Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Right Place

The Day of Pentecost
Confirmation Sunday
Sunday, May 27, 2007
John 14:23-31

Katherine and Jamie, today is a great day for you. You know that it is an exciting day, and yet, you may not even realize how important of a day this really is for you. The very fact that the two of you are sitting up here in the front shows that this is an important day in your life and that in this congregation there is an emphasis today on the two of you and what is occurring today.

Your Confirmation today is the culmination of two years of learning the core of the Christian faith. And yet, as I have reminded you often over the last two years, this is in no way the end, but rather the foundation for you as a Christian for the rest of your life. You’ve learned a lot, but you have much yet to learn. Jesus makes it sound so easy, doesn’t He, in the Gospel reading, that we are to follow His Word?

You don’t have to do it right now, but if you were to look behind you you would see a bunch of people who have been Christians for a long time. And you know what else you would see? A bunch of people who have a lot yet to learn. Who commit a lot of sins. Who in no way have come to the culmination of their learning and growing in the Christian faith.

But the thing is, they’re all here today. You are part of a Christian congregation that is built on the foundation of Christ. We’re all here because we need to keep growing. It’s really not about us. You’re getting confirmed today, but it’s really not about you. We’re not so foolish to be like the people in the Old Testament reading who amazingly thought they could reach heaven by building a tower. The only reason I can see they came to such an idea is that they didn’t go through two years of Confirmation class. If they had, they would know that we cannot reach God by our efforts.

You’ve come a long way. You’ve learned a lot, and have grown in the Christian faith. And yet, there’s nothing you’ve done to get in God’s good graces. It’s only by His pure grace that you’re in His favor. He loves you because He loves you. He loves you not because of who you are or what you have accomplished. He loved you, in fact, before you were ever born; before the world was born, even.

It all sounds so simple. And I suppose in a way, it really is that simple. But you’re here nonetheless. Because you need to hear this time and time again. Like the people in the reading from the Book of Acts of the beginning of the Church, you’ll have many times in your life where you’ll wonder what it all means.

See, the problem is not with God. It’s with you. You know God loves you, and yet, while you probably won’t join in on a construction project to get yourself to heaven’s gate, you’ll have many times when you will not see God as who He is, your Lord and Savior. You’ll be number one in your own eyes.

This will happen consciously. And there will be times when you don’t even realize it’s happening. Your friends at school will be saying hurtful things about someone and you’ll be faced with the choice of speaking out against it, or joining in. Or you might not say anything, refusing to defend the person being hurt. There will be times when the warmth of your pillow will be more appealing than being here to hear the clear words of God’s love for you in Christ and to receive His Body and Blood for your forgiveness.

So when you do look around, you’ll be in good company. You have come to the right place. This is the place where sinners are welcome. This is the place where you actually are at the very gate of heaven. You are under the umbrella of God’s grace. You are in the eternal care of the almighty God and loving Father. You can’t reach heaven, but God actually comes down to you. What did Jesus say? “My peace I give to you.” When you die, you know that you will be welcomed into the glorious mansions of heaven.

This is what the Christian Church is all about. That’s why we celebrate the birthday of the Christian Church on Pentecost Day every year. It was the beginning of something that is everlasting. And something that will bring to you comfort and strength your whole life through—and you know there will be many times when you need it.

Right now you might be in kind of a daze. Right now you may still be wondering what it’s all about. Keep looking around you, you’re in good company. God has given all of these people to you to encourage you and remind you of God’s grace. When you see them in the Word of God, studying it, growing in it, you will be strengthened and encouraged to continue to be in the Word of God.

When you find yourself wondering what it all means; wondering if it’s really that big of a deal; wondering why there are still times of doubt and hurt and despair; know that you’re in the right place. This is the place where you will continually be reminded of your Baptism—your birthday into the Christian Church. Here you will continually hear of the reason why Christ has come and why He suffered and died as He did: to give you His peace. Not outside of the Christian Church, but in it, you will be invited often to receive the gift of life and strength at this very altar.

If your Confirmation today were the end, you really wouldn’t need to be confirmed at all. This is the beginning. You are here today and know that this is the right place to be throughout your life. In our country this weekend we are grateful for those who’ve given their lives in defense of our freedom. In a few moments you will make a promise to be faithful to Christ, even to death.

How will you remain faithful to this promise? Because you’re in the right place. You’re in the place where you hear over and over again that it’s not about you. It’s about Christ. It’s always about Him and the sacrifice He has made on your behalf. He gave His life so that you may live with Him forever. This is what you hear in this place. Here you receive Christ, and that is what you will be learning and growing in your whole life, even to eternity. Amen.


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