Psalm 104:24-34, 35b
John 14:8-17, 25-27
June 5, 2022
Pentecost (Confirmation Sunday)
Light 'Em Up
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I was scrolling through Facebook the other day doing what I do best—procrastination. I saw an article that Bishop Michael Curry, The presiding Bishop in the Episcopal church, is leading a conference this weekend titled, "Love is the Way Festival.” At this event, 2 deacons will be ordained and 40 Christians will confirm their faith. They are expecting over 500 people to attend the event and had it been closer, I might have made my way there too, but Indiana is a little bit too far to make it back in time for Sunday. As I read the article, I kept thinking about the title and how it sounded so familiar. Then I remembered: In 2018, Prince Harry and Megan Markle were married and the preacher for the day was Bishop Curry. He said:
Someone once said that Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in human history.
A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God for the world - and a movement mandating people to live that love, and in so doing to change not only their lives but the very life of the world itself.
When love is the way, then no child will go to bed hungry in this world ever again.
When love is the way, we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.
When love is the way, poverty will become history. When love is the way, the earth will be a sanctuary.
When love is the way, we will lay down our swords and shields, down by the riverside, to study war no more.
When love is the way, there's plenty good room - plenty good room - for all of God's children.
"Because when love is the way, we actually treat each other, well... like we are actually family.
On the day when the rest of world was captivated by party, the clothes, the dress, the food, the cake— Bishop Curry was captivated by the gospel and in his preaching had us all captivated in the gospel. Four years ago, Bishop Curry did what he was called to do that day—he preached the gospel. He had a microphone and he used it. He didn’t back down to the pressure to just get up and say a few words and sit back down. He didn’t care when people would say to him, “Nobody is going to care to listen to you. Just get up and say a few nice things and sit down. Let’s get in and out.” He didn’t listen to the nay-sayers who only see church as mere formality, keep it to an hour and no more kind of Christians. He used the microphone given to him and he preached a message that impact more lives that day than just the two who had come into that church to make marriage vows to one another. It was a once in a lifetime moment and Bishop Curry used it well. He used it so well in fact, that after Bishop Curry returned to his seat, I remember seeing Prince Harry say to his wife, “Wow.”
On this beautiful day when many of us would probably want to be outside enjoying this weather, we gather here today to ponder the mystery of Holy Spirit moving in the church 2000 year ago. As I think about the powerful message that Bishop Curry said four years ago, I also think about the powerful word that Peter preached on this day 2000 years ago. I think about the words from the gospel of John that say, “...the paraklet, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” Today I am thinking about how the Holy Spirit gave Peter the gift to stand before that group assembled outside where the disciples were meeting when the Holy Spirt lit them up to preach this word. The Holy Spirit empowered Peter to speak a powerful message, a powerful sermon on God’s new reality which has long been foretold by prophets and is now coming to fruition. This one time fishermen who had the tendency to put his foot in his mouth more often than the others, used the microphone that was given to him and the people who gathered outside the first church’s door, people who were representing so many different parts of the world, they heard a message of hope—hope that can only come through faith in Jesus Christ.
Peter used the microphone that the Holy Spirit gave him that day and changed the world with his message. Peter lit the world on fire. Bishop Curry used the microphone that God gave him on May 19, 2018 and preached a message of love that forever changed the world. Allison, Brady, Gavin, and Johnathan—how is the holy spirit going to use you to light up the world this day?
That is really big question on my mind this day. Is that no your mind too? Or are you just grateful to be done with confirmation. “Oh thank God it’s over.” People of God, these four are the only four in my 10 years of ministry who can legitimately say that because their confirmation journey began right before the pandemic started. If you go up to their old classroom (Because we moved it down to the social hall this past year) you will still see their workbooks opened to what they were working on. I remember when I first started here, Thomas and I would go on walks around the building and the first time I found that classroom, it kind of took my breath away. When you four started confirmation, you had a different Pastor shepherding you. When you four started confirmation, you met every week during Sunday school. When you four started Confirmation, we knew nothing of Covid19 or how this pandemic was forever going to change the way way we might teach the faith. Three years later, I both want to celebrate with you four but mourn a little with you as well.
