Grace and peace to you from God our Creator, and from Jesus, the Son of God, who is the light of the world! Amen.
Let me be the first today to say “congratulations” to all of you on this chance to affirm your baptismal vows. For most of you, baptism happened somewhere around 15, or 16 years ago, when your parents made promises for you. Today, it is your turn. And we are all very, very proud of you!
What we’ve been a part of here is God’s work in your lives. We’d never want to reduce it all to cold, hard statistics. But, sometimes I get a little curious, so I’ve done some math and want to share with you all some statistics about this group of young people. There are a total of 44 of you being confirmed this weekend in two services. You were a part of 7 different small groups that met on Tuesday mornings and on retreats for a total of 101 hours of time together. Add up all that time your class gave to small groups, plus Trinity U, in your faith journey and it comes out to 5,808 people hours. Together, you have all given (and this is a conservative estimate), 1,584 hours of service to people in need, and to the church. You have turned in a total of 880 worship notes. (actually, the number was 879, but as soon as the 10th grader turning in their last one on this sermon does so, it will be 880.) Finally, and perhaps most remarkably, over three years of confirmation, including retreat your class personally had to play 1,287 of Pastor Dean’s goofy games.
When all is said and done, however, confirmation ministry at Trinity is not about numbers and statistics. It is about a single word, and an opportunity. That word is “yes.”
Yes, is a powerful word. We don’t think about it often, but we all love to hear the word yes. There are so many different ways that we want to hear this: “Can I use the car tonight?” Yes. “Can I stay over at my friends house?” Yes. “Can I go out with my friends after the football game?” Yes. “Will you go out with me?” Yes. That’s a biggie! And as we get older, our questions become bigger…will this college accept me? Can I succeed in what I want to do for a living? Does he, or she love me? Yes, is maybe one of the most important words in the English language…and it is a word that universally, we all love to hear. Yes, is a powerful word.
In particular, there are two “yeses” I want us to think about today. <walk to font> The first is the one that was said to you in your baptism. Now, most of you were too young when you were baptized to remember. But back then, you were brought here, to a font very much like this one. Your parents, or your Godparents, held you over the font, and the pastor poured water over your head three times: “In the name of the Father…in the name of the Son…in the name of the Holy Spirit…” and you were baptized. In that baptism, God spoke a word to each of you. That word was “yes.”
I don’t remember my baptism. I was something like six weeks old. But I do remember bringing my two sons, Nathan and Samuel, to this font for their baptism. And I remember holding them both over the font. I remember the water being poured. And a very profound thing happened for me: The first time this happened, when Nathan was baptized, I remember…it was almost like I was hearing God’s voice speaking: ”Nathan isn’t yours. He belongs to me! He is on loan to you to care for…but he really belongs to me.” And in that moment, God makes promises. He says “yes Nathan, you will have eternal life. Yes Nathan, I will forgive you all of your sins and brokenness. Yes Nathan, I will know and love you wherever you are, and yes, you will be a part of this family of believers.
God does this for all of us. You all belong to God. In the waters of baptism, God says “Yes”, to each of you, and God claims you as his own. We all belong to God, and God says “Yes.”
God says this because God looks at us differently than we see ourselves. Now, let’s just have a moment of total honesty: When we stop to take a look at ourselves, we don’t always like what we see. Here, I grabbed this mirror. <walk to front row.> Could you hold this for me? Thanks! When I look at myself in the mirror, do you know what I see? Wow. I have a lot less hair than I used to. And I really need to give some serious thought to getting into shape…this robe has never made me look very good…I wonder if I can get one that makes me look thinner. When I look in the mirror, I see my faults. I see my insecurities. I see my fear. I look in the mirror, and I don’t always like what I see.
<pick mirror up, hold it up and walk around> When you look in the mirror, what do you see? Do you see the same kind of things? Do you see your faults and your insecurities? Does it remind you that you might not be completely happy with who you are? That’s normal. That’s part of the brokenness that is who we are.
