May 31, 2009 / Pentecost / Affirmation of Baptism for Twelve of our Young Adults
Message by Rev. Carol Kniseley / Text: John 15:26-27; 16:4-15 / “I Need a Witness”
“I Need a Witness!”…might very well be the words that God wants us to hear this day based on all three of today’s readings. Because empowered by the Holy Spirit, this entire community (above all else)…“bears witness”…to God’s activity out there in the world. The very same world in which you and I live out our daily lives...including each one of our twelve confirmands who have come here for the sole purpose of affirming what took place at their baptism. Today…they will each “publicly” profess ‘outloud for all to hear’ the faith in which they were baptized.
We, as a community of faith, do this every single week when we say one of three faith creeds that put into words what we profess to believe. The Athanasian Creed being the longest and for which the confirmands are eternally grateful that they do not have to memorize, the Nicene Creed being just a bit shorter and has the tale/tale sign of beginning each section with the eternal “we believe…”, leaving us with the Apostles Creed which is probably the oldest and the shortest of the creeds dating back to the beginning of the church…and is always stated in the first person: “I believe.”
Following the profession of their faith…each of our twelve confirmands will be asked a very important question for which they will need to give an answer…straight from the heart. The question is this:
Do you intend…to continue in the covenant God made with you…in holy baptism:
to live…among God’s faithful people,
to hear…the word of God and share…in the Lord’s supper,
to proclaim…the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
to serve…all people, following the example of Jesus,
and to strive…for justice and peace in all the earth?
The first thing that I want each one of our confirmands to see, is that this is not a contractual agreement that exists between us and God…where we have to fulfill some kind of requirement before God will even talk to us. No…the agreement that exists was put solely into place by God…and is called a ‘covenant’ relationship. Meaning: God has made certain promises to us that are not based on anything that we can say or even do. God’s plan is solely based on the premise, that we will “live” in God’s amazing grace…with no strings attached.
I don’t know about you all, but every single time I listen to the news or turn to CNN or Fox News…I am reminded that we are living in “unprecedented” times…never before experienced, at least, not in my lifetime. In some ways, it feels like the ‘perfect storm’ is beginning to converge. Remembering back to the true to life movie entitled The Perfect Storm where Captain Billy (played by actor George Clooney) found himself and his crew smack dab in the middle of a three way catastrophe…I can’t help but draw parallels between that scenario and what we in the world are experiencing today. Is it any wonder then, that such unprecedented times call for the intervention of an unprecedented God?
According to Jesus, that is exactly what God has done. I would like to suggest, that the only way that any of us can live in God’s amazing grace…is by the power of the Holy Spirit sent by God. It is the Spirit that actually “allows” us to live among God’s faithful people and to see ourselves as being part of a Christ-centered family of believers. And it is in the midst of that faith community that we hear the word of God preached and we share in the receiving of our Lord’s supper.
If you think for a moment that you won’t be able to proclaim the good new of ‘God in Christ’…I would ask you to think again. To bear ‘witness’ to what God is actually doing in your life is one of the most powerful statements of faith that you can make. Yet, it is only by the power of the Holy Spirit that such witnessing can even be made possible.
Serving others is another testimony of faith. Lest we forget, we are called to serve all people. Why? Because Jesus never once turned his back on a single solitary soul…and based upon his example, neither should we. Which leaves us being empowered by the Holy Spirit to strive with all of our might…for justice and peace in all the earth.”
A tall order? You betcha! Even when we can’t quite find the appropriate words to pray, it is the Holy Spirit who intervenes and speaks for us…interceding with sighs too deep for words.
And this unprecedented God…who searches every single one of our hearts…knows the mind of the Spirit. All because the Spirit (who could not come…until Jesus had left) does the most unprecedented thing of all: he intercedes for all of us…the saints…according to the will of God. You, dear sisters and brothers in Christ, are the cherished “saints” of God by virtue of your being baptized. On that day, you began your walk with God that has undoubtedly led to this day of affirmation. In the eyes of the church it is a red letter day for sure! A day in which we celebrate your ‘witness’ as ones who have been claimed…gathered…and now sent for the sake of the world.
All I have left to say is…thanks be to God for the gift of the Holy Spirit…and His presence in each one of your lives here today. Amen