quite believe this is real though it is. My guess is that many of you have faced similar situations where for good or bad you couldn’t believe that you were there. With that in mind, last week’s reading from Jeremiah really struck me. Here it is the Common English Version.
The Lord’s word came to me: “Before I created you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart; I made you a prophet to the nations.” “Ah, Lord God,” I said, “I don’t know how to speak because I’m only a child.” The Lord responded, “Don’t say, ‘I’m only a child.’ Where I send you, you must go; what I tell you, you must say. Don’t be afraid of them, because I’m with you to rescue you,” declares the Lord. Then the Lord stretched out his hand, touched my mouth, and said to me, “I’m putting my words in your mouth. This very day I appoint you over nations and empires, to dig up and pull down, to destroy and demolish, to build and plant.”
I cannot tell you how reassuring those words are to me as we start the second year of our journey together. I am known to God, I shouldn’t be afraid, God’s words are in my mouth, and we’re going to build and plant. Here’s some more good news; God makes the same promise to you as well. Whatever we encounter this second year together, God is with us. If we get scared, God is with us. If we don’t know what to say, God is with us. And if God is with us, then we cannot fail to build, plant and enjoy the harvest.
So here’s to being wise and foolish. Here’s to journeying with God. Here’s to some more sweet times together.
~ On the Journey, PG
P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts on school, second efforts, second acts, or second albums. I’ll start; Zeppelin II is better than Zeppelin I by Led Zeppelin.