Confirmation Sunday May 6th 2018
“Come to the Water”
Rev. Caroline Lawson Dean
Let us pray: God of Love, we pray a blessing over our Confirmation Class. On this special day – we pray for courage & faith. Come Holy Spirit stir these waters, that we might all hear your voice speaking over us, “You are my beloved in whom I am well pleased.” Amen.
When Jesus got dunked in the Jordan River by his cousin John, the heavens ripped open and the Holy Spirit came down like a dove, and a voice from heaven rang out, “You are my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” I must say that if our confirmation Sunday wasn’t already the most unusual in town, I would suggest that we could all, in the tradition of Jesus, take this show on the road and find the deepest dunking spot down at the Passaic River…maybe next year…
Speaking of next year, let’s talk about high school. The high school students in the room would agree that a lot of the time, high school is less about being in high school and more about getting into college. And during our high school years these days we may overhear a very powerful lie that your very future – by implication your worth – depends on your academic or sporting or scoring success – so that you can get into college – and not just any college but the right kind of college. And don’t get me wrong, it’s good to work hard. It is indeed good to go to a college that will help you thrive and discover your gifts.
But the danger of this lie is that it teaches us to hustle for our worth. That the work before us somehow defines us, that there is some kind of external barometer of success reflects back on who we are…
So how can we practice letting go of these kinds of lies? On our confirmation retreat every year we have a time of silent journaling and prayer. We are reminded how hard it can be to sit in silence and be still. This year in our closing retreat session we asked the question “what is harder to be silent or to be still?” And so we don’t feel quite so alone, I wonder who here today has trouble with silence or stillness? Raise your hand…
And even though it can be hard for us, there is something spiritually magical on the other side of silence. And one of the reasons that silence is so important in my life is because it makes me stop and remember that I don’t have to hustle for my worth. I can take time to just be. I don’t have to do, or be productive, or spend time getting better at something. I don’t have to accrue more material things to prove my worth. And maybe silence and stillness is just one option – maybe we can also take time to play a game, to be with friends, or take a walk in nature. What helps you undo the sense that “We are what we do” “Or we are what we own?”
Sometimes we even get a bit confused and we think that God buys into this lie. Sometimes we forget and we think that you have to do good works or acts of service to appease God. We think you have to pray or repent or you have to get some sort of seal of divine approval.
But our scripture today provides a different truth. When Jesus gets baptized he hasn’t even done anything out of the ordinary! He is just coming out of his small town carpenter life and dipping his toe in his public ministry when the heavens rip open. God says “I love you – I’m proud of you, for who you are already.” God’s love comes first and enfolds us before we even know it! Father Greg Boyle works with gangs in LA in creative ministries that provide real community & job opportunity as safe havens for folks who want a new start. In his book “Tattoos on the Heart” Father Boyle, writes that God’s love isn’t a “one false move and you are out” kind of love, it is the kind of love that says “no matter what I have your back.” God loves you no matter what.
Charlie is getting baptized on August 5th. And a good chunk of family is hitting the road to celebrate with her. Just like a lot of your crew is gathered today. And on the day of Charlie’s baptism I imagine that most of it will be like a normal Sunday, mundane, maybe a bit more fun with family around or maybe a bit more crazy…
But if I could control the universe and somehow make it special or better yet if I could control the universe and somehow spiritually lodge a truth into Charlie’s little being it would be simple. It would be one thing. I would rip open the heavens and tell her “Charlie, you are so loved, we are proud of you!”
Here’s the crazy thing. She doesn’t really do anything! She can roll around a bit. She’s just learning to turn her toothy smile into a giggle. She can’t even sleep through the night much less do any chores around the house. But it doesn’t matter. She’s amazing because she is Charlie. No matter what.
And so that’s what we are doing today! We are ripping open the heavens and declaring God’s love over each of you. A “No matter what” kind of love. You don’t have to hustle for it. You don’t have to reach a score on a test or in a game or on your report card. It’s already set.
In the Bible the religious teachers ask Jesus “what is the most important teaching of the law?” And Jesus says “love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.”
And so, if you were to ask me today if I could sum up what we want you to learn in confirmation it would be 1) that God loves you no matter what, your worth as a beloved child of God is already set & 2) Go out into the world practicing that kind of love. “What does the Lord require of you? The prophet Micah asks, But to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.” When we “do justice in the world,” we are called to lift up the oppressed and to work against the systems that are unfair. When we “love kindness” we are called to build a roof or a ramp at RISE, we are called to visit with children & farmers in Nicaragua, we are called to tutor at the GRACE fresh food refrigerator. These service-learning projects help us redefine what it means to have “abundant life.” We are called to serve our own church community in worship & in Sunday school. When we are called “walk humbly with God” we are called to work with the “least of these” in mutual, respectful partnership, knowing that we have just as much to receive as we have to give.
And so, let us go out now, steeped in the reality that God loves us “no matter what” that we might have the courage and faith to work for a more just, kind & peaceful world we pray, Amen.