So here we are. Josh, Greg, Steph, the three of you are about to affirm the promises that were made on your behalf at your baptisms. After you make those promises for yourself, in the eyes of this congregation you will no longer children. You are about to become adult members of this congregation. In just a few moments, I am going to ask you these really big questions, questions that concern your future and how you intend to live your life
“Do you intend to continue in the covenant GOD made with you in Holy Baptism:
to live among GOD’s faithful people,
to hear GOD’s WORD and share in GOD’s supper,
to proclaim the good news of GOD in CHRIST through word and deed,
to serve all people, following the example of JESUS the CHRIST, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”
Now, I know that we have gone over this a few times, but the magnitude of what is being asked of you is intense, especially the part that says,
“to serve all people, following the example of JESUS the CHRIST, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?”
To serve “all people”
To follow the example of Jesus. To strive for justice and peace in all the earth? WOW, this being a Christian is really intense. Now just in case those of you who aren’t being confirmed today, are wondering if you yourselves are up to the task, let me remind you of something I hope you’ve heard me say often. You see, when someone asks me if I’m a Christian, I always answer, “No. I am not a Christian, not yet. I aspire to be a Christian. I aspire to follow the teachings of Jesus, but I have a lot to learn.”
One thing I have learned along the way, is that those people who are confident that they are Christian, who believe that they have somehow arrived as fully formed followers of the Way, well those folks make me very, very nervous and I usually back away whenever I sense the super-christians are on the prowl.
I think most of us have more in common with the very first followers of Jesus than we do with the folks who think they are already Christian. “When the day of Pentecost arrived” that’s bible-talk for “not long after the resurrection” Or not long after people began to realize that Rome couldn’t actually kill Jesus way of being in the world, that death could not destroy Jesus dream of the kin-dom, the dream of justice for all, the dream of the kind of peace where everyone has enough. Not long after the Romans thought they’d killed Jesus Way of being, those who followed the Way met in one room.
Imagine the first followers of the Way, fit into one room. I can almost see them now, huddled together in one room. Frightened that at any moment their Roman oppressors might burst in and in an instant they’d be done for. When, “Suddenly they heard what sounded like a violent, rushing wind from heaven; the noise filled the entire house in which they were sitting. Something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and come to rest on the head of each one.”
Nobody really knows exactly what happened, but whatever it was it was real, so real that they could actually feel the Spirit breathing in them. Whatever it was it must have been powerful; powerful enough to transform a rag-tag bunch of Jesus’ followers into a movement that over the years grew into a world-wide phenomenon the likes of which the world had never seen before. To this day, daughters and sons, women and men, even old people dream dreams, as they are inspired by Jesus’ Way of being in the world. From the excitement generated in that one room, down through the centuries, generation after generations have been inspired by Jesus’ vision of a new way of being in the world.
So, as I was wondering what to say to the three of you about what it means to follow in the footsteps of all those who have gone before you in faith, I couldn’t help but wonder what those first followers of the Way might think about the challenges that the three of you might face as you strive to follow Jesus here in the 21stcentury. A lot has changed since the first century. Some things are a lot easier for you. I mean there are no Romans soldiers out there.No hard taskmasters threatening you, forcing you to obey, or extorting exorbitant amounts of money from you, just for the privilege of being dominated and persecuted by the most powerful Empire that the world had ever seen.According to the United Nations, Canada is one of the best places in the world to live. The three of you are among the wealthiest humans to have ever walked the planet. You’re rich, you’re healthy, you’re free, you’re well educated, and your futures look pretty bright. You also have access to more information and more technology than any generation that has gone before you. Trouble is, while we may have more than we need, there are also lots and lots of people who don’t have enough.
Jesus’ dream of peace through justice, the kind of peace where everyone has enough, well Jesus’ dream still needs a lot more work before it becomes more than just a dream. These days, all sorts of people have given up on Jesus’ dream of peace through justice. The three of you are certainly in the minority when it comes to folks who are willing to say publicly that they want to follow Jesus’ way of being in the world. The non-violent way of trying to achieve peace, which Jesus taught, well it can be very dangerous. Loving your neighbours is one thing, but loving your enemies…well people aren’t all that eager to follow Jesus into the dangerous places that this LOVE stuff can take you.
