Monday, June 20, 2011
Who are we that God would pay attention to us?
The God who made the heavens, who fashioned the mountains and stars, who reigns from the heavens, cares about us.
It seems almost inconceivable.
That is what the psalmist wonders this morning.
“What are mere mortals that you should be mindful of them, human beings that you should care for them?”
Perhaps we have all had this moment in our lives.
When we are overcome with the mystery and wonder of God, and we question why God would care about us at all.
Perhaps what makes us special is that we are called to take part in God’s activity.
We are given a task.
In the psalm the task is to be stewards of the things that God has made.
To watch over the cattle, birds, and field.
In our Gospel this morning we are called to be even more than this.
We are called to “Go” and spread the Gospel.
We are called to teach others about the wonders of God, and to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
What makes God mindful of us is that we are called to participate in divine activity.
I was thinking a lot about Jesus words to us this morning.
I was thinking of what it means for us to Go.
I am not sure that all of us can be the apostle Paul who travels the known world to tell others about the Gospel.
We are not all called to be missionaries in South America.
For those of us who are not called to leave home and family what does it mean for us to Go?
Perhaps it simply means that where we are we should be open to the activity of God.
This week I got a couple of phone calls where people were asking for some things that were out of the ordinary.
In one case a woman who was going to Afghanistan wanted to come and plan her funeral.
In another case a family whose daughter wants to marry a man from Germany needed a place to get married in a hurry due to timing and immigration issues.
I was not physically traveling anywhere to fulfill these requests but I felt the message of this morning’s Gospel.
To Go is not just about the physically going to a place but about going to help where God is leading us.
There are plenty of opportunities we have in our lives to Go and help others.
All that is required of us is openness to what God is doing.
But maybe more than this is the realization that God does care about human beings.
That God is mindful of what we do and what others do.
And that God is still at work in our world today.
God is active in your life and God calls you to Go.
I learned early in my ministry to say the word, “yes” as often as possible.
I learned that to say yes to people opened the door to a whole new and exciting ways that God was at work.
For me to Go means to going and doing things in ministry that I never thought I would do.
For me to Go means to open up myself to the mystery that is God.
To Go means to tell others about God.
When we Go to do God’s work it is important to think about what we will say about God.
What will be the words we will use to express the God of the universe?
In early times in the Church they came up with complicated formulas to how one could and could not speak about God.
For good reason the early church worked out the doctrine of the Trinity.
I think that this doctrine still has important and significant things to teach us about God.
But I think that it is not the way we would explain God to others.
It is not the best ways to open up God to others.
Because even when doctrine is well reasoned and crafted it still cannot say enough about the mystery and wonder of God.
Consider that St. Augustine wrote fifteen books over the course of his lifetime to try and explain the Trinity.
Even at the end of all that work he did not find a satisfactory answer.
Because God really has to be found in mystery of life, not in the answers we think up in some book.
What made the Psalmist contemplate the heavens and the earth is the same dilemma we find ourselves in today.
How do we explain the mysterious ways of God?
In the satirical paper the Onion it was suggested that God was simply Bi-polar.
That this explains how God can save a man from cancer and then have him die in a tornado a couple of weeks later.
Of course, this is a joke.
But I think that it points out that once we try and explain everything the worse we get.
There are some things simply not meant to be explained, and even if everything was then what need we would have for faith.
The woman who came to see me about her funeral does not know what will happen in Afghanistan.
She asked me to make sure that her family would be comforted, to let them know that she was with God.
That is what faith is all about.
Not knowing the outcome we place our hands in the God who made us and cares about us.
The family who needed a wedding saw our congregation as the answer to their prayers.
Having been turned away from other denominations whose rules prevented them helping they found help here, because we were willing to say yes and trust in God for the rest.
This is what faith does for us is give us the perspective that God is involved in everything and God does care about us humans as little as we are.
Finally, I want this morning to mention all the Dad’s out there today.
I know that when my kids were born I was called to Go in a whole new way.
It was something that I was called to that I was not really equipped for and had no idea if I was going do well.
I have simply trusted that this is God’s work.
That being a Dad is a great privilege that I have been called to do.
That in my duties as father is included the teaching of my children about this God who really does care about them deeply.
It is my responsibility to be an example not of perfection (thank God) but of faithfulness.
Martin Luther thankfully found holiness in our mundane callings as parents.
He once said, “There is more rejoicing in heaven over the smell of a father changing a dirty diaper then all the incense in Rome.”
We are called by God to Go and teach and be Christ in our homes, workplace, and anywhere we find ourselves.
We don’t have to go to Africa to be a missionary we can be one right here.
Someone once told me a story about their congregation that back in the 1950’s fathers would drop off their wives and children at Church and then sit in the car smoking cigars and reading the papers.
When the pastor and lay leaders realized what was happening they decided that during Sunday school they would go out and invite those men to come into the church.
The practice of sitting in cars outside church stopped.
It may not seem like it was all nations but it was still a calling from God to go.
Go and invite others into the mystery of a life of faith.
Go and help others to see that the God of all things cares about them enough to not allow them to sit in their cars and ignore their own calling.
God is so mindful of us that he calls us to participate in being stewards of the word of God.
God is mindful of us and calls us to go and help others to say yes and to invite them into the mystery of faith.
So let us Go!
