(Jesus said) "For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Look at Him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!' Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds." Matthew 11:18-19
Senatobia, Mississippi, located 30 minutes south of Memphis, is a community of 8,000-plus people.
One of those inhabitants is Jay Foster, the superintendent of the Senatobia Municipal School District. You should know Mr. Foster is a man with a sense of right and wrong. That is why, for four years, Mr. Foster has been encouraging attendees to make the local high school graduation a respectful and dignified event.
It is a job he takes seriously.
That is why, when this year's graduating class walked and got their diplomas, a civil and courteous tone was expected. No, it was demanded. Family and friends were told to hold their applause and cheers, until every graduate had crossed the stage.
Unfortunately, some people could not contain their joy. Ursula Miller was such an individual. When Lakaydra walked across the stage, Miller shouted out her name: "Lakaydra!"
Mr. Foster had Miller, along with three others, removed from the premises. Then he went to the local Police Department and had warrants issued for their arrest. Mr. Foster felt the "loud, boisterous noise" had disturbed the peace and violated the "dignity of the State of Mississippi."
If the accused are found guilty, they may face a fine of $500 and a six-month prison term.
Now I don't know any more of the particulars of this case other than what I have reported. If the story has been told accurately, I have to agree with Mr. Foster: a graduation service is a thing of dignity. On the other hand, I also think there needs to be wiggle room for celebration.
Now you should know, this devotion is not about graduations. Not really. It is about worship services.
You see, I am a great believer in worship services where things are done "decently and in order" (see 1 Corinthians 14:40). But doing things decently and in order does not mean smiles, laughter, warm greetings, and genuine fellowship should be banished. Similarly, the Lord's Supper is a serious and solemn event, but it is also a time when the Lord forgives our sins. How sad so many members come away from that table looking ... well ... still looking sad.
My friends, when Jesus was among us, He attended weddings and raised people from the dead. I cannot help but believe there was a joyful mood accompanying those events. When our Savior walked this earth, He forgave sins and He healed people of diverse diseases. Was there no one who responded to God's hand by giving a joyful jump? (See Acts 3:8 for a clue.)
Such a joyful spirit ought to be pervasive in our worship as we celebrate God's gracious gift: a Savior who is our good news of great joy (see Luke 2:10).
THE PRAYER: Dear Lord, help me remember the lost -- not the saved -- should be the sad souls of this world. Let my worship reflect the joy I have been given in Jesus. In His Name. Amen.
In Christ I remain His servant and yours,
Pastor Ken Klaus
Speaker emeritus of The Lutheran Hour®
Lutheran Hour Ministries