JCHS seniors, families pack Miller Center for annual baccalaureate

Zac Wolfe, First Presbyterian Church’s associate pastor for youth and contemporary worship, gives the baccalaureate sermon to the 100-plus students who attended the Christian service at the Miller Center Sunday afternoon. Below, Elizabeth Albert, right, poses with her mother, Susan Neill-Albert, while Elizabeth’s friend, Lesley Barlow, snaps a shot after Sunday’s service.

Zac Wolfe, First Presbyterian Church’s associate pastor for youth and contemporary worship, gives the baccalaureate sermon to the 100-plus students who attended the Christian service at the Miller Center Sunday afternoon. Below, Elizabeth Albert, right, poses with her mother, Susan Neill-Albert, while Elizabeth’s friend, Lesley Barlow, snaps a shot after Sunday’s service.

At Sunday’s Jefferson City High School baccalaureate service, a pastor told members of the graduating class that his faith wasn’t always solid — especially about the time he graduated from high school.

Zac Wolfe, associate pastor of youth and contemporary worship at First Presbyterian Church, said that he went from feeling God leading him to become a pastor as a high school sophomore to questioning God’s existence as a senior.

But he said he later came to the realization that “God is always with us.”

More than 100 of about 600 prospective graduates attended the voluntary Christian service. But with their families and friends, the lower section of the Miller Performing Arts Center was packed, with some people sitting in the balcony. The baccalaureate service is one week before Sunday’s graduation ceremonies.

“I was about to graduate. And I was doubting everything I knew about God. And fast forward three months from then, at the end of the summer, and I was doubting that there even was a god.”

A disappointing state track meet performance his senior year combined with a summer church camp romance that ended in a breakup contributed to his shaken faith, and, eventually, his anger at God.

He returned from camp, feeling alone with pain, anger, frustration and disappointment.

“I went outside and I released it all at God,” he said. “That’s right. Write on your calendars: Your pastor is telling you that he cussed out God, because that’s what I did.”

But after a conversation late that night with a friend and spiritual mentor, he began to rebuild his faith.

Only relatively recently did he realize that God was with him that night through his friend.

He said Psalm 23 drives home the message that God is always with us.

“That even in our darkest valleys, God is there with us. And there’s nothing that can keep us apart from God,” he said.

And God is not just with us, he pursues us, Wolfe said.

“God came to me because I am a child of God, just as all of you are. So God is always there.”

He said he’s seen God’s presence the class’ recent awards ceremony. “I saw it through the teachers and administrators there to support you... . I saw it through the many accomplishments that your class has had... . I saw it through your family and friends who came there with you.”

He told the class that they’ve each accomplished many things, and will accomplish many more. But he said while on their journey, they’ll make mistakes that will lead to doubt.

“You are going to doubt who you are, you are going to doubt who God is, and you’re going to doubt the world. But God will be with you” and will continue to pursue you, he said.

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