So today we are blessed to witness what is actually not called Confirmation Sunday, but the Affirmation of Baptism for Brandon and Brenda. We as the church have come to believe that they are more than capable, more than gifted enough to take on the expectations and responsibilities from their baptism. No longer do they need to fully depend on their parents and Sunday school teachers and pastors; for we are more than convinced that they can fully take on the calling as a disciple of Jesus Christ for the sake of the whole world.
However, some of you here today may know absolutely nothing about Brandon and Brenda. So as someone who was blessed with the opportunity to spend hours on Sunday evenings with them the last couple of years, if I could take away anything from that time together, it is that both of them are incredibly intelligent human beings.
For starters, Brenda's first language is not English, but Portuguese, as her family is originally from Brazil. Imagine, during the pivotal years of your junior high age, your family not only moves to a different county, or even a different state, but instead to an entirely new country, into an extremely different culture. You know absolutely no one except your brother and parents. And then not only do you have to understand what goes on at school in all your classes, but you also must grapple with the not so straightforward language of theology and the Bible, trying to understand the not so simple Lord's Prayer, Apostles' Creed, Ten Commandments, the Sacraments, all of it in a language you didn't grow up with. How is it possible for someone to not only get by, but more than succeed in doing it? Well, Brenda has the English language down better than many Americans do. It could very well be that the Holy Spirit is doing more than its fair share of work in her already.
Now Brandon may not have had to learn a second language to get through Confirmation, but let's just say his desire to learn more than just the basics is something no pastor can teach, not to mention there were plenty of questions along the way from him that I didn't have the answer for, and, quite honestly, pastors, deep down, crave those moments. I like to think, again, the Holy Spirit is doing more than its fair share of work in him.
And yet today God brings all of us together to realize not only how much the pastor or the youth appreciate being around Brenda and Brandon, but how much the church and the world greatly need as many Brenda's and Brandon's as we can get. Yes, they are both incredibly intelligent people. We need that, to say the least, for all the possible ideas of ministry as the church moves forward into yet another unique generation, to say the least. However, we cannot overlook that they are both passionate about worlds beyond their own. And we most desperately need that in a culture that grows more and more exceedingly suspicious with every news cycle over the differences among the human race.
We see it time and time again over the years: this undeniable lack of trust among us, this down-right despicable hatred; this staunch stubbornness to our own way of life and up-bringing that should shape the entire face of the earth. On some days, after watching the evening news or reading the latest headlines, it makes us wonder if the ultimate mission in this life is to separate ourselves from everyone else: from the world that is so corrupt, so dangerous, so overwhelmed with hate. That even the point of the church is to provide this sacred space in order to escape the culture that is forever infected with evil.
And yet, the Gospel this morning, says, not so much. Our Lord and Savior, Who Himself asked for the cup of death that the world was unleashing upon Him to pass Him by; Who as much as anyone throughout history had the right to ask to be taken out of the world: to be taken from the friends who denied even knowing Him and even betraying Him to a gut-wrenching execution. He should have convinced Himself this world was not worth saving: it was not worth going to the cross for. It was not worth dying for. It's too corrupt. It's too violent. The people are too angry, too self-centered, too stubborn, too filled with hate against all who are different from them. Our Messiah more than had a right to not carry that cross up the hill, and just escape into the heavenly realm forever in order for us to take care of our salvation ourselves.
And yet, beyond our reasoning, beyond anything I can teach to any Confirmand, Jesus died and rose again for all of us, including for Brandon and Brenda. In the end, far too often we envision Confirmation as an end of a journey: that Brandon and Brenda have finished the requirement, and now they're all set. Nevertheless, Brandon and Brenda, you have too much passion, you have too many gifts, too much Holy Spirit firing on all cylinders inside you, to think that God is anywhere near finished with you. No, your sacred witness, to us of St. John's, to your families, to Bridgman, to Brazil, to the whole world, is just getting started, and it will never come to an end, just as our Savior's passion for all of us never did, not even in the face of death. And for that boundless love beyond anything we can ever imagine, we give thanks to God indeed. Amen.
St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
Rev. Dennis Smith, Interim Pastor
Office: Tue - Fri: 9 a.m. - Noon