Monday, June 13, 2011
Today we get to witness something really special.
We get to see these four young people confirm the vows that their parents made at their baptism.
We get to be witnesses to the Holy Spirit descending like fire on each of these fine young people.
Some of you who are here today saw them be baptized.
Some of you were the ones who stood up and said that you would make sure that they got to this moment.
You said that they would learn the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, that they would learn the Bible stories, and they would come and worship among God’s faithful people.
I know that the parents of these four young people took the promises they made very seriously.
We should congratulate them on getting their kids to this point.
Today I would like to talk about some of the things that might be said along the journey to this moment.
Here is what happens.
Somewhere between fifth grade and seventh grade church becomes boring.
Kids begin to find their own voice and begin to rebel against coming to church.
Most Sunday mornings becomes a battle between parents and their kids.
I can say this because this was how it was in my house growing up.
And parents being responsible say something like this, “You have to go to church until you are confirmed and then it is your choice.”
Let me say I don’t think this is the wrong thing to say.
The sentiment behind it is correct.
Parents made a promise to get their kids to this point.
This morning I want to say to Elena, Rene, Ben, and Ben that after today it is not your choice anymore.
This is your last chance to run for the door and to say “no”.
Because confirmation is not graduation from Church!
In fact: let me hear all of us say that together.
Confirmation is not graduation from church!
I have gotten to know these four young people over the last two years.
I want you all to know that they are extraordinary people.
God made them each unique and gifted.
As we heard St. Paul tell us this morning we are all “given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Each one of these young people has something special to add to the body of Christ.
Take Rene for example.
Rene cares about the world deeply.
He thinks about issues of justice.
He thinks about the people who are left out.
Rene supports causes like fair trade and gay rights.
He cares about the world.
That is a passion that we need in the body of Christ.
Take Ben Wirth for example.
Ben has energy.
He likes people and is passionate about the people he meets in the wider church.
Ben this year went to the synod assembly with me and he was so happy to build relationships with other people from other congregations.
Ben is extremely active and brings energy and life to everything he is involved in.
Isn’t that something that we need in our church?
Take Elena for example.
First of all Elena knows the Bible better than I do.
When we need a Bible verse Elena is right there with it.
She is dedicated and determined.
She wins the award for the best attendance, but more then this Elena brought her love of the God into everything she did.
Don’t we need that in the Body of Christ?
Take Ben Maurer for example.
Ben came here a year ago, but he managed to fit right in with everyone.
I was grateful for Ben because he was often the person doing exactly what he was suppose to be doing.
He was the calm amidst the storm.
He is steady and dependable.
Don’t we need that in our church?
Each one of the young people today picked a Bible verse to be their confirmation Bible Verse.
I have written them down.
I would like them to hold them and one parent to come forward.
Would the parent please read their child’s verse one at a time.
What was amazing about this process was that each young person picked a verse that I thought really suited them well.
It was a real Holy Spirit moment.
And today is a real Holy Spirit day.
It is filled with a rushing wind, fire, and a sense that anything with God is possible.
I hope that you all will remember your confirmation verse and carry it with you in your life.
That you will remember this day as the day when you felt the Holy Spirit and were blown away with the wonder and awesomeness of God.
I hope you will remember this day as a beginning in your faith journey.
Today is the beginning of you taking even more seriously your commitment to God.
Because confirmation is not graduation from Church!
Imagine if after having been given the Holy Spirit by Jesus the disciples stayed in that lock room.
Jesus died on a cross, rose from the dead, and gave his followers the power to go out and live as a child of God.
How can we waste such a precious gift?
The truth is that all of us everyday affirm our baptism.
Every day we go out into the world and live as disciples of Jesus we are saying to the world were our priorities are.
Because all of you who were confirmed years ago that was not graduation from Church for you either.
It was just the start of something even greater.
I want to say one more thing this morning.
After the Holy Spirit comes over the crowd on that first Pentecost Peter gives a sermon and he uses as his texts the prophet Joel.
He talks about how the young will see visions and the old will dream dreams.
He talks about sons and daughters prophesying.
In other words all the people gathered there were going to be needed to accomplish the work of the church.
Confirmation is not graduation from Church.
It is important for all of us to remember that.
Because I think that sometimes congregations expect that young people will simply go away after confirmation.
I don’t expect that at all.
I expect that these four young people will use those gifts and passions to grow the church.
I expect that they will change the church.
I think that we as members with them in the Body of Christ have to respect them.
We have to be willing to listen to what they say even when it is not what we think.
Our young people are prophesying to us all the time and often we don’t listen and simply dismiss is as foolishness.
The church has to be a place where we all come together for something greater then ourselves and that means listening to the next generation.
These young people need our support because they will not get it out in the world.
It is not like when I was a boy.
All my friends went to church.
That is not so anymore.
These young people are going to have a hard enough time trying to maintain their faith in a world that says that faith is for the foolish and the week.
We need to be there to tell them that this is there church to explore to prophesy, to see visions of the way the world can be.
And we old people can dream dreams with them of what God will and can do.
Confirmation is not graduation for us either.
We are not done with these young people.
We are excited to have them as our brothers and sisters in Christ as we are led by the Holy Spirit to do God’s work in the world.
Let us go forth led by the Holy Spirit to call on the name of the Lord so we might be saved.