Inspiration for grads’ journeys


June Fryman - Contributing columnist



The LORD spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the Israelites: You shall say to them,

The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.

So they shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-27)

The Season of Graduation is upon us. It is a time that celebrates both an ending and a new beginning.

For the graduate, it is a time to acknowledge and recognize the accomplishments of hard work and study that result in an ending to the work done in a classroom and a movement toward the work that is yet to begin.

For some, that might mean more school; for others, it might be joining the military; and for still others, it might mean employment.

Sometimes there might be a worship service that precedes the graduation ceremony, and as in most worship services, there is a benediction that concludes the service. It is also possible that the graduation ceremony itself might include a benediction.

This is a blessing, or good words, that are bestowed upon the graduating group of students. Perhaps the most well-known benediction comes from Numbers 6:22-27, which again, is heard at the conclusion of most worship services.

In the particular context of Numbers 6, this blessing comes in the middle of a section which describes Israel’s preparations for leaving Mt. Sinai and continuing the journey to the land of promise. It is, in this sense, a blessing for a journey.

In other words, it comes at the end of something, but also marks the beginning of something else.

Think for a moment of a coach’s final words to the team before they take to the field or the court before the big game; or think of a director’s final words to a theater cast before the stage curtain opens; or think of the music leader’s final words to the band or the choir before the concert begins.

The coach, the director, the music leader — they all give final words of encouragement and inspiration and motivation in preparation for whatever happens next.

The words of God spoken in Numbers 6 are filled with encouragement as Israel embarks on their new journey. While the blessing is given to the whole community, the Hebrew for “you” is singular, such that it is intended that each hearer will make this blessing his or her own for the journey forward.

God, the LORD, is the subject of each phrase, and it is the LORD who acts, as depicted in each of the verbs: bless, keep, make (his face shine), be gracious, lift up (his countenance), and give (peace). The verbs name God’s gracious will and activity intended for the people.

All of this activity and will of God that is intended for the people is summed up in verse 27, as God summarizes what God is doing: “So they (Aaron and his sons) shall put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.” In other words, they are being sent forth, marked with the name of God. They do not go alone on the journey that awaits them, but rather, in receiving the blessing of God, they go forth with the name of God upon them.

So let us say to all the Classes of 2017 – “Congratulations! As this part of your journey comes to an end, know that a new journey begins. And congratulations to your parents, to your families, to your teachers and professors, and to all who helped you along the way.

The LORD bless you and keep you;

The LORD make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.”

Rev. June M. Fryman is Pastor of Faith Lutheran Church in Wilmington.

June Fryman

Contributing columnist