Right about now, I’m sure you might be wondering if you really do want to be Confirmed. I hope so. I hope you have your doubts. I hope you are wondering how you can possibly do all the things that we’re about to ask you to do. As for the rest of you, I hope you’re wondering how you’re doing with this Christian thing. I mean, how closely are you following Jesus’ Way of being in the world? I know right…we’re not there yet, if we are honest, we have to say that we seek to, we aspire to, we long to follow Jesus. But we have a great deal to learn before we can actually say that we have arrived.
So, if we are the Body of Christ, if our hands are God’s hands, and are feet are Christ’s feet, then we have our work cut out for us. There is no shortage of need out there in the world. The good news is that we are not in this on our own. The good news about being a follower of the Jesus is that there are all sorts of followers of the Way who are traveling this pathway with us.
Now I know that we may not look like it. We are a small church and we could fit into a pretty small room. But it only takes a spark to set us on fire and it is as if tongues of fire are dancing all around the room when we get excited about something. And right now, we are excited about the three of you and all the gifts and talents that you are about to let loose on the world.
Joshua, you are one of the nicest young men that I know. You are smart, you are kind, you have a great sense of humour, and you tell great stories. You stand on the shoulders of a long line of great people. Some of them have come a long way to cheer you on today. They can’t wait to see the ways in which you are going to light up the world.
Greg, you too are right up there as one of the nicest young men I know. You have a way of smiling that is positively disarming. You too come from a long line of great people. I love the compassionate way you see past people’s faults. You are intelligent, kind, funny, and I know that one day you are going to set the world on fire.
Stephanie, ah Stephanie, you are one of the most hard-working young women that I have ever had the privilege to know. Your dedication, your determination, might just be intimidating if it were not for your kindness. You have a way of seeing past the obvious and I just know that there are all sorts of fires burning inside of you. And I for one, simply can’t wait to see all the marvelous things you are going to accomplish with all your amazing energy.
Joshua, Gregory and Stephanie we know that whatever you set your minds to will be blessed by your attention and your focus. So, we are all excited that each of you in your own way are ready to take up your roles as adult members with us on this amazing journey that we are all on, as together we strive to follow Jesus’ way of being in the world. But this is not the first century this is the 21stcentury and unlike those first followers of the way, we don’t see the world around us in quite the same way. If we were going to try and describe the power that became available to those first followers huddled together in that small room, I suspect that we might use different images. So, rather than tongues of fire, I’d like you to imagine butterflies.
Let’s use what little I know about chaos theory to describe the kind of spiritual energy that is available to all of us. You see, back in the 1960s there was this mathematician named Edward Lorenz who worked at MIT as a meteorologist. Lorenz was trying to use complicated mathematical formulas to develop models to predict the weather. During the course of his research, Lorenz discovered that his precise mathematical formulas could not process the weather data in a rational way. No matter how many times he ran his models, he could not predict the weather. Apparently, small differences along the way could have huge implications down the road. Lorenz coined the phrase: “Butterfly Effect” to describe the phenomena that he was observing in his laboratory.
Nowadays, quantum physicists use the same term in chaos theory to describe what happens when a small change in one place in a system can result in large difference to a later state. Apparently, quantum physicists point to the butterfly effect that insists that when a butterfly flaps its wings in Brazil it can create a storm in Central Park. The mere flapping of a butterfly wing has a ripple effect that multiplies over time and changes weather patterns thousands of miles away.
Think of yourselves for a moment as butterflies. Today, you are about to emerge from your protected cocoons. You have these beautiful wings that have the power to flutter in ways that will change the very nature of reality. What you do matters to the world. You are not alone. Look around you. Look behind you. We are all here to cheer you on. The LOVE that we have for you is yours; a free gift, no strings attached. The LOVE that we call God lives and breathes in, with, through, and beyond you. This LOVE is yours, a free gift, no strings attached.
You are free to fly. You are free to change the world with all the LOVE that lives in, with, through, and beyond you. Trust me, the flapping of your wings is about to change the world. May the LOVE that is God, continue live and breathe in you, through you, and beyond you, so that everyone you meet may know that in you they have met a follower of the WAY, Jesus Way of peace, though justice, because justice is what LOVE looks like in public. So, flap those wings my friends, flap those wings and set the world on fire!