Grace and peace to you from God our Creator, and from Jesus, the Son of God, who restores the world! Amen.
I love to play games, and in our family, we will occasionally just have game night, where we’ll play Bannanagram, or Apples to Apples, or maybe Clue (the Harry Potter edition, or course). We discovered a new game that is an app on our phone and on my iPad, and we love this game. Some of you have probably played it before…it’s called “Heads Up.” I thought it might be kind of fun if we played a round. So I’m going to play, this section against this section. I’ll hold up the iPad, and a word will appear and then your team has to give me clues and I have to guess what the word is. Then I’ll jump to this side and you have to give me clues. We’ll decide either which side of the room is smarter…or perhaps just that I’m totally dumb . Ready? Here we go.
<Play the game>
So here’s the thing. I love this game…I think it’s really fun…and, when our family plays it, we laugh a lot. But as I was thinking about it, I realized something. I think that this game is also a pretty good metaphor for our faith, and for this C3 process that you have been a part of. Or, to borrow the words of Jesus, the Kingdom of God is kind of like playing “Heads Up.
There are words, ideas, and concepts that we have been all about for the past 3 years. Words like grace, forgiveness and love. Or how about the faith practices that we spent so much time trying to unpack last year: Serve, invite, give, study, pray, encourage and worship. Imagine these words appearing on my iPad, and our job is to describe and define these words to those who do not see, or who do not understand. You see, it is our role as people of faith, to be able to speak and describe, to articulate these words to others.
For something like 16 years, you’ve been on a journey of faith formation and discovery. You’ve studied the Bible, the creed, the Lord’s prayer…you’ve served, you’ve worshipped, you’ve gone on retreats, on mission trips, and to camp. You have done these things, to prepare you to be able to own your own faith, and to own the promises that your parents made when you were baptized. And today is about claiming the promises that God made to you. This is exciting, and we want you to know that we, as a church, love you, and we are all very, very proud of you!
Ultimately, we want you to know that all the stuff you’ve read, learned, talked about: Old Testament, New Testament, Lutheraan Doctrine, Decision Making, Faith Practices, Worship, Justification, Law and Gospel, Spiritual Gifts…all of these things we’ve done together…they all point to one word; to one name. It is a name that brings peace, a name that brings healing and hope. That name is Jesus.
As people of God, part of our task, our mission is to be able to look and to see where Jesus shows up and works in the world, and in our lives, and to be able to name it, to describe it to others. Because we live in a world that desperately needs to hear this word. The world is a mixed up and crazy place. The world can feel broken. You know this…you see it at school every day. We all experience this. And we encounter people who struggle, or are in pain. It might be depression, or addiction, or bullying, or any one of a million other issues. And it is our task to show those who struggle, in our actions and our words, that because of Jesus, there is a healing that comes to them. That they are welcome, whoever they are, and that there is an unconditional love that is for them.
The word is Jesus. How do we describe that word…that person?
For 2000 years, we have been trying to figure this out. The story from our Gospel today: Two Jesus-followers were walking along the road one day near the village of Emmaus. The two friends were sad and their hearts were broken. They felt this way because Jesus had been crucified, the disciples scattered, a hysterical woman named Mary claimed she had seen the Risen Christ, somebody had broken into the tomb and stolen the body, and the Jesus movement was done. Their Lord, master and friend, Jesus had been killed, and it was all over. They had to be full of doubt.
As they walked, a stranger was soon walking with them. He asked what was going on. The two couldn’t believe that the stranger hadn’t heard about Jesus. So they told him the story. They tried to describe what had happened, but I suspect that their sadness and doubt had to be showing through. But then the stranger smiled, turned the tables, and started teaching them, and the scripture says that their hearts “burned.” And then later, at dinner, the stranger took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and gave it to them. In that sacramental moment, the two friends eyes were opened wide, and they realized that this stranger was Jesus; the resurrected Jesus. These two broken-hearted men, they hadn’t given up on telling the story. And Jesus showed up for them. It was a “Heads Up” moment, and their faith was restored.
Understand that confirmation ministry at Lord of Life is really not about small groups and retreats, or service hours, or anything else that you have done. It is about what God is doing within you, and about how you can tell that story. And you have:
Elizabeth and I have read all of your faith statements. And there is great, great stuff in here. Really. There are great examples of how you describe the Jesus that you’ve experienced here.
Hailey, you wrote that “I couldn’t be the person I am today without Jesus in my life, he has been with me when I’m sad or down…I know that he is right there to help me when things are hard. He never gives up on you no matter what.”
And Caitlyn, you wrote that “I want to live my faith; to love God endlessly and to trust him fiercely. To know that he always has a plan even in the darkest days. To know that there is always someone to listen to me; to pass on God’s grace; to be one with God.”
Abby wrote that: “I believe that God is love and that he loves me unconditionally…God sees and knows everything. Prayer is how we communicate with God and how we let him know what we are thinking and feeling.”
Emma shares that “The Lord is in everything we do and is a part of every moment in our lives. I ask God to lead me on the path he made just for me, and when things are going right in my life, it reminds me that I am doing what God has called me to do.”
And Maria writes that “I feel like I have a strong connection with God. I believe that God is always with me in the good times and in the bad ones. The Bible is not just a book, but it is pretty much Jesus’ whole life told. I love praying because God is the only one and you are not being judged…just accepted.”
These faith statements…your faith statements…they are amazing. They describe Jesus. They point right to God as the source of all life. Clearly, you have had “heads up” moments.
In just a few minutes, you will speak your faith in the words of the Apostle’s Creed. Some of you think it has taken a lot of work to get to this point. And it has. But I’ll be honest with you, the real challenge for you will be tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…how will you see the work of God in your world, and then be able to describe that to those around you? It can be hard to live a life of faith. But the good news is, you do not do it alone.
Your first “Heads Up” moment was at your baptism. When you were brought to the water, and it was poured on your head, “in the name of the Father…in the name of the Son…in the name of the Holy Spirit…” you received the promises of God:
- The promise of the gift of eternal life.
- The promise of the forgiveness of sins.
- The promise that wherever you go, God will know you each by name.
- And the promise that you are a part of a community of faith; a family where you are always welcome.
God raised you out of the water with a promise and a word. The word? Jesus.
Our hope and prayer is that C3 has been full of “Heads up” moments where you experienced God in a new way; Moments where your heart burned because God’s love for you came alive.
And we hope even more that you have learned to articulate your faith…to tell the story. To describe God at work within you, and in the world.
Know that today and every day, God stands with you and whispers in your ear, “Heads up! See my work in your life. Be in relationship with me. Your confirmation today is not the end of a process; it is the beginning of a lifestyle.”
May that lifestyle be one full of “heads up” moments, and may it be one that continues to tell the story of Jesus.