** just a note that this is the Sunday in which the congregation I serve celebrates Confirmation**
What an exciting day! Ella, Paige, and Erica, you are to be commended and celebrated. You have worked hard over the last few years to get to this point. It has been my honor to walk with you through this particular season of your life. We have learned a lot, prayed a lot, laughed a lot, and, I hope, these three have increased their faith. Today will mark a new phase in your life. Many people think of confirmation as a graduation of sorts. We often joke that after confirmation, we don’t see our youth back at church until they need to be married or baptize their babies. And yes, while that can be true for some people, I pray that it is not the reality you hope to live into. Today is also when we mark the reformation. 499 years ago, Martin Luther nailed his 95 thesis to a church door. Luther wasn’t trying to stir up trouble; he really was trying to be faithful to his call and to what he thought was God’s will for his life. But instead, he started a reformation and, as a church, we have been reforming ever since.
Ella, Paige, and Erica, I don’t want you to think about today as an end, but as a beginning. I want you to think about today as the start of your re-formation. Now that your “formal” church education is completed, what ways will you challenge yourself? What ways will you continue to re-form your faith? In what ways will you continue to grow in your faith? If you want a living example of the way the church is re-forming, all you need to do is look at these three ladies. First of all, to have a confirmation class of only women is a clear sign of some reformation. And, you’re being confirmed by a female pastor, and that’s a re-formation that is still fairly new.
But today isn’t just about these three ladies. It’s about all of us. Today is wonderful day to ask ourselves how we are being called into re-formation. How are we, as individuals being called and how are we as a church being called? It’s been almost 500 years since the Reformation. Where has church been and where are we going? Questions like that can be challenging to answer because most of us might think “I’m not even going to be around in 500 years!” But, I think that the key to any re-formation is found in our first line of scripture today. It reads “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’” If you continue in my word….now that comes with the assumption that we have started in the word. The problem with dwelling in God’s word is that it will challenge us, change us, maybe even re-form us.
The second part of that first sentence is also convicting. It says “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” There’s a modern day translation of that verse that says “you will know the truth, and truth will make you free, but first it will piss you off.” The challenging part of living life centered in God and God’s word is that it may change the way you see the world; it may change the way you think about people and current events. We may have truths we believe but those are human constructed truths. As Christians, as claimed sons and daughters of God, our truth is Jesus. So when we center ourselves in the Word of God (which is not only the Bible, but Jesus himself) and look at the world through the lenses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it might make us not only change our minds about certain things, but make us mad.
Sometimes when arguments get petty within the church (like the old example of what color the carpet will be) people might say “y’all, Jesus didn’t die for this.” The implication being, of course, that there are greater issues in the world we should focus on. See, we follow a man who looked for those on the margins, who fed the hungry, who forgave sinners, who cleansed lepers, who raised Lazarus, and who generally bucked the system. Jesus’ resurrection means a reformation for the world and we have to continue reforming.
But, what gets in the way of reformation is our own sin. We are so focused on what is best for us, for our world, for our lives that we lose sight of what Jesus not only did for us, but for the entire world. Jesus didn’t die so that a oil pipeline could pollute Native American lands and waters. Jesus didn’t die so that we could just shake our head in frustration at the killing of unarmed black men and the growing disrespect of law enforcement. Jesus didn’t die so that when we hear of someone without food or adequate shelter we can respond with “what problem is that of mine?” Jesus didn’t die so that our teenagers can hide behind computer screens and insult one another to the point that some are driven to suicide. Jesus didn’t die so that we can threaten the lives of fellow human beings if they don’t think, act, live, or even vote like we do. Y’all, Jesus didn’t die for this.
If you are centered in God’s word and trying to live in light of the salvific action of the cross, then it should aggravate you that the love of money wins out over the respect of life and living spaces, that social status wins out over love, that judgement wins out over respect, that assumptions win out over knowledge, that opinion wins out over fact, and that, more often than not, so many things win out over God and our relationship with God. All of this should aggravate us, but it so often doesn’t. Sure, we may pray for people. But often, all too often, prayer does not translate into action. When you see the world through the cross, it should drive you out into the world and into action in the name of Jesus. It should drive you to a re-formation of self and of your faith.
But it is because of the cross and what Jesus did for you and for me on the cross that we are forgiven for not being angered into action. However, I don’t know about you, but I would rather be angered into action in the name of Jesus and be wrong and forgiven than do nothing and pray God forgive me anyway. I want to risk almost everything I have so that the world knows about God and God’s grace. I want to risk being outcast and looked at in the hopes that one more person comes to know how much God loves them. I want to be reformed over and over and over again. And I hope and pray that all of you are willing to take those types of risks with me in the name of Christ, spreading God’s word, and in the hopes of reforming the world.
Paige, Erica, Ella, also known as Paige, Mrs. Theo James (or is it Mrs. Justin Bieber?) and Princess Tardy Pants, I am so proud of you. I love you all with a Christ like love. Your journey isn’t over, it is just beginning. The world is hungry for a word of love and forgiveness. You all have the knowledge, the spirit, and the drive to do it. You three have the power to continue reforming, not only yourselves, but the world around you. The world is hungry to know about grace, mercy, and to know that there is something better than this. You three have the can be the messengers the world needs. Even if your “world” is just three or four friends, you have the power of the Holy Spirit behind you helping. Keep yourself centered in God’s word, in God’s truth, Jesus Christ, and you, my friends, will be the reformers your family, friends, and history remembers.