Choose to remain in Christ - Guilford Young College Graduation 2017

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Tonight marks a significant moment of transition for each of you, members of the Class of 2017. You have completed your secondary education. For a moment you could recall your first experience of school, entering Kindergarten as a shy and uncertain child being pushed out of the safe nest of the family. The years have flowed – primary school, then lower secondary and finally moving to Guilford Young College. Each step has been a significant advancement in your growth and maturity. Now you are preparing for another significant transition. The twelve or so years of schooling are now complete and your future lies before you.

Along this journey in primary and secondary education, your parents have accompanied you: celebrating your successes, encouraging you in times of struggle. They have wanted the best for you and tonight is a good opportunity to recognise them for what they have sacrificed for you. They have given generously to your education and have faithfully accompanied you on the journey.

Your two years at Guilford Young College are completed. Now comes the moment of a parting of ways. Yes, many friendships will last well into the years ahead, but each of you will choose your own particular path for your future.

It is the time for some important decisions. What will you do next year? You may have decided on a direction, or you may still be uncertain. This is a very important time in your life as you make key decisions that will shape the direction your life will take. As you make these decisions you will be drawing on all that has shaped and formed your mind and heart over the years of your education. Indeed, it may have been a key experience at school – a subject you did or a teacher who taught you - that has enabled you to map your future path.

We must all make decisions at key moments in our lives. These decisions set us on a particular path. Then, it is true, the path that we follow will further shape and mould us. In later years, you will reflect on how your life has unfolded, noting moments of decision that led you to certain directions, and probably marvel at where you have ended up.

As we gather for this very important ceremony of transition this evening, we have been given a theme, provided in the opening reflection. I would like to offer some thoughts on this passage from St John’s Gospel.

The context is significant. It was also a moment of transition – for Jesus and for his disciples. It is set at the Last Supper: the final time Jesus would have with his disciples. They had been together for about three years, but now all was about to change. There was to be a parting which would initially devastate and confuse his disciples. Jesus, in his words and significant actions, was attempting to prepare them for what was about to happen. But nothing could really prepare them. They had no idea what was about to happen.

He draws on an image very familiar to them: a vine and its branches. He speaks of the necessity of pruning the vine. We see this in Tasmania, up the Coal River valley, for instance. After the harvest, the branches are cut back and the leaves removed. Only the gnarled stump remains.

It can seem a cruel act. After all these branches had just provided a rich harvest of grapes. However, the vine owner knows that it is not a cruel act but a wise and provident act. For with the spring the branches will shoot forth afresh and new vibrant leaves will grow on them and in due course as the summer comes to an end the plentiful grapes will adorn the vines. The pruning has actually enabled the vines to be more productive.

No doubt Jesus was aware that they were about to experience a pruning. He would be wrenched from them. His cruel crucifixion would throw them into confusion and fear. They would all run away gripped by fear.

However, he would return to them risen, and re-establish his relationship with them in a new way.

Then he makes an extraordinary statement: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He says that they will only produce fruit only if they remain united with him.

My dear students, as you are about to leave Guilford Young College and take your particular path in life, I offer you the words of the Lord from the Gospel reading tonight: “Remain in me.”

As you go forth, decide to remain in Christ, decide to be a Christian. Keep your heart open to Jesus. He will enable great fruitfulness to come upon your life.

Tonight, your future opens up before you. You say farewell to Guilford Young College. This is no doubt tinged with some emotion. You remember all the good things that have come into your life through your time at the College. Now you are to mark out the path for your future. You will make decisions that will be full of significance for the way in which your life will work out.

In the midst of all the flow of memories, of thoughts, of emotions, of plans for the future, I would like to ask one simple thing of you tonight.

Tonight, on this very important occasion, make a basic but critical decision: choose to be a Christian. Choose Jesus Christ and invite him into your future. He is the vine; be a branch firmly grafted on to him. Your quiet prayer this evening can be: “Jesus, as I move into my future, I choose you. Stay with me and be with me as I embrace what lies ahead.”

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Monday, 6 November 2017