Greencastle-Antrim graduating seniors urged to navigate life with God

JOYCE F. NOWELL, Echo Pilot
Pastor David Rawley of the Greencastle Otterbein United Brethren in Christ, addressed the graduating seniors during baccalaureate Thursday evening in the high school auditorium.

Relying on the power, purpose and promise of God will help the Greencastle-Antrim High School Class of 2016 navigate the rest of their lives, the graduating seniors were told during Thursday evening’s baccalaureate service in the high school auditorium. Commencement will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday on Kaley Field, where diplomas will be presented to the 244 graduates.

“You are beautiful young adults. I rejoice in every dream that you carry in your hearts. All of us around you hope you have a happy, prosperous journey, but I want to tell you tonight that the journey will not happen in precisely the way you imagined,” said Pastor David Rawley of the Greencastle Otterbein United Brethren in Christ, during his message based on Acts 27 and Paul’s rocky voyage to Rome to face trial.

“Sometimes you are going to have to switch to a different ship. Sometimes the ship you are on is going to break apart and you’re going to have to swim. You will encounter severe storms that will blow you off course....debt, divorce, disease, death of a friend. There could be any number of disappointments that you have to face, but my favorite part of this whole story is the very final line. Paul finishes the story by saying, ‘and so we came to Rome.’”

Power, purpose and promise

The ill-fated voyage was discouraged by Paul through God and a great storm forced them into disaster — to drift, discard and despair. But like Paul, who rallied his shipmates that eventually found land and help, and all survived, Rawley encouraged the class to not give up their dreams or goals, to not lose their values and to not give up hope.

“They got into this mess because they listened to the experts and the majority wanted to go ahead. A lot of times we get into messes because we go with whatever everybody else is doing. The one thing that they ignored was God,” the pastor related.

“Although they came close to dying, they did not die. They almost did and thought they were going to. But they did not.”

Rawley told the seniors that God has hold of us with his power, purpose and promise and he restores order.

“I’m going to believe the promise. I’m not going to give up. I’m not going to disappear. I’m not going to give up hope,” Rawley said of Paul. “All of the terror and trauma, all the shock and surprise, all the unexpected and uninvited experiences never stopped them. It was harder than they thought. It took longer than they thought. But he had power, purpose and promise as we do.”

Happy ending

The happy ending to Paul’s voyage came with safety, along with the kindness and help of strangers, something Rawley hopes the young people receive and also pay forward.

He said, “In the years to come you will have times of crisis. It may be money, health or relationships. But God will provide people who will help you. Sometimes it might be a total stranger. In this big world you will find many generous and compassionate people who will give you a hand, a loan, a hug, a job. They are God’s people giving you God’s help disguised in human form. Do not be too proud to accept their help. And thank God for it. And you can be God’s help to them just as others have been to you.”

Rawley offered his congratulations to the class and called their graduation a great accomplishment. He cautioned though that the diploma is just a boarding pass onto the boat.

“That boarding pass will hit some snags and some storms,” he said. “Now what you need is a compass for your heart and a sail for your soul. Your journey will not be in a straight line. You cannot trust the weather. You cannot trust the boat. You have to trust in God. And if you do, he will bring you by his own methods and his own course across the surprises of the seas and all the way to Rome.”

The service

Graduating senior Ethan Clever read the scripture passage from Ecclesiastes 11.

The G-AHS Concert Band provided a prelude (“Dusk” by Steven Bryant), processional (“Grand March” by Clare Grundman) and recessional (“Fanfare and Recessional” by James P. Ployhar), along with accompaniment to the hymns (“O God, Our Help in Ages Past” and “God Of Our Fathers”). The Concert Choir, joined by the graduating senior members, sang “True Light” by Keith Hampton. The number featured seniors Avery Toomey, Harrison Scott, Grace Boscolo and Olivia Crawford. Rawley said the benediction and senior choir members sang the hymn “Tallis Canon” to close the service.