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    Sharing and affirming the faith

    A sermon for Confirmation Sunday 2019 May 28, 2019
    Filed Under:
    Pr. Sebastian

     

    Grace and peace be unto you…

     

    Today is a special day for these six young people in the front row. 

    They’ve had instruction in the Christian faith from a variety of teachers: starting off in September 2017 with Pastor Olavi, and I believe Heidi and Linda, and then Pastor Carey, Pastor Helen and myself. 

    You learned about the Bible, the story of God, Jesus and us.

    You learned about the 10 Commandments: good ways to live together.

    The Apostle’s Creed as a summary of what we believe as Christians.

    The Lord’s Prayer: a model way of talking to God.

    You learned about the sacraments: signs of God’s love.

    You discovered a little about the history of our Lutheran traditions, and where we fit in the bigger picture of the worldwide church.

    And you discovered ways to live out your faith, by sharing it, being generous and helping those in need.

    Besides meeting on Sunday mornings, and helping out at worship: acolyting, ushering and helping with communion, 

    we also met on some Saturdays for workshops with other confirmands 

    from the area, 

    including working in a community garden, 

    learning about Homelessness and Refugees, a field trip to Six Nations, 

    and a trip to a mosque and a synagogue.

     

    And today, you get to speak for yourselves: 

    to affirm your baptismal vows in front of the congregation;

    that you want to be active Christians, participating in the life of the church, serving, and helping, and sharing your faith with others in word and deed.

    And this part of the service, where each of you say “I do”, 

    is really the most important part.

     

    2. 

    Part of the conclusion of the Confirmation Program involved writing about why you wanted to affirm your baptism, 

    what you had learned for your life’s journey, 

    and selecting a confirmation verse and discussing why you had chosen it.

     

    Since I liked your responses, I’d like to read them now:

     

    Garrett, you selected Joshua 1:9, which reminds us

    “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, 

    for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

    You wrote:

    he is saying to me that i shall never be afraid so long as i have faith in him. he will protect me, love me, and always have faith in me till it is time for me to meet him in heaven.

    to me it means that god is always by my side, guiding me, aiding me in times of need, and watching over me.

    the thing that is special about this verse is that it tells you that god will always be there for you.

     

    Samantha you also chose: Joshua 1:9

    You wrote: God is telling me to try my best, make “good choices”. 

    When I have trouble with something, God will help me and guide me.

     

    Louis for Joshua 1:9 you wrote: 

    I chose this verse because I like having the reminder that God is always with me and is always on my side. Throughout my life, I have dealt with my mother being very ill twice, my Opa passing away and a beloved hockey coach dying very unexpectedly. During these times, I may not have always known that God was helping me through, but as I read this passage, it makes me aware that he was always there, and will always be there for me no matter what life brings.

     

    Adam, like most of the others you also chose Joshua 1.9. 

    I’ll read it again, but in The Message translation: 

    Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. 

    God, your God, is with you every step you take.”

     

    You wrote: I liked how it sounded as well as the message it is sending. it says be strong and courageous, to me this means that you should not be scared to be adventurous, to be bold, to try something new. Not to be afraid because I know that the lord our god is with us at all times. 

    On our most recent field trip, we learned about the six nations culture and 

    history and something that stuck with me was C.L.A.S.S Caring, Loving, 

    Acceptance, Support, and sharing. And if I can go out into the world with the mindset of C.L.A.S.S, It will help me with family, neighbors and the world.

     

    Jeremy, you also selected Joshua 1:9 (I think there was a plot here with all of you choosing the same verse…)

    You wrote :

    This verse means something to me because I think it represents me because I always try to be strong and courageous and not really get discouraged by any thing.

     

     

    Finally, Chloe did not choose Joshua 1:9.

    You chose John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” 

    You wrote:

    I picked John 3:16 because it’s about how God created the universe and everything in it, and how God loves us so much that He also created an afterlife so we can always be with him, not just on earth while we are living, but also in heaven after we die. He did this because He loves what He created so much. 

    Which connects to the other reason I like this verse. The verse is also all about love…the greatest and biggest love there is. And it’s the model of all the love we are supposed to copy in our own lives and show towards others; just like God showed His love to us when he gave us Jesus.

