Each year at the beginning of the month of August, we have Promotion Sunday, which coincides with the beginning of the school year, marking the transition for our children and youth, as they promote to the next grade in Sunday School. It is a time for the entire church to celebrate, gathering around this transition, as we have breakfast at 9:00 a.m. on August 13 in the Fellowship Hall and then to recognize certain milestones during worship. We give our first graders a Bible, our sixth graders a tree, and for everyone, we bless their backpacks.
We mark milestones in worship because they are significant moments in each of our lives as well as in the life of our congregation. For our first graders, they receive a Bible, which they can use as they grow up, learning how to read, forming important questions, and thinking about the meaning of the stories of our faith. For our sixth graders, they enter the youth group, deepening their maturity and widening their understanding of their faith. As everyone embarks on a new school year, we recognize the blessing we receive in offering our support for life’s transitions and seasons.
One other reason we mark milestones in our lives, whether it is on Promotion Sunday or whether it is the day of a person’s baptism, baby dedication, or the last Sunday a Lay Worship Leader participates in worship, is because it recognizes the presence of God. When we speak of the incarnation, or the presence of God in the presence of Jesus Christ, we say something significant about God’s presence in our daily lives. We mark milestones because we recognize God’s presence with us, shaping us, throughout our lives.
It is as Kathleen Norris writes in her book, Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Grace, “For me, the Incarnation is the place, if you will, where hope contends with fear. Not an antique doctrine at all, but reality—as ordinary as my everyday struggles with fears great and small, as exalted as the hope that allows me some measure of peace when I soldier on in the daily round.” We recognize milestones because God is with us in our everyday struggles, celebrating what is good and redeeming what is broken.
As we gather around our first graders, sixth graders, and everyone’s backpacks, we remember the presence of God with us. We are able to contend with fears great and small because we have a companion for the journey. We also have each other for the journey, for the grace of God binds us together.