Scriptures: Psalm 133 Romans 15:1-13 Matthew 28: 16-20
This service is a celebration to welcome and recognize Sophia, Nathan and Annabella as young people who are confirming promises made by their parents when they were baptized as small children. Sophia, Nathan and Annabella are making these promises for themselves. Building on a relationship with Jesus that began at Baptism they are now accepting Jesus’ call to continue growing as Christians by following Jesus’ way of life. They are promising to continue to learn about Jesus and God’s will for them as they travel with us on Jesus’ way of life.
Using the scriptures from Romans and Matthew I want to share with them and all of us what it means to be a Christian and follow Jesus’ lead for a lifetime. On May the 19th when Sophia, Nathan and Annabella and their parents met with the Session we all shared in a few words “WHAT BEING A CHRISTIAN MEANT TO US.” The clerk of Session made a poster of these responses which was shared with you over the past several Sundays. Our three confirmands shared “What being a Christian means to them” Here is what they shared:
Sophia wrote and shared: “Being a Christian is to believe in God. It means that Jesus as God’s Son was alive to show us how to live and cope with suffering.” Nathan wrote: “Being a Christian means that there is always someone watching over me and forgiving my sins and protecting me.” Annabella wrote, “Being a Christian means we are a member of Jesus’ family…understanding what God did for us and how God wants us to live.” As a member of Jesus’ family it means we are part of a family that looks after you, and helps you learn that God created the world and wants us to trust in God.”
Jesus in Mark Chapter 3:31-35 follows the arrest of John the Baptist by demonstrating that the reign of God is here now. Mark is saying, “Open your eyes and look! God has not finished the work announced by the Prophets and John the Baptist (who was considered a prophet). It continues even to today. For Mark the Good News is God making God’s presence clear as Jesus heals, teaches and serves the poor, including his disciples. Jesus opens wide the arms of God and welcomes everyone calling them into his community. While this is Good News to those who were powerless and often oppressed by Rome, not all are pleased. The religious authorities who got their power by judging others and putting them down thought Jesus was not just crazy but was being misled by Satan. Even more surprising, his mother, brothers and sisters who were embarrassed by Jesus come to try to quiet him down and rein him in. Jesus does not reject them, but does redefine family: Listen to what he says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, sister and mother.” Jesus calls us all to be a family of faith that trusts in God.
I want to share with you what two of the earliest Christians have to say about being a Christian. I will let them speak for themselves in their own words. The first is from Paul, who was originally Saul and a man very committed to the Way of life given by God in Judaism. Saul was so committed that he actually sought to arrest Christians who he believed were undermining Judaism. In Acts 9 we read, Saul went to the high priest seeking letters to the synagogues of Damascus so that …”if Saul found persons who belonged to the Way, he could arrest them and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. During the journey, as he approached Damascus suddenly a light from heaven encircled him and he heard a voice (of Jesus) asking him, “Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?” Who are you, asked Saul and Jesus responds, “I AM JESUS WHOM YOU ARE HARASSING”, …Now get up and enter the city and you will be told what to do.” The rest of the story is history, Saul becomes Paul and the Apostle to the Gentiles. Paul later wrote to the Christian Community in Rome. the following words about the Way of Life in Christ. These are clearly words we need to take to heart today.
Reading from the Message translation here is what Paul challenges us to do as we follow Jesus’ way of life: “Those of you who are strong and able in faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” That’s exactly what Jesus did. He didn’t make it easy on himself by avoiding people’s troubles but waded right in and helped out. …Whatever is written in the past was (and is) written for our instruction so that we have hope through endurance and encouragement of the scripture. May the God of endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude toward each other, similar to Christ Jesus’ attitude. God wants the combination of God’s steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us. WE NEED TO KEEP ALERT ON WHAT GOD WILL DO NEXT. This way we can glorify the God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ together with one voice. Then Paul closes this direction for walking Jesus’ way of life with this blessing. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in faith so that you overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. The Message puts these final words of Paul this way: “Oh May the God of hope fill you with joy, fill you up with peace, so that your trusting lives, filled with the life-giving energy of the Holy Spirit, will brim over with hope.”
In Matthew 28:14-16 the disciples who have followed Jesus’as the way of life are now commissioned to take the Good News of Jesus to the entire world. We read: “Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age”
Sophia, Nathan and Annabella, as you continue to grow in the way of Jesus, I challenge you to do two things to keep growing. First. develop a pattern of reading the scripture and praying a prayer of thanks for all the strength God has given you for this day. Do this every day. Secondly,remember that just as an ambassador is commissioned to represent the values of a particular country, you are now commissioned to witness to the values of love, justice and care for the weak that Paul talked about and Jesus demonstrated in all the gospels. May the God of peace continue to bless you on your journey with Jesus day by day. Amen.