It is confirmation Sunday. And in a few minutes, after they confess their faith together with us…the confirmands will be asked — :
As you have made public profession of your faith. Do you intend to continue in the covenant God made with you in holy baptism: to live among God’s faithful people, to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper, to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth?
No small promise, that — to serve all people like Jesus…to strive for justice and peace in all the earth. A bit of a tall order
And most often, those confirmands will bravely reply : I do, and I ask God to help and guide me.
Those are heavy promises these teenagers will make today. And they may truly intend to keep those promises. They may truly intend to do right….to do good. They may deeply believe in God and strive to follow Jesus..and want to make the world a more just place. A better place. And I will say…these are two pretty amazing kids…thoughtful and caring and articulate. I believe they already make the world a better place.
But here’s what I also know about confirmands…all the ones who have stood before me these last 25 years and made those promises…and also myself…who made those promises in my home church 40 years ago. I know that some days are better than others. Some years are better than others. Some keep the faith….and some aren’t sure they ever had it…and some lives are so broken that they can’t imagine God still cares. But the truth is… all of us struggle.
I like the way Isaiah says it: We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Our sins…our shortfalls…our weaknesses….our insecurities…our resentments…our egos…often can take us away from being the person we want to be….the person we intend to be. As we have confessed together, so often…’we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves”. We screw up. We fall short. We are not perfect…even those perfectionists among us who desperately want to be. And sometimes, we can get discouraged…with ourselves…with the world. A few of us, I’m guessing have felt that way. The world feels so wrong…that like Isaiah, we wish God would tear open the heavens and come down and fix it. Come down and bring fire and justice and tear down the mighty from their thrones…and make things right. It’s interesting…that was Mary’s prayer too. We sing it in the magnificat…”you have cast the mighty down from their thrones, and uplifted the humble of heart…”.
Like Mary, like Isaiah, we want God to make the world right. We want God to make us right. To mold us..to mold the world into the shape of goodness and beauty and compassion and mercy.
And God does…but not the way we think. God does open the heavens and come down. But It happens at Jesus’ baptism. The heavens were “torn open” and the spirit rested on Jesus. Mary’s prayer is answered in her son, Jesus….who makes the world right. God makes the world right…but not by force…rather by grace. And God makes us right…not by force…but by grace. The deep grace revealed in Jesus. God makes us right…makes the world beautiful and good…through the inexhaustible depths of God’s forgiveness and love for a world gone mad, at times. Through God’s ability to see us as we were created to be…children of God…no matter what our circumstances We are all, after all, God’s people. Even when we do not see it or believe it. We are the work of God’s hand…just as we are.
Fr. Greg Boyle works with gangs in Las Angelos and his books have opened my eyes wider to the expanse of God’s grace and God’s love for us…just as we are. He writes:
“Everyone is just looking to be told that who he or she is is right and true and wholly acceptable. No need to tinker and tweak. Exactly right.” “Jesus says, “You are the light of the world.” I like even more what Jesus doesn’t say. He does not say, “One day, if you are more perfect and try really hard, you’ll be light.” He doesn’t say “If you play by the rules, cross your T’s and dot your I’s, then maybe you’ll become light.” No. He says, straight out, “You are light.” It is the truth of who you are, waiting only for you to discover it. So, for God’s sake, don’t move. No need to contort yourself to be anything other than who you are.” You are exactly what God had in mind when he made you.”
You are exactly what God had in mind when he made you. I think that should be said at every baptism. When we were baptized, we were presented with a candle…and told to “let our lights shine before others that they might see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven.” And may you always know…you are light. Today we affirm that baptism word for Colton and Anna. But also for us all. May we know the grace of God says you are exactly what God had in mind when God made you. You are exactly right…no need to tinker or tweak. We are here to affirm that truth…again and again and again until maybe just maybe we believe it enough to quit trying to prove ourselves or justify ourselves or quit giving up on ourselves…so we can love. Love ourselves, just the way we are…and love others as they are. You are light…God’s own people. God’s beloved. Beautiful. Exactly right. May you let your light shine.