Zion is not the same congregation that it was 3 years ago when you began you catechetical journey. The leadership has completely changed. The ways in which we do our ministry have changed. Our community now consist of both in-person and virtual as well. This means that the gathering of the saints is no longer limited to those within these four walls, which has always been the case, but now we have the tools to connect our community. However, with this new found connectedness also comes Loneliness and isolation for those who cannot gather. These new times have also brought significant loss. Death has claimed some our most beloved members. Others simply left Zion for another church to call their home. And of course lots we have had our fair share of conflict over these past 3 years and will continue to experience conflict until Christ returns. These past few years have been a challenge and you four, yet you stayed committed. Allison, Brady, Gavin, and Johnathan—you have been a part of all of these things which have taken place And you are about to enter a new phase in your confirmation journey, but I need you to understand that you are not done today.
I mean, you don’t have to come back for classes in the fall, unless you really want to. You don’t need to come to class, but I do expect you to continue in your study of the scriptures, the creed, and the 10 commandments. I do expect to see you in worship and receive the body and blood of Christ. I expect that you will give of yourself, your time, and your treasures to the ministry of Christ’s Church. And know, I don’t just expect this from you four, I expect this out of every, single member of this congregation. When you all became members, you made the same promises these four young adults will make. Being a member of Christ church is not like being a member of a local, community organization. Church membership is not a resume builder. Church membership is rooted in in a desire to grow closer to God. None of us get to stop being a faithful member of this community the day after we become official members. today is not a get out of church free card. I still expect great things out of you, not because you received the best confirmation experience that money could buy, not because Jeff and I are like the coolest confirmation teachers in the whole world, not because you do well in school or sports or other extra-curricula activities. No, I expect amazing things to come from you because I know the paraklet is with you. I know the Holy Spirit is with all those gathered in this room today. I know the Holy Spirit is with you. The one who will be your Advocate, your comforter, your counselor, you helper will be with you. The Holy Spirit will hand you what you need to do God’s work whether it be a microphone, a pen, a computer keyboard, or whatever tool it might be and you will do will of God. The only reason I am in this pulpit, or any pulpit for the matter, is because of the Holy Spirit. When I was a child, I had difficultly speaking, I had to see a speech pathologist all the way through middle school, and now I am preacher of the word of God. My brothers and sisters, the Holy Spirit makes the impossible, possible. Never forget that.
And my other brothers and sisters, I need you to do me a huge favor this day. I need you to stop saying that these young people are the future of the church. They are not our future. Jesus Christ is our future. These young people will make mistakes. They will fail despite the Holy Spirit coming along side of them and leading them. Peter and Paul were not perfect after the Holy Spirit rested on them and neither will these fine young people be perfect either. We can’t keeping putting our faith in humanity to save the church. The church has already been saved by Jesus Christ. He is our future. That is the message that Peter preached—God pouring out God’s Spirit on all flesh: Young and old, man and female, slave and free. God is our future, not Allison, Brady, Gavin, and Johnathan. They are, however, a vital part of our future along with you, and me, and all those who gather in the name of the Lord. The future God is laying out is going to have its ups and downs, but the one who comes along side us, the Paraclete, won’t leave us or abandoned us. The Holy Spirit won’t ever leave you seven alone to fend for yourselves in the faith.
And it is my fervent prayer, and I hope yours as well, that the Holy Spirit will give you the words to speak when you are called to do so, will give you the strength to speak out against injustice, will give you hope to see that nothing in all of creation can separate you from God’s Love. The words of Saint Peter are not his own, but rely on the tradition of scripture. When you speak, may your words be grounded in our Holy Scriptures as well. I hope that whatever God leads you to do, I hope you see that it is through Love, God’s love, that hearts and minds are forever change. And may each and everyone of you, gathered here today before the almighty God, that you not only find the peace that can only come from our Lord Jesus, but that you continue to fervently pray for God’s spirit to move you, guide you, equip you, shape you into God’s image. Jesus might have left planet, but the Holy Spirit will always be with you. May we all trust in that good news. May you trust in that good news today as you make your profession of faith, but also may also have the strength to trust in that good news when they hand your handed your cross.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.