Pentecost Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Holy Gospel according to John, the 14th chapter. 

Glory to you, O Lord.

8 Philip said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, "Show us the Father'? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe me because of the works themselves. 12 Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. 15 "If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. 17 This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

[25 "I have said these things to you while I am still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you. 27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.]

The gospel of the Lord.  Praise to you, O Christ.  

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.  It is one of the three great festivals of the Church.   But it is the one without the reindeer or the bunnies, so the church gets to celebrate it without all that distraction.   Although it sometimes falls on Mother's Day, or graduation day, or Memorial Day, the rest of the world still ignores it and leaves it to the church.   

On the day of Pentecost we pray that the Holy Spirit will come to us in new ways and teach us and lead us and guide us.  We pray especially that the Holy Spirit will continue to bless Zach and Ally and Lily and Paige and they affirm their faith. 

In the reading from Romans, Paul says the Holy Spirit comes to lead us.  The Spirit comes to make us children of God.  We were all adopted as God's children in our baptism.  Most of us were very young so our parents and sponsors or godparents made promises for us.  They promised to live with us among God's people.  

They promised to bring us to worship so that we can hear the Word of God and share in the sacrament of Holy Communion.  They promised to teach us the 10 commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Creed.  

They promised to place the Bible in our hands.  They promised to pray for us and to bring us up in the faith of the church. 

On our behalf, they proclaimed their faith using the Apostles creed, the creed the church has always used for baptisms. They said they believed in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  They renounced sin, the devil, and all things that rebel against God.  

Then we were sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.  We were no longer just our parents' children, we became God's children.  

Parents, is that something you thought about when you brought your children (Ally and Paige and Lily and Zach) for baptism?  Did you think you were giving them up for adoption?  Because you were.  That is exactly what we do as parents when we bring our children to the baptismal font.  We give them up to God.   

Actually, we acknowledge that they always did belong to God.  It is good for us to stand up and publicly say it though.  We need to remember that we don't own our children.  We need to remember that they belong to God.  

God allows the church the privilege of having children to raise and to love and to nurture.  There is a blessing in Psalm 128: "May you live to see your children's children." Some of you are here today to see your grandchildren confirm their faith.  I don't have to tell you - you already know that you are richly blessed to have this privilege.  You have been a strong influence on them as they grew in Christ.  This community of faith thanks you for your witness.  

When we say we are God's children, we don't mean we remain God's little kids.  We just mean we are sons and daughters.  Affirmation of baptism is a time when we mark the passage from being a child to being an adult in the faith. 

Four of our youth are affirming their baptism in a few minutes.  When young people do this for the first time, the church calls it confirmation.

Confirmation has picked up many meanings throughout the years, some of them inaccurate. First, let me tell you what confirmation is not.  It is not a graduation.  In no way does it mean that someone has learned all they need to know about the Bible and the faith of the church.  One sign of adulthood is knowing what you don't know and seeking to learn more.

Confirmation does not mean that your parents can take a break from driving you to church now. It also doesn't mean you get a few cards and presents, although you will. 

Confirmation does mean that Paige, Lily, Zach, and Ally are making the promises of baptism for themselves.  They are taking on the adult responsibility of being a son and daughter of God. The promises their parents and sponsors made are now their own promises.   These promises are very serious business and require a certain level of maturity.  

It takes maturity to say you are going to make your life among God's faithful people.  When we make that promise, we are saying what kind of people we will hang out with for the rest of our lives.  We are promising to be an active member of this community of believers.  

On the surface, that may not sound too hard.  Christians are supposed to be nice, right? But those of us who have been surrounded by church people our whole lives can tell you that we can be just as sinful and as hard to get along with as everybody else.  In our best moments we Christians recognize our own sinfulness and we forgive each other.

It takes maturity to be the one to take responsibility for hearing God's word and sharing in the Lord's Supper.  We all know how easy it is to sleep in on Sunday and just think maybe you will go to church the next week.  Next week can turn into next Christmas and next Easter and next year all too easily.  We rejoice today that Lily, Paige, Ally, and Zach are promising to regularly hear the Word and share the meal with us.  

It takes maturity to proclaim the good news of Christ through your words and deeds. It is often difficult for us shy Lutherans to speak of our faith.  Proclaiming the good news through our actions sometimes requires difficult decisions too.  We rejoice that these four youth are promising to do this and we promise to be there for them and support them.  

It takes maturity to promise to serve all people and follow the example of Jesus.  When you make this promise as an adult son and daughter of God, you ask different questions than you used to ask when you were a child.  You used to ask, "what will my parents think?" or "will I get caught?"  Now, you will ask, "Does this hurt other people or help them?" and "what would Jesus do?" 

And finally, our confirmands will be promising to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.  We all want world peace.  We all want freedom and justice for all people.  

We aren't asking some high schoolers to promise bring it about on their own.  We are asking them to promise to work with anyone who is working for justice and peace and to support those causes.

This all sounds pretty scary and pretty impossible for four young people no matter how mature they are.  But there is very good news here.  The whole congregation promises to support you and pray for you in your life in Christ.

And there is even better news.  Remember what you each say when you make the promise? You each say, "I do, and I ask God to help and guide me." God is always there to help us and guide us. 

Paige, Lily, Zach, and Ally, you are children of God. As you make these promises today, the whole congregation rejoices with you. No matter what happens in your life, the Holy Spirit promises to be with you always, to hold you close, to lead you, and to guide your life. And remember, God always keeps promises. And all who call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Amen.