On a High School Graduation…

Posted by on Oct 27, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

This week I spoke at the year 12 graduation and awards evening of Carey Baptist College. Many of the graduating students have been part of Carey for over a decade, and they’ve been a close knit and supportive cohort. For teachers such evenings are bitter sweet… great to see students equipped and ready to move on, but it’s sad to say goodbye. The graduation is one last chance for the school to say what it hopes each pupil will remember, so it was an honour to have been asked to do this. Given that these evenings are long (with individual commentary on each of the 150 or so graduates), my talk needed to be concise – and also suitable to be conveyed in sign language for a few hearing impaired students.

So here is what I said…

Congratulations on this milestone. I imagine you wondered if it would ever arrive – yet here you are tonight, at your formal farewell graduation from Carey.

From my accent you probably recognise that I don’t come from Australia. I was born in South Africa and also spent many years in New Zealand, and both have left their mark – and that is a good thing, for it is sad if you can be at a place for a long time and not be permanently changed by it in some way. And I am sure that your years at Carey will leave a permanent mark on your life – a sign that you were here, and have been left the better for it.

It wasn’t just my accent that was impacted while in New Zealand. I learnt many things from the people there, and was especially struck by a Maori proverb that I would like to leave with you. It is Ka Mua, Ka Muri. Let me say it again Ka Mua, Ka Muri. What does it mean? It is an instruction to move into the future facing backwards. Put differently, it is a proverb that says, never forget where you have come from, or simply remember, or if you prefer a longer version move forward into the future facing backwards, mindful of all that has gone before.

Let’s play it forward… It’s five years’ time. Most of you are working – some have finished a university degree, others have been travelling. A few of you might even be married – perhaps even to each other! You decide you want to catch up with some of your class mates – so organise to have coffee together at Timber – always a great decision. When you get together, you start with the usual, ‘So what you been up to? Ah, you’ve made your first 10 million – good on you. Ah, you’ve got a gig at the Sydney Opera House – that’s great… Actually, I’m still trying to find a job and am staying with my mom… And so on. But once that is over, you’ll probably move along to the ‘remember when’ time. And I wonder what you will talk about then. You’ll probably remember some of the funny moments – times which might have been really embarrassing when they happened, but now as you look back, you laugh at them and find them great stories to tell.

Then you’ll get into the ‘remember the teachers’ stage. And I wonder what stories you will tell then… They are people, like anyone else. They have their odd little quirks and ways – so there will be more than enough funny stories to tell. But even as you tell them, you will remember a greater truth. They actually cared for you – did their best to support you – tried to stretch you and grow you. And because I know what a truly remarkable group of teachers we have here at Carey, I know that they each put in a little extra for you. They have also prayed for you – over and over again. Do you know that there is not one of you graduating tonight for whom different teachers have not prayed for many, many times. And your teachers and the support staff have tried to model and to live out what it means to be a follower of Jesus, even as they have consistently done their very best for you. Ka Mua, Ka Muri – move forward into your future looking back on and remembering that great heritage.

You are the graduating class of 2016. 2016 – two thousand and sixteen years since what? Ah – two thousand and sixteen years since this planet was graced by the visit of the Son of God to the earth. It impacted the world so greatly that we continue to view it as the pivotal point of all history, which we date as the number of years before his arrival, and the number of years after. Ka Mua, Ka Muri, look back at that, and move into the future being impacted by the difference Jesus made for all human history. It is something to remember not just at Easter and Christmas – significant though they are – but every day of your life.

Actually , some things require more than just remembering…

With final exams in such close proximity, I imagine that the heads of many of you are filled with mathematical equations and scientific hypotheses (and others of you just wish that that you could get them into your head!). Truth is, in a few months, brilliant though your teachers are, you will have forgotten most of these details. But you will remember patterns of thinking that helped to shape those conclusions – and you will remember your teachers, and the relationships they had with you – and your relationship with one another. And I hope that you will remember one other key thing – that somehow every part of every day that you spent at Carey, was tied up with the story of Jesus who described himself as the way, and the truth and the life… In other words – the key to everything… Find Jesus, and you find a path of direction for you life; find Jesus, and you are open to truth in a new way – even if they are hard truths that challenge you and stretch you to change so that you can become the person you were created to be… find Jesus, and life most truly begins.

By all means, forget some things. But don’t forget the things that really matter. Ka Mua, Ka Muri. Move into your future in the light of what you have seen and learnt at Carey – and may God bless, on every step of the journey.

I’ve spoken at many of these grads before and I’ve usually finished with this wonderful Benedictine Blessing, which I would now like to pray for you…

A Four-fold Benedictine Blessing

by Sr. Ruth Fox, OSB (1985)

May God bless you with a restless discomfort about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships, so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able, with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And may God bless you… and may God bless you… and may God bless you…

As always, nice chatting…


  1. Such a wonderful Blessing for your graguating students Brian. Lovely to be in contact with you again and to read about what you are up to so to speak! With our love Ruth and Lindsay

    • Wonderful to hear from you Ruth. Hope you and Lindsay are keeping well.

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