Sunday, May 11, 2008

Promises Fulfilled: A Confirmation/ Pentecost Sermon

“Promises Fulfilled”
Acts 2:1-14, 17
May 11, 2008: Pentecost Sunday

A long time ago… M. and A., longer than you can remember…12 years ago? Thirteen? …your parents stood in front of a church, before a minister and a congregation, and asked that you be baptized. Before you had any say in the matter, before you could express an opinion in any other way than, maybe, letting out a squeal or a cry, a minister asked your parents this question: “Will you be responsible for nurturing this child you present in the faith and life of the Christian community?” And they answered, Yes. Yes, we will. With the help of God, we will. Then, the minister, whoever that was, turned to the congregation, and asked them this question: “People of God, do you promise, through prayer and example, to support and encourage A., M. to be faithful Christians?” And the people of God, answering not just for themselves, but for all God’s people throughout all God’s church, said “Yes. We do. We promise.”

And here you are. Here you are on this day on which we are speaking about fires appearing on people’s heads, and about winds blowing people out of the rooms they might prefer to sit in, surfing the net or texting their friends. Here you sit on this day on which the bible reminds us that our call as Christians is to get up, and go out, and speak out God’s good news. And now it’s your turn! Today, here you stand, ready to fulfill promises made for you and about you. Nobody asked your opinion until now. Now, you get to speak out. Today is the day of your Confirmation.

It might be good, first of all, to speak of what Confirmation is not. Confirmation in the church is not a day on which you proclaim that you have all the answers. Confirmation is not a day on which you say, “Well, I’m done. I’ve got that all figured out. On to calculus.” Confirmation, if anything, is a day that marks the beginning of your serious engagement with the really big questions. Today is a day to lay claim to the whole of our Christian heritage… to know that it’s yours, and then to say, “Where am I in all this?”

I remember the day of my confirmation so clearly. It was in a different era, and a different church, of course. I was one of about a hundred seventh graders, all being confirmed at once. But there are some things my confirmation had in common with yours. I had a mentor, someone I really admired and respected, standing behind me, my mom’s best friend Cecily. Also, I was just a little bit nervous.

In our reading from the Acts of the Apostles, the friends and family of Jesus are gathered in an upper room, waiting for the Holy Spirit. Jesus had promised them: “You will receive power when my Holy Spirit has come upon you.” And I’m guessing they didn’t know what that would be like. They had no idea what “the power of the Holy Spirit” meant. So they waited together, praying and wondering. I am willing to bet they were more than a little bit nervous. What would the power of the Holy Spirit mean in their lives? I imagine no one was ready for what happened next. No one was ready for the fiery, windy, wild ride that the Holy Spirit would send them on.

Here are just some of the things the power of the Holy Spirit meant for the followers of Jesus:

~ They were able to speak about their faith with boldness and confidence, and share with others what they had seen and experienced, the good news of Jesus Christ.
~ They were able to bring healing to people who were hurting.
~ They were able to work out disagreements by remembering the things Jesus had taught them, and knowing that their love for one another would get them through.

Those are just a few of the things that happened for Jesus’ followers, after the church was born, in the days, weeks, months and years after Pentecost. What do you imagine will happen to you, as the power of the Holy Spirit continues to be revealed in your lives? Do you think you might learn ways of sharing your faith with others? Do you think you might be able to create moments of healing when people are hurting? Do you think you might have a new kind of blueprint for walking through times of disagreement together?

A. and M. have shared with me some of their hopes for Our Church, and I have to say, they are exciting. They want to form a Drama Club. The proceeds from their performances would go to help people in need. They want to spend more time laughing with their Church friends—they loved Game Show Night. They suggested a Movie Night. They think the Youth Group ought to go caroling… not just at Christmas time, but at other times of the year, too, visiting our homebound members and those in nursing homes and singing them hymns and other songs to cheer them up. They want to bring them flowers. I can’t wait for us to get started on M. and A.'s plans for life here at Our Church. As delighted as I am by their plans and ideas, I cannot say that I am surprised. These things are just promises fulfilled, the promise of young people raised to know that God is good, that God loves us, that following Jesus has something to do with the love of God, and that following Jesus means reaching out to those who are hurting.

A long time ago, longer than any of us can remember… before the very beginning of time…God stood at the threshold of creation and made some plans. Those plans included Jesus Christ and the church. Those plans included the A. family and the M. family, and these specific, spectacular collections of cells and talents and inspiration we know as A. and M. God stood at the threshold of creation, and said, “I promise. I promise to love these young people, and to provide for them a community where they can learn to love me. I promise to claim them in the waters of baptism, and to never let them go. I promise to give them questioning, inquisitive minds, and challenging, loving hearts. And God answered Godself, and said, Yes. Yes, I will. By the power of my love, I will.” A., M., you were claimed before the beginning for the love of God and the faith of the church. Today you step forward and claim that faith for yourselves. Today you step forward, and affirm that you have received that love. Today, you join the ranks of the people who get fired up and blown around by the Holy Spirit, to accomplish only God knows what. Welcome. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Image: "Pentecost" by Linda Schmidt, Textile Artist, Quilter, Designer.


Diane said...

I like that you speak personally to the confirmands. I miss that from when I had a smaller church. Now we have 20 of them, so it's hard to address them as personally.

Barbara B. said...

wow, great! and I agree with diane--so nice to make it so personal for the confirmands.