     

    I think all these responses are wonderful reflections on your chosen verse from the Bible.

    Thank you for sharing your faith with me and the congregation.

    3. 

     

    Another example of sharing the faith, we heard in our first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles which talks about the expansion of the Christian mission by the Apostle Paul and his colleagues to Europe, to present-day Greece.

     

    Our brief story begins on one of Paul’s missionary trips, 

    when at night he received a vision of a man from Macedonia; 

    saying “come help us” that is: “come and share your faith with us.”

    Now dreams are common in the book of Acts, and visions are seen as a sign of people waiting for divine inspiration to discern their next steps.

     

    Paul at the time was in the port city of Troas (in present day Turkey).

    So off they sailed over the blue Aegean sea to Europe, 

    and arrived at Philippi.

    Philippi (which you might remember from Paul’s letter to the Philippians) 

    at the time had a population of 15,000, it was a cosmopolitan city, 

    a leading city, with wealthy people, an elite class, 

    and a settlement of retired Roman army officers.

     

    After a few days there, on the Sabbath, they went outside the gates of the city: 

    and Paul and his friends discovered a place of prayer: 

    by a river, and he spoke to the women gathered there.

    Now it’s not surprising that he found women there:

    by a river was a normal place for women to gather and talk 

    (you see that even today in developing countries where women will gather to do their laundry by a river).

    What was surprising was that Paul, as a well known Pharisee and teacher, in the patriarchal society of the day, 

    would carry on a conversation with a group of women. 

    Given what was to happen; this was a good move, a move that transcend boundaries.

     

    For now we are introduced to a woman named Lydia.

    She was a businessperson, an unmarried merchant 

    of high socio-economic status.

    Lydia was the head of a household: 

    quite remarkable given the male-dominated society of the time.

    She came from the city of Thyatira (present-day Turkey): 

    long known as a center of production of purple dye,

    and she was a dealer in purple cloth, 

    which was a very expensive commodity in that era.

     

    She is called a Worshipper of God: that is: 

    a Gentile (non-Jew) who worshipped Israel’s God.

    Lydia was likely attracted to Judaism but not ready to make the full commitment.

    Maybe she didn’t like legalistic codes, and constrictive laws.

    What might have been attractive to her about this new Christian sect: 

    was its inclusive and freeing faith, and especially the greater equality between men and women, something that would appeal to her as an independent businesswoman.

     

     

     

    And “The Lord opened her heart” (to listen eagerly to Paul), 

    and she requested baptism, and her whole household, her servants, slaves, perhaps children? were baptised.

    This was relatively common (we read of it often in Acts) 

    that if the head of the household got baptised, 

    then the whole household would have to(?) follow suit.

     

    Lydia is a (early Christian) model of female spirituality and leadership,

    the first (Christian) convert in Europe (that we know of)

    and she provided hospitality to Paul and likely took care of him after his beatings and imprisonment.

     

    4.

    Now when we hear these stories about the first apostles

    we shouldn’t be imagining them as part of ancient history, because the word “Apostle” means the “sent one”.

    We are all apostles as part of our baptism.

    Through our baptism, we are all sent by Jesus to share the good news of God’s love, the good story of Jesus coming from God to show us the way, and to show God’s love knows no boundaries in his death and resurrection.

    And just like Paul, Lydia and the other apostles, we are also sent, not alone, but in community. 

    Paul and Lydia had their friends, and we have our Christian friends too.

    That makes things a little less daunting.

     

    And together in community, it makes it easier to live out the vows we pronounced in our baptism or our affirmation of baptism, namely:

     

    to live among God's faithful people, (to be part of Christian community)

    to hear the word of God and share in the Lord's supper, (to come to church)

    to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,

    (to tell others about our faith, just like how Paul told Lydia)

    to serve all people, following the example of Jesus,

    and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

    (to help those in need so that God’s kingdom may come a little closer)

     

    Or in other words, according to our St. Matthew’s Mission Statement:

    to Share God’s Love 

    as a Caring Faith Community!

     

    As we ponder, along with these six young people, 

    what it means to live out our baptismal faith in the Triune God,

    let us remember that our God is a God who knows and loves us,

    who prepares people’s hearts to hear the good news,

    and who through baptism, brings us into God’s family forever. Amen

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