The Festival of Pentecost – 5/19/13

Sermon for Pentecost

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Creator, Jesus our Savior, and the Holy Spirit our Advocate. Amen.

Joelle, Zane, and Sydney were confirmed at St. Mark's this morning!

Joelle, Zane, and Sydney were confirmed at St. Mark’s this morning!

Pentecost  is a day of celebration.  It is the birthday of the Christian Church.  Along with Christmas and Easter, it is one of the three major festivals of the year.  We celebrate with color and light – candles and bright red banners, paraments, and vestments to remind us that the symbol for Pentecost is fire.  Fire – because the Holy Spirit is powerful and life-changing.

Today is a day of celebration for Joelle, Sydney, and Zane and their families, too.  It is a time to remember an earlier celebration for each of them.  We remember when they were little and their parents and sponsors brought them to the font for baptism.

We remember the promises you parents and sponsors spoke.  Today you get to celebrate because you kept those promises.  It is always a good feeling when you know you have kept an important promise.  Especially when it wasn’t always easy.  It would have been easy to forget about it.  After all, it was a long time ago.  Life happens.  People get busy with other things.  There are many demands on our time and energy.

But you didn’t forget.  You brought them to the services of God’s house and placed the scripture in their hands.  You helped them learn the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments.  You made them get out of bed and come to church even when they didn’t want to, especially when it was their turn to acolyte.  You encouraged them to go to camp and reminded them it would be fun.

Parents and sponsors – you have kept those promises you made before God and the congregation all those years ago.  Joelle, Sydney, and Zane are going to make those same promises for themselves today.  They will affirm them – say yes to them – make them their own.

They will promise to live among God’s faithful people, hear God’s word, share the supper, proclaim the Good News through word and deed, and strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

We, the church council, parents, and I, have decided that these middle school students are mature enough to understand what they are saying and what they are promising to do.  In confirmation, they aren’t just promising to go to church regularly.  They are also promising to work hard to bring about justice and peace in all the earth.

They are great kids, but don’t you think that’s a little scary?  Can we depend on the three of them to do that?

Jesus says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not be afraid.”

The good news today is that they are not alone in their promises.  No one is ever alone.  We have each other, of course, but there is more.  Jesus has sent us the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit will be our advocate and guide.  The Spirit will continue to teach us everything.  The Holy Spirit will remind us of all that Jesus has said to us.

You are children of God.  You were adopted by God in your baptism.  When your parents and sponsors brought you to be baptized, they gave you up for adoption.  What they did was acknowledge that you really belong to God.  They accepted the responsibilities of caring for you as God’s gift to them.  But, they were really saying that they know you belong more to God, than you belong to them.

This is a difficult truth for parents.  We want to think we own our children.  After all, we had a part in creating them.  Our human nature tells us that we own lots of things.  The truth is everything and everyone belongs to God.  We are only the caretakers of our stuff, just as we are for our children.

There is another difficult truth in baptism.  When we are adopted as children of God we share both the suffering and the joy of Jesus, our brother.  We are not called to an easy life here on earth because we are Christians.  Sometimes we will suffer because of sin, both ours and other peoples’. Sometimes we will suffer for our faith.

But God always keeps promises.  And in baptism, God promises us eternal life.  We may forget our promises occasionally.  God never forgets, no matter what we do.

Joelle, Sydney, and Zane, when you make the promises for yourself and kneel for the blessing, you might think you are your own person and your parents are relieved of their responsibilities.  That isn’t what’s happening, though.  You are becoming more responsible.  You are picking up your share of the responsibility, but they aren’t giving up any of theirs.

We like to think we are all just individuals.  When we become adults, we get to make our own individual decisions, make our own choices, make our own mistakes.

The story of Pentecost tells us differently.  The Holy Spirit does not come to the apostles as individuals.  The Spirit does not ask each of them to accept Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior.  The Spirit descends on the crowd.  That’s right, the whole assembly of people.

This is good news for us.  It means we are not alone.  We are all very different people.  We have different gifts and different interests.  You have expressed your unique personalities even as you have made your confirmation quilts.  They all include the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles Creed, Ten Commandments, and Sacraments, but you have colored them with your own personalities and included your own choice of confirmation verse. The differences are what makes them beautiful.

Sometimes we feel alone because we are different from everyone else.  We have trouble figuring out where we might fit in.  Sometimes we wonder where the Holy Spirit went.  Sometimes we just can’t feel God’s presence on our own.

That is why the Pentecost story is such good news.  The Holy Spirit is present in the community of believers.  The Spirit is present in the church as we pray and sing and share the sacraments.

So in those times when we can’t seem to feel God in our lives, we have the community of believers.  We can lean on others and know that when we are in their presence, we are in the presence of God.  The community will lift us up and carry us.

Through the community of faith, the Holy Spirit will always be our advocate.  An advocate is someone who speaks up for us, defends us, especially when we need help.  The Holy Spirit will always be our comforter, consoling us when things don’t go the way we wish they would.

The Holy Spirit is present among all these people who are here today to celebrate with you.  They have been there from the beginning of your lives.  They will still be there for you, after church today and the Spirit is with you when you are with them.

Those people may give you cards and gifts.  You might even think you deserve the gifts because after all you went to class and learned lots of Bible stories and even memorized parts of the Small Catechism.

The Holy Spirit will confirm the seven gifts already given to you in Baptism.  Those gifts are far more important, and you did absolutely nothing to earn them. You received them when you were too young to speak for yourself.  Now you can speak for yourself and you claim them as your own.  Your families rejoice.  Your congregation rejoices.  The Holy Spirit, the giver of joy, rejoices with you.  Amen.

 

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