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                     of Almelund, Minnesota

         

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Heading in the Right Direction

Pastor Marla Amborn

Immanuel Lutheran Church

May 20, 2018 – Confirmation Sunday

Acts 2:1-21 & 37-41 and John 14:16-17

 

Today we celebrate two things: We celebrate our young people affirming their baptism as they claim their faith as their own and we celebrate Pentecost, that day when the Holy Spirit launched the Church. It is fitting that these two events are celebrated together because Pentecost and Confirmation are both about igniting faith and sending folks into the world to live as God’s people.

 

We can never fully understand the Holy Spirit, but we know that the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit at work for our good. In times of sadness, the Holy Spirit comforts us. As we pray, the Holy Spirit takes our prayers to God and advocates for us. At times when we are tested, the Holy Spirit gives us strength and wisdom to do the right thing.

 

The Holy Spirit is God’s love made available to us. We can trust the Holy Spirit to work in our lives for our good. We can recognize the Holy Spirit at work in the world, in our lives, and in the Church. 

 

As I think about the world these confirmands are going out into, I’m grateful to know that God’s Spirit is going with them. They will need God’s Spirit to help them sort through all the competing voices in our divided nation and world. They will need God’s Spirit to help them find the moral courage to make good choices and to speak up for what’s right and do the right thing. They will need God’s Spirit to sustain them, to give them energy to live as God’s people, in a world that is less and less hospitable to faith.

 

The confirmands will hopefully remember Martin Luther’s explanation to the third article of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in my Lord, Jesus Christ, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” It is the Holy Spirit who brings us to faith and helps us to grow in faith.

 

God uses people as his agents in the world. People like Sunday School teachers, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, parents, grandparents, & sponsors. Many of us gathered here today have served as God’s agents nurturing these kids’ growth in faith.  They have been brought to worship. They have read the Bible and learned to pray. They have participated in the life of this faith community.

 

The kids have gone through two years of Confirmation training where they have studied the Bible and Lutheran doctrine. They have reached out to others in Christian service. They all did at least 40 hours of service. Many of them went on the mission trip last year. As you heard in their faith statements, going out and serving as God’s hands and feet had a powerful effect of helping them grow in faith.

 

These kids have a good foundation, but life is full of all kinds of unexpected challenges. How do they continue going in the right direction even when times get tough?

 

There is a church in Kansas that laid a cement sidewalk in front of its doors. A woman asked if she could stand her baby on the wet cement. Her request was granted. When people pass by that church today, they see two little baby feet with the toes pointing toward the church. The mother wanted her child to start by being headed in the right direction. The Holy Spirit is God’s continuing way of keeping us headed in the right direction.

 

Our gospel message from John, recounts Jesus’ words on the night before he was crucified. Jesus’ formal time of teaching his disciples was ending. But Jesus knew there was more they needed to learn. He knew that they would need ongoing help to keep them headed in the right direction. So on that 1st Pentecost Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to his disciples. Today, he sends the Holy Spirit to be with each of these kids and each one of us.  Through the Holy Spirit God continues the work that Jesus started and keeps us headed in the right direction.

 

God isn’t finished with us yet. The same God who loved us so much that he sent his only Son to die so that our sins could be forgiven, continues to work in our lives so that we might be in loving relationship with him.

 

The Confirmation students get this. They know that Jesus loves them, and they love Jesus. They demonstrate that love by following God’s Word and living God’s will for their lives. They have experienced the Holy Spirit at work in their lives, helping them grow in faith and in love for God.

 

Some of them have faced real struggles. Already in their young lives, they have discovered that in times of worry and concern, grief and loss, God’s loving presence is there for them. Through the Holy Spirit they have found peace and comfort and have grown in their faith.

 

Like many of us, this group of teenagers struggles with tough questions such as “How do faith and science fit together?” As Quintin described, God who created all that exists followed an orderly process. As we are uncovering that process it doesn’t make it any less miraculous. There is no inherent conflict between science and religion when God is the one who set the laws of nature in motion. It is exiting to see these kids are asking the tough questions.

Sadie spoke with wisdom beyond her years recognizing that doubts and questions about faith help us learn more about faith. It is through tackling the tough questions that God gives you faith, even when the answers are hard to find.

 

Ellie said she really struggles with that the existence of sin. It is heartbreaking that Jesus had to die for our sins. But given that there is sin, she’s really glad he made that sacrifice so that we might be forgiven.

 

These young people are looking in the right places to Prayer and to the Bible and to the Faith Community.

 

Maggie has recognized that God is not a genie. You don’t rub the magic lamp and find “your wish is God’s command.” Sometimes prayers are not answered the way you want them to be, but they are always answered, for your good. Kaili has found that God is right there with her, ready to respond to her prayers. No waiting required. Eben and Ellie, and many of the others regularly bring their cares to God in prayer.

 

And they look to the Bible. Tyler knows that the Bible is written so we can learn more about God. And Nick looks to the Bible to guide his actions in life. Mason is looking for God to guide his vocational choices. Matt is looking to God to make good choices day to day. As they look to God to guide their choices they’ll find the right answers.

 

Many have found that coming to church supports their faith. Eithan went through some tough times, but being part of this community of faith has been a great source of support for him. He has seen the difference it can make. Being part of this church has been powerful in his life. Zack has found church to be a place of comfort where he has grown in faith through worship and service. And he intends to stay active here. Good! I hope they all do. They need the ongoing connection with God that regular worship and a faith community provide.

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What happens in confirmation is not an ending but a new beginning. Living your faith is a life-long journey. These kids have a great start in the faith journey. Now their journey is taking a new turn.

 

(Spoken to the kids) As you are confirmed, you take your place in the body of Christ. As you claim this faith as your own, you take on the privileges and the responsibilities of being full adult members in this church.

 

At our last confirmation class, each of you filled out a time and talent sheet. We invite you to use your time and talents wherever you feel called to – to sing in the choir, to help with Sunday school, VBS, or confirmation, to serve as ushers, or greeters, or lectors, to serve on committees, to help with the building and grounds, and certainly to be part of the youth group. We hope you take seriously the call to use your time and talents for God’s work here at Immanuel.

 

As you are confirmed, you become part of a service group, like all of the adult members of this congregation. It is a reminder of your responsibility to serve as you are able. This church needs you. We need your energy and enthusiasm. We need your active involvement. And you need to be an active part of this community of faith, now and into the future.

 

Today you are given a box of offering envelopes. They are a reminder of your responsibility to financially support God’s work. Maybe you don’t have much to give now, but give what you can and as you establish that habit of giving it will grow over time. God can use every penny to further his work.

 

Each of us here who has been baptized and confirmed shares in that calling to do God’s work in the world. When we each do our part, God’s work gets done. That not only helps each of us continue to grow in our own faith, but as the hands and feet of God, we help to bring in God’s kingdom on earth. What a privilege that is!

 

When we live into our baptismal calling we experience the joy that comes with abiding in Christ. We are claimed by Jesus as his friends. And we rejoice in the Lord, trusting his guidance in this life and the next.

 

I leave you with these words of Paul: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” May this be so for each of you confirmands and all of us here today. Amen!