Commencement for the 169th School Year

31. May 2024
John 15:5

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Beloved friends, on this wonderful day of celebration, let us turn our attention to Jesus’ words in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” These words are not merely a command but an invitation to embrace a deeper, richer life in Christ. These profound words remind us of our dependence on Christ and the power of abiding in Him.

Picture this: Jesus doesn’t call us to be frantic workers, toiling away to produce something of worth. No, He invites us to be branches—to remain connected to the vine. It’s about abiding, resting in His life and love, and letting His life and love bear fruit through us. Just as branches draw life and sustenance from the vine, we also draw our spiritual life from Christ. This abiding relationship is the source of all true fruitfulness. As we end this academic year and leave this place of learning for a time, remember that your achievements and endeavors will only be truly fruitful when they are rooted in Him. Apart from Christ, our efforts are in vain, like branches severed from the vine, destined to wither and perish.

While we take a summer break from school, we continue to be part of Jesus’s congregation. He still invites us to gather around His Word and Sacrament with our fellow believers. By abiding in His gifts, the fruit you bear will come naturally, just as a branch doesn’t strain to produce grapes; it simply stays attached to the vine.

All the fruit Jesus bears in and through you is His gift. Grace is at the heart of this abiding. Grace is not something we earn; it is a gift freely given, a reality to be embraced. In the same way, the education and achievements that your gracious God gives you are not the end. Your education has equipped you with knowledge and skills, but it is your faith in Christ that will truly empower you to make a lasting impact. Cling to the vine and let the life of Christ bear fruit through you in all your life and vocations.

The world may try to deceive you into thinking that you must succeed on your own and that your worth is measured by your achievements and productivity. But Jesus turns this upside down. He declares, “Apart from me, you can do nothing.” This is not a declaration of limitations but of radical freedom. Jesus sets us free from the exhausting cycle of self-reliance and invites us to live confidently, dependent on Him.

So, as you go forth, remember that being a branch is not about striving but about resting in the vine. As you go forth, you will face challenges and temptations that may seek to draw you away from the vine. The world offers many distractions, promising success and fulfillment apart from God. Do not be deceived by these empty promises. Remain in Christ and draw deeply from His love and grace. When you do, your life will overflow with fruit—not because of your efforts, but because of His life. Go forth as branches firmly grafted into the true vine, and may your lives bear much fruit to the glory of God. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin