This past Sunday, we had Confirmation Sunday, where six of our young adults affirmed their baptism promises and became members adult members of the church. It was a great event and I am proud of each on of our confirmands. I really enjoyed to see them learn more about their faith and how it interacted in their lives.
Confirmation has a interesting place in current church culutre. For many it is one of the last times we "have" to come to church. The sacramental check list is complete and now church can be left by the wayside. That is until some type of tradegy happens when people remember how their faith was suppose to help them in hard times like these. They may go back to their local church for guidance or support but many times they just walk away from their faith. It hasn't been helpful in their everyday lives, so why would they turn to it now? I think too many people see confirmation as an ending and not what it truly is which is a beginning. A beginning of a faith walk that takes you beyond your child like faith and allows you to explore you faith with the themes you will encounter in life such as relationships; how to deal with death; how to deal with disappointment; how to deal with abundant blessings; and how to deal with stress to name a few. Exploring these themes allows us to see how important our faith is and how it shapes what we say as well as what we do.
I wonder if confirmation would be less of an end point if we had things for people to do afterwards. How do we engage adults and young adults? Are the answer more classes? Is it thoughtful YouTube videos? How do you change the culture, so that confirmation is more of a transition like going from junior high to high school versus college graduation? I wish I had a lot of answers but I don't. I know what I would like to see, which is people engaging their faith more. The hard part is time and making it relevant to what is going on in their lives. So I will continue to brainstorm different ways in which to engage folks but I would really like to hear your ideas. What would help you grow in your faith more? What would you look forward to doing each week, or maybe each day?
I don't know about you but there are many days and sometimes week, where I feel my life is a country western song. You know the type of song where, you lose your truck, your dog, and your girlfriend ot boyfriend in that order. As much as we kid about our lives emulating these popular songs, there is not a lot of humor as we go through these moments? So how do we find hope in the midst of the hardness and brokenness of life? If we examine God's word we can see that there are plenty of times that people in the Bible have gone through something similar. This week in worship we look at 2 Samuel chapetrs 5 and 6. During this time, our Jewish brothers and sisters had just gotten done fighting a civil war. It was a bloody struggle where many of the folks were having a hard time forgiving each other and putting the civil war behind them. In spite of this, King David dances as he brings the ark of God into the city of Jerusalem. This moment can give off a Nero fiddling as Rome burns vibe but King's David dance does take in the understanding of the gravity of that moment. On the contrary King David knows full well, that the years ahead are going to be rough and tumble as the kingdom figures out how to mesh together while being buffeted by enemies on all sides. So why his joy? King David is joy filled because the ark of God is being placed back into Jerusalem. The ark was a symbol of God's word and God's promise. He was excited that it was coming back to the people of Israel and into their capital city because it symbolically represented God's presence back into their midst. God's presence represented hope, represented a second chance, represented mercy, and represented love. This is why it is important that we take some time in the word of God ourselves, because it reminds us of God's presence in our lives. I think we all need to feel God's hope and love in our busy and chaotic lives. So this week, take some time and dive into the word of God and look to see where God is talking to you. One of the best and easiest ways to do this is by reading a devotional. Look on line or around your house for a devotional book and open it up. It is one of the easiest ways to begin to hear the word of God echo in your life and begin to shape you into the person God wants you to be.
This week I have been attending a preaching conference in St. Paul. One of the classes I took today talked about what an early church service in 150 A.D. would look like. It started out with people reading scripture until they were out of time. Then the presider, not a preacher, would invite people to follow what was laid out in scripture. This "sermon time" was followed by prayers, and then the sacraments both baptism and holy communion. Finally there would be an offering taken and this offering would be given out to the folks who needed help. Any members who couldn't make it would be visited by the deacons, so that they check in a see how the folks were doing. This service is none too different than what we have today. The professor, my worship professor from Luther Seminary Dirk Lange, reminded us that all the parts of worship should point back to the text(s). Worship was in a sense acting out the parts of our faith. They allowed our bodies as well as our minds to participate in this celebration of who God is. Each week for these early Christians was a celebration.
I think worship for many of us from week to week can feel pretty routine and anything but special. Last Sunday we talked about the Ten Commandments and more specifically the third commandment, which says remember the Sabbath day and keep it Holy. Sabbath again is a churchy word for saying rest. Sunday is about Rest. The way we as Christians should rest is by spending some time with God, this is why we go to church on our traditional Sabbath day of Sunday. Resting allows us to realize that everything in our lives is not dependant on us but is in fact dependent on God. Sabbath or Rest days are to remind us that we can be free from our anxieties; free from the weight of the world on our shoulders; and free from the worry that we don’t ever measure up. This is why last week, I talked about worship as freedom. The very act of showing up on Sunday mornings should lift our spirits because of this fact that we are reminded we are free. That is why I put up balloons in the narathex because it reminded us that we should treat worship as a party or celebration. I found it interesting that Professor Lange was tying into this same thing by referencing how the early church held service. Worship is about celebrating the love, grace, and mercy of God. Yet why is it so hard for us to feel this excitement? So I am asking you this week, what could we do that would change the way that you would think about worship? What would it take for you to look forward to coming each and every week?
Pastor Paul. I hope you find these reflections insightful and help you in your faith journey!