Just Between You and God

You have reached an important moment in your lives. One perhaps that you cannot even begin to appreciate until years from now when you are on the other side looking back. For your family, it's another milestone added to things like first tooth, the day you crawled, said your first word, took your first step, first day of school. Beyond this will be driver's license, graduation, first substantial job, your own apartment. And while all these moments are special, this particular one has been memorialized in every culture since time began. Because this is the day when your society believes you have reached a certain level of maturity and says you have the opportunity to participate with us in certain adult responsibilities.

The ritual that we are about to engage in will mean nothing to you if you have not prepared your heart and your mind for its significance. You could brush it off as one more thing you have to do to please your family and get on with more important things in your life. If that should be the case, then you are deliberately missing a significant step in your personal growth that will leave a very hollow emptiness that will haunt you until you begin to make the connection with your spiritual self.

For there is another dimension to your existence other than what can be tasted with the senses. It is the part of you that grows ever more important as the years go by as your exciting moments of thrill, glamour, fame, and achievements grow ever more hollow. Important careers are only just another job until you begin to define yourself by quality, character, ethics and purpose. And ultimately a connection to that which goes beyond human understanding. You might think at this moment that old people say those kinds of things because they are afraid of death. Actually, it is more the fear that one can never really give a good reason for having lived.

For now your lives are punctuated by cute guys, the right make-up, latest fashion, getting A's and B's, miserable homework, great movies. All of those things are an important part of these years, but God is beginning to call you to step beyond the world of superficiality and into a world of purpose. We have talked for the last year or so about many of the biblical characters who sensed they were being called out of their everyday lives to do something extraordinary – Noah, Moses, Abraham, Sara, Mary and so many more. God is preparing you through the trials and successes that you have already lived through for something of great value. But it is up to you to step up to the plate and go to bat.

So, this ritual today formally marks that claim upon you. Many will talk about today as being the day you join the church. Well, technically, that is not true. Officially that began at your baptism when your pastor held you in his or her arms and carried you around the congregation and said, "Say hello to the newest member of this church." "Okay, pastor, then today marks the day they become adult members." Well, yea, I'll concede to that one because now you have the right to have voice that is heard at meetings and you can vote in issues other than financial. And, that can be powerful if you understand what that is.

We have talked about a lot of the things that need work in this congregation. I agree with you on many of them. But here's the mark of a mature person in the faith. You will always have a choice. You can sit back and complain and expect someone to do something about it before you act. OR, you can just jump in, bring your ideas, work hard to make things happen, try always to maintain the peace between warring factions, and recognize that you will have your feelings hurt somehow every time. It isn't easy, but welcome to the world of adulthood. You are either part of the problem or part of the solution.

The congregation will expect you to participate more fully in its life, yet, you will find that you are itching to do the opposite. You and everyone else must understand, that longing to leave, longing to test everything on your own is part of the nature of your teen years. Every other society throughout time has accepted that and prepared their youth for their departure and ceremonially booted them out the door to go find out for themselves. Some societies like the Amish give them one year to test the great outer world and if they return, then they are expected to honor, respect and live the code of ethics.

We Christians though prefer to keep our youth within the circle of the congregation and then complain about how after confirmation, we never see them again. Well, take heart, if you dwindle away – and we hope not – statistics show you normally return to a church somewhere around the time of career, marriage, settling down and raising a family. We pray that what has been taught has become an integral part of who you are and that it influences all the decisions you will make from this day forward.

Because in reality, this ritual, this momentous day is ultimately a time just between you and God. Up until this point, things were done to you or for you. People spoke on your behalf at your baptism…but now you get to speak for yourself. You are saying publicly that you believe there is God. You believe that Jesus Christ brought the whole world into closer relationship with that which is beyond all human understanding and opened the door of salvation. You believe that you can actually talk with the divine and that it makes a positive difference in the outcome. You believe that the ethics and moral teaching of the scriptures are the resource you will consult when tough issues are debated. It means you yourself choose to step into this ancient struggle between good and evil armed with the Holy Spirit to guide you.

There will be times when you fail. And when you look around, you will feel ashamed that you succumbed to the foolishness of this world. And others including people sitting right here, will point fingers at you and whisper, "Look, and she calls herself a Christian." But because of this moment, you can lay claim to your baptismal assurance that God is right there holding out his hand to help you up, saying, "Stand my sister, stand and try again. I am with you even to the ends of the earth." Do not forget that, because there will be times when you feel ever so alone and helpless. Most of us here have very comfortable lives compared to the masses in other parts of this world who have nothing. It is easy to get cocky and put this moment in a bureau drawer. But the days are coming that will rock your foundation and everyone else's. Yet, you are laying claim today to the greatest lifeline there ever could be. Your hold may only be a thread right now. But when you are sinking, the hand of God will be there reaching into the water to find you and bring you back up.

I am honored this day to be here with you as you take this first conscious step of faith.


Read other sermons by Pastor Joan