May 28, 2023
So, we have a lot going on today, with Memorial Day, Pentecost and Confirmation. It’s not too hard to see a connection between, Confirmation and Pentecost, since the disciples were in some sense confirmed in their faith and calling at Pentecost. It is often called the birthday of the church. Three thousand Luke says were added to the church that day. And Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth about the diversity of gifts speaks for itself. We, who know you Matt, know that you have a number of gifts to share with the world and are confident you will in fact use them to do good in the world. We applaud and give thanks for what you have done to bring forth those gifts so far in your life and our confirmation service today is not only about confirming you in the faith it is also a blessing this church wants to bestow on you for all your future endeavors with your God given talents and hard work
But let us make clear this is a Confirmation service, not a conformation service. We are not expecting you to conform to any set of creeds or our assumptions about what your life should be. You are only confirming your trust in the mystery of God as revealed historically in Jesus of Nazareth and through the grace of the Holy Spirit. Faith is not a static thing that you grab hold of once and put in your pocket, so to speak.
Affirming faith is a life-long process, with its own ups and downs, doubts and uncertainties. As we have looked at the big issues of life and faith over the last year I have tried to say the answers you have now will have to be revisited along the way. Life and faith are journeys, with surprises along the way. Life will look different at different stages of your life.
Life questions you, pushes you find meaning, purpose and hope in different ways along our journey. Look around this room, I would venture to say there isn’t anyone over 40 here who hasn’t lost someone they love along the way, or at least had to revisit and reevaluate their beliefs because of some event or change in their lives.
Confirmation is not ultimately about being a good citizen, loyal and patriotic…you already are that.
Confirmation is not about making your parents proud, -you already do that.
Confirmation is about confirming your connection to this journey of faith at this important transitional point in your young life. It means trying to listen to the Holy voice that speaks to the human heart along the way. Recognizing that what we find in the Bible is the sacred witness of those who have travelled this road before. They were visionaries of the faith in the past and have spoken of their experience and the revelation they found in their encounter with the Holy. What we do here is confirm a seed of faith in you. Our hope is that it will grow and develop as you continue your journey.
So this past year I have tried to give you a little introduction to the bible, how it came to be and the general issues in interpreting the text. And, of course we looked at Jesus and the Christian understanding about him. But as much as we did that, I have tried to stress the mystery of human life. Human life is not one dimensional. There is something more to life and death than simple mechanical accounting. That’s where religion and faith come into the picture. We want to use rational thought and intelligent understanding in assessing life as well as faith. But life is complex and mysterious.
The late David Foster Wallace, in a rather famous graduation speech back in 2005 (you would have been less than a year old then) began his talk with a little analogy about two fish swimming and another fish swims by and says, “Great water today!” A few moments later one of the two swimming together says to the other, “What the heck is water?” He suggests that the truth of the little analogy is that often it is the most obvious and important things all around us that we have the most trouble talking about or beginning to think about. They may be as pervasive as water to a fish, but somehow out of our realm of thinking.
Wallace goes on to also delve into religion and faith with a story of two guys meeting in a bar in central Alaska. They begin talking and one says he is an atheist, the other says he is a believer. As the conversation goes on the atheist says, “Well it’s not like I haven’t given God a chance. Last year I was riding my snowmobile in the wilderness area and it broke down in the midst of the worst blizzard of the year. I hadn’t expected it so I wasn’t prepared. I thought I might die. I broke down and prayed. “O God, if there is a God, please save me! –But nothing happened.” –The believer said, “Well something must have happened; you’re still here.” -The atheist replied, “No, I just lucked out and two Eskimos happened by heading home on their snowmobiles and they gave me a ride.”
Faith is sometimes just a different perspective in life.
–Marcus Borg, a famous theologian and writer, (he happens to have been born the same year I was- but he died in 2015) in one of his books said, “Faith is not so much about believing this or that,” (Or I might add, using religious language like calling Jesus ‘Lord’.) “Faith is ultimately simply recognizing that God IS, and out of that affirmation developing a relationship with that which we call God or Christ, or the Spirit, in some more personal and interconnected way.”
For Christians, obviously, Jesus becomes the person, the way we understand and relate to that God. He becomes the vehicle to unlock the meaning of God’s will and hope for us as human beings.
Certainly, our hope for you is that you will walk with God. Part of that is just knowing that God walks with you. God can be a strength to uphold you in difficult times and perhaps sometimes to remind us of our truer and best selves.