The readings for this Sunday include one of my absolute favorite readings. It is one of my faves not because it is particularly inspiring by itself, or because it is in one of my favorite of Paul’s letters, but it is one of my favorite readings because of a personal connection to it.
A few years ago, I was the Big Brother at Happening, a retreat for high schoolers, in the
Diocese of Upper South Carolina. The rector was an amazing young man named Austin. I was always impressed by the depth of his spirit and compassion, and I was honored when he asked me to be the Big Brother, or mentor, at this Happening.
Of the many awesome things Austin brought with him to this Happening was a saying that, I believe, his grandmother taught him. R.P.U.G.T. It is a way to remember Paul’s advice in the first letter to the Thessalonians. “Rejoice always, Pray Unceasingly, and Give Thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thess. 5:16-18
This is good advice, particularly during finals week for our students. Rejoicing can be tough during the finals rush, but joy comes from inside, and God’s Spirit is there, welling up within us. Prayer is a good place to start when we’re stuck, but the kind of prayer Paul is suggesting is more of the “God, I’m tired. Help me rest.” not the “Seriously, God, I need to you get me an ‘A’.” And an grateful life is the kind of life Jesus models for us. Giving
thanks has been shown spiritually and scientifically to lead to a happier life.
So thank you Paul and Austin for the great advice, and here is a prayer for students during finals week:
God, the source of all wisdom, you created us in your image, giving us the gifts of intellect and curiosity. Bless these students as they prepare for the conclusion of this semester. In the days ahead as they write papers, take exams, and finish projects, energize and sustain them. Open their eyes to follow where you lead, pursuing their gifts and passions that they may become a blessing to the world.
Give them your strength when they feel weak, your calm them when they are stressed, and grant them rest when they are weary. Remind them to give you thanks for their opportunities, to take success as a chance to give you thanks, and let them always remember that failures are not a measure of their self-worth but as a chance for a new start.
Bless them as they go on their way and sustain them by your loving-kindness all the days of their life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.