St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-15-2018


St. Matthew’s Sermon 04-15-2018

Confirmation Sunday

Acts 3:12-19, Psalm 4, 1 John 3:1-7, Luke 24:36b-48

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God. Amen

Today’s message, of course, is for our Confirmands; those who are about to affirm the vows their parents made on their behalf the day they were baptized. And, I will be speaking directly to them. This, however, doesn’t mean that the rest of you are free to nap during this message; listen up, you just might find something meaningful for yourselves in what I have to say.

 

Alayna, Ben, Charlotte; I want to take this opportunity to remind you, to re-instill, to reemphasize, what I feel are some of the most important things for you to know about Christian faith and why they are important.

I told you that when I went through my Confirmation there was a lot of memorization demanded of us. Among the many, we had to be able to recite the title of every book of the Bible (in order). We had to be able to quote several scriptures at the mention of book, chapter and verse. And we even had to memorize the entire liturgy for the whole Worship Service on the day of our Confirmation; every word, every response, even every verse of every hymn that would be sung.

I asked you to memorize two things; and what were they?  (The Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles Creed).  I did it that way because, even though there is nothing wrong with knowing the books of the Bible in order, or to be able to recite key scriptures from memory, I believe the time we had together was better spent learning how to find the truth each one of the books and verses, offers us than to be able to locate them quickly.

Another thing that was different for you compared to my experience was the curriculum we used; or, more specifically, how we used what we had. Whereas I had a book full of questions I had to answer to the satisfaction of my instructor, you were given a journal, a work book for your classes and your homework. You were encouraged to use it to write down your personal thoughts and feelings as we went along. I did offer for you to share your answers to questions that were presented, but I never insisted on your sharing of those personal entries.

One reason for doing so was to respect your privacy in matters of a faith relationship; what is between you and God, on a deeply personal level, is no business of mine. Another reason is that I trust the Holy Spirit to guide you far better than I ever can and wanted you to experience that guidance on your own without fear of judgment, criticism, or unwarranted correction.

I did add, to our curriculum, one other requirement for you to bring into every class; (and what was that?) I asked that you come with a question. And, with that, emphasized that there is no such thing as a “stupid question” (except for the one not asked) and that desiring better understanding does NOT indicate weakness of faith nor equate doubt.

My goal in this was to encourage you to seek that better understanding, to look to multiple sources for answers, and to keep your mind open to alternative understandings of God’s Word. None ofus have “full understanding” of God and Christ but we can always seek better understanding.

By-the-way, a note to the congregation, each one of our Confirmands, more than once each, stumped the pastor with their questions causing me to ask for time to do some research to find the answer! Yes, believe it or not, even the Seminary educated don’t know it all! J

And this brings me to thee most important thing I wanted you to learn about Christian faith. That being the fact that faith is an ongoing journey.

When we started our Confirmation classes I spoke of it as being a part of your faith journey. I mentioned how your personal faith journey began on that day when you were Baptized; and I also made it clear that this isn’t the end of the road in faith development, but another milestone on the way; a very significant marker indeed, but not the final goal.

And so, my prayer for you is that you will continue this journey faithfully; that you will strive to be ever nearer God and Christ; always learning more about their will for your life every day.

I also pray that you will be listening for their direction; in the scriptures, in the moment-by moment experiences of your life, in the sights and sounds of the world around you, and in the voices of friends and strangers; the powerful and the weak; the oppressed and the liberated, and the bold and the humble.

I pray that you will respond to the call of God and Christ with action; working to bring love, justice, and peace into this world in their name; all the while trusting the Holy Spirit to guide you, strengthen you, and encourage you as you do.

 

In our Epistle reading for today you heard these words; “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed”. You have always been children of God. In a few moments you will affirm your desire to be known as children of God!

Although I hesitate, in a way, to address you as “children”, for in the eyes of the Church you are now becoming young adults, I remind you once again, that in the context of the Church we are all, even the oldest of us, children; Children of God in the sense of being one of God’s beloved family and children in the sense of having a lot more growing up to do. We all have to grow and build more strength of faith; we all have much more to learn about God and Christ and their will for us. In that, none of us are ever grownups.

But don’t let that discourage you! It’s not that hard, it’s not an impossible task. As John also tells us in the Epistle reading, “Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous”. And I will add to that another of my favorite verses of encouragement; from Micah 6, verse 8, “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”? (NRSV)

May God be with you as you continue your journey; go confidently, go in peace, go in faith, and go in love.

Amen.

 

Acts 3:12-19
3:12 When Peter saw it, he addressed the people, “You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk?
3:13 The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him.
3:14 But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you,
3:15 and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses.
3:16 And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.
3:17 “And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.
3:18 In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer.
3:19 Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out,

Psalm 4
4:1 Answer me when I call, O God of my right! You gave me room when I was in distress. Be gracious to me, and hear my prayer.
4:2 How long, you people, shall my honor suffer shame? How long will you love vain words, and seek after lies? Selah
4:3 But know that the LORD has set apart the faithful for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him.
4:4 When you are disturbed, do not sin; ponder it on your beds, and be silent. Selah
4:5 Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the LORD.
4:6 There are many who say, “O that we might see some good! Let the light of your face shine on us, O LORD!”
4:7 You have put gladness in my heart more than when their grain and wine abound.
4:8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety.

1 John 3:1-7
3:1 See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.
3:2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
3:3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.
3:4 Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
3:5 You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.
3:6 No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.
3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Luke 24:36b-48
24:36b While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
24:37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
24:38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
24:39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
24:40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
24:41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
24:42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
24:43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you–that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures,
24:46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
24:47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
24:48 You are witnesses of these things.