In the small western North Carolina town of Franklin, just off of Main Street on a hill, sits the brick and stained glassed walls of The First United Methodist Church of Franklin. On Sunday (May 26), the church celebrated Graduation Sunday to honor, bless and give advice to their recent graduates.
But the service began with future graduates first.
Church member Samantha Bullis lead that day's Children's Moment, giving the church's younger children a lesson about their summer plans. Bullis presented them with a calendar and asked each child about their summer plans. They explained that they have plans to go to the beach and to swimming lessons but Bullis told them that there are also other plans for them – God's plans.
She showed them her calendar which had days where God would teach her to trust and love, as well as a three day weekend for lessons on forgiveness.
This reminded her of the Bible verse Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
After the Children's Moment, the Rev. Margaret Freeman welcomed University of North Carolina Chapel Hill rising junior Lyle Jones to the front of the church. Jones was blessed by the church for his summer plans as all of the members of the church reached out their hands toward him.
Then the church honored the graduates as high school senior Holly Bullis sang “He's Ever Over Me” and thanked the congregation for the role that they have played in her life.
“When I was a baby, about 18 years ago, my parents were holding me by the baptismal font over there, and they took the baptismal oath for me,” said Holly.
In the baptismal oath, her parents and the congregation vowed that they would protect her from evil, teach her by example and nurture her in Christ. Holly explained that is exactly what the church has done for her as she has grown up and she thanked the congregation for that.
Rev. David Beam, the church's senior pastor, followed Holly's thank you with a sermon giving graduates some final advice as their lives reach a point of transition.
He told the story of David and Goliath.
“David came to battle confidently as a ruddy young youth asking what will be given for his head?” said Beam.
David explained to King Saul that he could fight Goliath because he tended his father's fields and fought off “lions, tigers and bears -oh my,” doing so, but it was God who had saved him from them.
He continues the story by telling how King Saul gave David his armor and sword to fight Goliath, but David was not used to the armor so he decided he would not wear it. Instead, he picked five smooth stones from the riverbed and went to the battlefield with his sling.
Those were the weapons he chose to take with him to battle.
Graduates are facing this same dilemma, the pastor said.
“What are our graduates going to take with them when they go?,” said Beam.
He said that parents, teachers and friends are trying to think of that last piece of advice to tell the graduates.
He explained that his piece of advice, taken from a famous column would be, “Wear Sunscreen.” He then read the column, written by Mary Schmich for the Chicago Tribune in 1997, which holds good advice ranging from “Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth” to “Floss.”
“With all this advice we are just trying to make life better for them than it was for us. But just like David we know that we cannot depend on brute strength and prowess but on the Lord,” said Beam. “God goes with us and before us.”