Sunday, May 5 – Confirmation Sermon on John 14:23-29

John 14:23-29

Friends, today is Confirmation Sunday. Now, the other term for Confirmation is Affirmation of Baptism. Confirmation is about a person affirming their baptism. We have two confirmands, Raven and Billy. And Zach who is not baptized, but who has decided to get baptized this summer. Which means we will celebrate Confirmation at a later date, because baptism always comes before the affirmation of Baptism. So today, while Raven and Billy are affirming their baptisms. Zach today is entering into the process of baptism. A welcoming of sorts to baptism, which is in the form of a blessing for his journey towards the promise-filled waters of God.

Now, I want to make some things clear today. Today is not about the church doing something to these three young people. Today isn’t about Raven, Billy, and Zach receiving a reward for their hard work; it isn’t about them receiving an extra blessing for knowing all the right answers about faith and God. They don’t become more holy today than they were yesterday. Today isn’t about the church is doing something to them. It can seem like today is about the church saying yes to these young people. Yes, you are good enough. Or yes, you know enough. Or yes, we accept you. But this is not what today is about. Today is not about the church saying yes to them. Because God has already said yes to each one of you. When God knit them together in their mother’s womb. They don’t need our approval; they already have God’s approval. Instead, today is about what these young people are saying yes to. Today, you are affirming your baptism and beginning the process towards baptism. Today, you are the ones with the power. Today, you are the ones who are saying yes.

Now, the question becomes: what are you saying yes to today?

To try to answer that question, I want to focus on our Gospel reading, from John. The setting is the last supper. Jesus is at the table with his disciples and it is his last night alive. In 24 hours, he’ll be dead on a cross. So, you can get a sense that is a pretty serious moment for Jesus. He is saying goodbye to his beloved friends. He is telling them everything he wants them to know before his end comes. And our gospel begins with these words: “Those who love me will keep my word.” Now, what is Jesus’ word that his disciples, and presumably us, are asked to keep.

In order to figure this out, we have to go back a chapter, I think. Because in chapter 13, as we heard last week, Jesus gives his disciples something very important. A new commandment. The disciples already knew the 10 commandments, but Jesus, in his hour of death, gives them a new one: love one another.

So that word that Jesus is asking us to keep is this: LOVE. Love one another. That the primary a work of our life be that of love.

Now, I don’t know about you, I think love is great and all but, after awhile…love can eventually start to sound syrupy sweet. It can sound too much like Barney, the purple dinosaur. Do you remember? I love you, you love me, we’re a great big family. It can sound too nice, too sweet…too easy. It can seem like to be a Christian is to be a goody-goody who is nice and polite all the time.

But if we look at Jesus as our example, Jesus’ kind of love was not a sweet, syrupy, feel-good kind of love. It was a suffering love. You see, Jesus loved too much. Ultimately it was Jesus’ love for the world that got him killed. He loved the people that no one wanted to love. He stood beside the powerless, not the powerful. Jesus wanted to give God’s love and forgiveness away for free. It is dangerous to love in this world. It will be painful.

What we forget is that love is hard. Talk to anyone who has been married and they will tell you that marriage is hard work. To love is hard. Or as one of my professors would say, “To love is to suffer.”

He said that he had never suffered so much until he became a parent. He isn’t saying that he is a suffering parent because his kids are a pain in the neck. He is a suffering parent because he loves his kids so much. So much that when they hurt, he hurts. So much, that he is constantly afraid for their well-being.

When you love people, and they hurt, then you hurt too. To love is to suffer. Jesus is asking you to love too much. So much so that it hurts.

Today, you are saying yes to suffering love. That you strive to love so much in this world, that it hurts. You say yes to Jesus’ call to make your life more loving. To constantly be asking, how can I be more loving, how can I be more loving.

That’s the first thing. But then notice Jesus doesn’t just say LOVE, Jesus says love ONE ANOTHER. Meaning, we need one another. We need love from one another. We can’t go through this life alone. We need to be part of a community. Jesus’ hope for us is that we would be part of a community. So the second thing you say yes to today is community. Your need to be part of a people who love and care for one another. I believe that you need our love and support in your life. But I also believe that we need your love and support in our life. We need you. All three of you.

Lastly, Jesus says to his disciples that God will love them and that he and God will make a home in them. Isn’t that interesting language for Jesus to say? God and I will come to you and we will make a home in you. Meaning, you have roommates living inside of you. God and Jesus. Meaning, inside of you is where God will live. Meaning God will always be with you. You carry God inside your body. So then, how does God come to us? Through other people. If God has made a home in you, then God is going to come to me through you. And if God has made a home in me, then God will come to you through me, or any other person. God always comes to us through other people. God will come to you through your best friend who is a light in your life during a dark time. God will come to you through family members who care for you when you are sick. God will come to you through strangers that you meet throughout your life. God always comes through other people. Because God and Jesus make a home in you, others will encounter God through you. I promise it. Which makes you a gift to the world.

So these are the things that you say yes to today on the day of affirming your baptism and entering into baptism. You say yes to Jesus’ call to love so much that it hurts. You say yes to the truth that we need each other. And therefore need to love one another. And you say yes to the promise that God will be with you always. Throughout your life. God will never abandon you.

Earlier I said today is not about the church approving you, but you know, the church say yes today too. Today, we are saying yes to loving you always, we are saying yes to always supporting you and caring for you and praying for you. We are saying to always being a place where you are always welcome. That is our yes to you.

Raven, Billy, and Zach, the truth is that the world needs you. We need you. We need you to show God to us…through your love. Every confirmation session, we each lit a candle. As a reminder that Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” Know that you will be like that candle – you will be a light to the world. The world is a better place with you in it. To which I say, thanks be to God! AMEN

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