Called Forth by the Spirit

On this day of Pentecost, we remember those first disciples, feeling abandoned by Jesus, but remembering his promise that the Advocate, the Holy Spirit would come. And we heard the account that the Spirit did come indeed. For them, it came like the rush of a violent wind with tongues of fire and flames. It touched the disciples and filled them with God's glory. It gave them abilities they didn't even know they had. It also gave them guidance and confidence in what they were to do as those first members of the church, those who would spread out and teach everyone about God's love in Jesus Christ. It's the moment the church was formed, and here we are centuries later and the church is alive and well.

That same Spirit that came upon early disciples still flows and moves in the church. It flows and moves in all people of God around this world. And that Spirit has moved among these seven who are called forth by God's Spirit to confirm and affirm their beliefs in God. In the United Church of Christ, the conferring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism is done at any age. As you will see, three of our confirmands have not yet been baptized, but will be baptized and then confirm and affirm that Baptism in the Confirmation service. They have felt called, even if through the urging of their parents or grandparents. But in the process of their study and learning, the process of them being a group together, a sort of mini-church has evolved. They have learned a lot. They have expressed their beliefs to this congregation over the last couple of months in sharing their personal statements of faith. They are growing. And yes, they are young, though we recognize them as full members in the body of Christ, the church, and with full standing, that they may vote as the rest of us adults in the church do. They are young adults, but they are still early in their faith, and they will be growing across their lifetime. And it is my hope, as they heard a few moments about this wonderful Spirit that gives different gifts and abilities, that each of them will spend some time in discernment.

One of the things that has happened in our denomination in the last thirty years is that we have confirmed many people...and then lost sixty to seventy percent of them. They're confirmed and then don't come back to church, as if Confirmation is the final thing that one needs to do in faith. But I tell you that Baptism and Confirmation are only the beginning of a life-long journey of faith. Knowing this, and knowing that there are gifts of the Spirit that each of you has...and each may be as individual as you heard just a few moments ago...those gifts are something for you to discern, to come to understand, and to use for God's glory. They will be gifts that will help you in life beyond the church, but they are also wonderful gifts that will continue to bring the ministry of Jesus to others. Very important things to do. All of us have these spiritual gifts. Some of us here may still not know what our spiritual gift is. And I would ask that you would spend some time in prayer and discernment about what it is that God has blessed you with. In what ways can you share in the life of the church? In what ways can you share in the ministry of Jesus in your day-to-day living? It's not the easiest question to answer, but one we must think about throughout our lives because sometimes that gift may change or evolve as we get older. So I invite the congregation, as well as the confirmands, to be in prayer, especially on this day, to understand and discern what the gifts are that God has given to you and how you may use them for God's glory.

We are about to begin. And for all of you, I know that when you came up the stairs this morning, someone said, "You all look like angels," and that, "It's all over." And you all said, "Not yet!" You were right. Not yet. It's not over. Even after we confirm you in just a few moments, it still will not be over. It is only the beginning. And I tell you, it is my joy and our joy that all of you are here today to make this step in faith. May God bless you today and always in the Spirit. Let us pray.

O God, we thank you for the joy of that Spirit coming to those first disciples to be their guardian and guide. And we thank you that the Spirit still guides us today. We thank you that these young people have felt the call of your Spirit and are here. We ask you to touch them and to guide them and all of us, that we may know your will for us and serve you faithfully all of our days. In Christ's name, we raise these petitions.


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