When we look at ourselves, we aren’t always happy with what we see. Sometimes, we look and say to ourselves “no, that’s not how I’d like to be…that’s not who I want to be…or what I want to be like.” But do you know what God says when God looks at us? God looks at you and says “yes!” God says “You belong to me…you are who I created you to be…Yes, child of God! You are mine!”
Every single day since the day of our baptism, God has looked at each of you and God has said “yes.” And do you know what? Nothing you say or do can change that. And I really believe that if we could look in a mirror, and could see ourselves the way that God sees us, our lives would be totally different.
<return to pulpit>Our Gospel for today reminds us of this. It’s pretty straightforward. In God’s eyes, you are precious. Jesus is teaching us that the things that cause us stress…the things that worry us about ourselves, are all things that will pass away. Our concern about how we look, how we act, what we do or don’t do, about whether we fit in or not, about our self-esteem…even worrying about the strength of our faith…all these things…at the moment, they might worry us, but we have to keep them in perspective. All of these things pale in comparison to God’s faith in us. Jesus says “You are much more valuable than all of these things.” When we look in the mirror and see uncertainty, fear and doubt, God looks at us and says “Yes! Child of God. You are mine. I love you! Don’t worry about these things! Look at yourselves the way I look at you.”
The phrase we use for what we are going to experience together in just a few minutes is “affirmation of baptism.” That means that we are going to together say “yes” to God’s “yes.” We have the opportunity to respond to God’s yes to us by saying yes to God. You will have the chance to say “Yes, I believe.” Yes, I believe in the father…yes, I believe in the Son…Yes, I believe in the Holy Spirit. Is this the only time you’ll have the chance to do this? Of course not. Every single day we can do this. Martin Luther taught that every morning, when he washed, and the water hit his face, it was a reminder that in baptism, God had said yes to him, and that he could say yes, back to God.
And if you don’t have this whole faith thing completely figured out…if you still have doubts and questions, does that mean you shouldn’t say yes? Of course not. None of us have it completely figured out. That’s why we call it faith. We all have questions. Asking questions and having doubts is healthy, because faith is a journey, not a destination. Church is a place not for people with all the answers, but for people who say “Yes, I believe, and we’re figuring it out together.”
Our hope and prayer is that confirmation has been full of “yes” moments. Moments where you experienced God in a new way. Moments where God’s love for you came alive. We seek these moments. I believe that our greatest need, the thing we strive for more than anything else, is a relationship with the God who seeks a relationship with us. We spend our lives looking for how to have this relationship. We sometimes try to fill the void with other things…success, ambition, greed, chemicals, whatever it may be…but nothing can fill that “God sized” hole in our heart like the presence of Christ. And the grace of God is for each one of you. It is a constant. It is always there.
- So say “yes”, and open your eyes and read the scriptures. When we hear the story of the God who loves us unconditionally, our eyes are opened to recognize Him.
- Say “yes” to the bread and wine of communion. When we receive the meal, when we receive God’s grace, when we come into contact with the Holy, we are able to experience Jesus.
- Say “yes” to community. I wandered through Fellowship Hall a couple of weeks ago and saw your faith projects. I know how important your small groups, and your mentors, have been to your faith. I know how important the groups you’ve traveled with on retreats, or trips have been. Remember that there are always people in the church to connect with. This is home for you.
- Say “yes” to serving others. It is when we humble ourselves and care for others that we experience the kind of giving that Jesus speaks of.
Today, at your confirmation, God stands behind you, leans forward and whispers in your ear: “Yes! You are mine. See my work in your life. Be in relationship with me.” But remember that this is not a one-time event. Now it is your responsibility to remember that every day, when your feet hit the floor in the morning, God says “Yes, I believe in you!” And everyday, when you look in the mirror, God wants you to see yourself as God sees you…as a precious, loved, child of God. And you have the opportunity to say “yes” to that love that God first gives to you.
May your faith journey be rich, full of the grace of God, and as God says yes to you, may you say yes to God.