John 8:31-36 • October 27, 2013
Brothers and sisters in Christ grace and peace to you from God our Father and risen Savior Jesus. Amen.
How many of us gathered here for worship on this day of great celebration have ever made a promise?
Fantastic – now…keep your hand in the air if you to this day have kept and completely fulfilled every promise you have ever made.
OK…interesting isn’t it?
This is a great day of celebration. A day in which the people of God gather to celebrate promises. The question I always have though, is will the promises that we celebrate on festive days like this in the church last beyond today? Or are they only kept for this particular day?
The promises that I’m speaking of have been part of the church since its very earliest days. Literally, for centuries words like these have been spoken at the beginning of every celebration of the sacrament of Holy Baptism – “In baptism our gracious heavenly Father frees us from sin and death by joining us to the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We are born children of a fallen humanity; by water and the Holy Spirit we are reborn children of God and made members of the church, the body of Christ. Living with Christ and in the communion of the saints, we grow in faith, love, and obedience to the will of God.”
Those are words that we hear at every celebration of the sacrament of Holy Baptism at Good Shepherd. They set our life in Christ in motion. And they contain a promise – not made by you or by your parents or by your pastor or even by your sponsors or God parents. This is a promise from God. God promising you and claiming you as God’s own child. And I’d argue, that it’s probably the only promise that you and I receive that will not be broken.
So, some of you may be thinking that this is a sort of graduation day, I mean you have the graduation gowns on even. I want you to know that this day is in fact NOT a graduation, especially NOT your graduation day from day from church. Brothers and sisters in Christ who are about to participate in the Rite of Confirmation, this day, your confirmation day, is when you will stand before this congregation and make promises. Promises that I hope and pray with everything that I am as one of your pastors that you will live out throughout your life. Joyfully keeping these promises because you believe that God is present in your life and that your savior Jesus loves you and wants to live in relationship with you in all that you say and do and everywhere you will ever be.
The white robe that you wear today is not a sign of your graduation. It’s a sign of the promises that you make. And a reminder of the promises that God made to you in your baptism, and that God makes with you today in your confirmation, and that God will continue to make with you for the rest of your life in this world and for all of eternity with the communion of saints.
And to make this an even greater day of celebration, God was not the only one making promises when you were baptized. Promises were also made by parents and family, sponsors and godparents, and a Christian community of faith. The promises these individuals who love you made freed you to experience God through other people who care deeply for you and the world that God makes. Freed you to experience God during times of worship and opportunities to serve your neighbor. Freed you to experience God through activities like confirmation where you were taught significant aspects of Christian faith and life like the importance of a lifetime commitment to reading and study of holy scripture and a deeper understanding of elements that are central to Christian faith like the Lord’s Prayer, the creed, and the ten commandments.
So, comfirmands, today is your day. Today, in confirmation, is your day of promise. Your day of promising to continue your life in Christ that began in your baptism. Your day of promising that you will give thanks for everyone who has helped you get to this day.
Pray for God’s world and ask for God’s presence in your life.
- Prayer is a central avenue of conversation with God. It is way more exciting and revealing than only something we do before a big test or sporting event.
You will promise to worship among God’s faithful people.
- Our life of worship goes way beyond worshiping only at Christmas and Easter or weddings and funerals. And this promise doesn’t mean that you only should worship at Good Shepherd – find a community of faith that you feel welcome in and worship with them regularly.
You will promise to read and study the bible.
- The bible can be a big scary collection of books – especially if you never enter into it. Get involved in a bible study group and take time to hear God speak to you through this sacred texts. As a matter of fact, I know of a bible study group that is forming right now in this congregation specifically for men and women your age.
You will promise to serve others in all that you say and do. And work for justice and peace in every facet of your life.
- I think service to your neighbor is pretty self-explanatory, but I’d like to point out that justice and peace do not involve tailgating in traffic or lewd gestures to another human being informing them that they are number one or engaging in destruction behaviors that involve abuse of sex or drugs or alcohol
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we celebrate with you today. We celebrate the promise that God made in claiming you as a child of God in your baptism. We celebrate the ways promises have been fulfilled by parents and pastors; God parents and communities of faith that have brought you to this day. And we celebrate the many ways that God will continue to work through you in the coming days as you live your life in Christ out of the promises that you make today. My hope and prayer is that you are richly blessed in all of these promises. And even more so, my hope and prayer is that you are a rich blessing to others because of these promises. Amen.