Confirmation Sunday (Mark 3:20-35)

I.

 Do you remember the first time you liked something that your parents did not?

For me, it was about “The Flintstones.” I was five.

Now, as rebellions go, it was not much of one. The stakes were low. Even at the age of five, I could see that watching “The Flintstones” was not a hill to go die on, and if I’d truly had to give it up, I would have given it up without much protest.

And yet, on the level of big ideas—of broader principles—that was my entry into a much more basic truth: namely, the truth that my parents and I did not always see the world in the same way.

For some, that can be a much harder thing to find out than it was for me.

Many of us here may have stories to tell about that—stories about bringing home a friend from the wrong side of town, or about trying to talk about war and peace at the family dinner table.

A friend of mine who went into the Roman Catholic priesthood says that to tell his very Catholic mother that he was going to give his life to God did not turn out to be a moment of joy, at least at first. For his mother, a woman quietly gearing up to be a grandmother, it was an atom bomb.

Maybe some of you know a young girl who had to tell her parents that she had decided to go to college and look for a job, when they wanted her to marry her nice high school boyfriend and stay local.

Or maybe you know someone who had to break the news to his parents that he had decided to marry a Methodist.

Whatever the story may be, we all know what it can mean when we start to see the world in our own way.

It can be hard on our parents.

II.

This morning, Mark’s Gospel tells us about a time like that in the life of Jesus.

It is early in his ministry—and it feels as if he has not been at it very long.

The crowds have come to hear him—“again,” says Mark. So the crowds have begun to find something in what Jesus has to say, and the word has spread, and now more and more have come to hear. Things have begun to take off. The air is electric.

But he’s only made it down Putnam Avenue as far as Port Chester, and his mother and his brothers and sisters have heard about it, too. They are not happy.

The other folks in Nazareth are abuzz, and not in a good way.

As Mark reports, Jesus’ family “went out to restrain him, for people were saying, ‘He has gone out of his mind’” (v. 21).

And so they go to collect him and bring him home, to save him from himself.

They do not get it, at least right at this moment.

Of course, in time, they will come to get it, but this morning’s Gospel shows us that when it all starts, that is not where they are.

For his part, Jesus does not take kindly to their arrival. When the word gets passed along to Jesus that they are waiting for him outside, he is harsh.

Someone tells him, “Your mother and brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.”

And he says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He pauses and looks around. Finally, he says, “Here are my mother and brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 33-35).

From here on out, “family” will mean a new thing for him, and for those who follow him.

Much as he loves his mom and his brothers, Jesus has begun to see the world in his own way. The faith by which he will seek to live will now be between him and God alone, and not just kept to what his family teaches now and has from the start.

His faith is his in a whole new way, now.

His new family, his true family, will be made up of those who feel called to live with him on those terms.

III.

 That’s good to keep in mind on a day such as this one, when we confirm three of our young people in their faith.

We have been meeting for the last nine months, and they have been coming to church regularly, and making a point of watching and listening to the service with new focus.

They have written thoughtful essays about who Jesus is for them and what it means to say that something is holy, and what is hard for them.

And the point of all of that, of course, is that like Jesus in this morning’s gospel, the faith will be their own in a whole new way, now.

The answers with which their elders have tried to coach them will now be something, at least in the eyes of the church, for them to take under advisement.

It’s a big day.

But it’s a great day, just as that day when Jesus talked about a new family was, of course, a great day. Today, these young people are joining that new family that Jesus talked about.

The promises that others made for them at their baptism are now theirs to fulfill.

In fact, traditionally, it was held that as of today, as of Confirmation, a godparent’s term of service was understood to be complete.

IV.

But with that said, I hope our confirmands will let me offer a few quick pieces of advice.

You guys can take them under advisement.

Because what today means is not that you are thought to be “fully formed” as Christians. What today means is that we think you are now ready to take charge of your own formation.

So my first piece of advice is: take charge of your own formation.

Don’t settle into a passive kind of faith that just kind of coasts from Sunday to Sunday, or from Christmas to Easter to Christmas. Especially don’t do that now, when there is still so much to learn about the history of our faith and the ways it has shaped the lives of so many women and men who came before us.   Find a way to engage that.

Second, find spiritual friends.

Now, take note: that’s not the same thing as saying, “hang out with religiously observant people.”

There is a place for people who are religiously observant, or faithful in a public way, and I hope you’ll give them a hearing…especially since I am one of those people.

Unfortunately, all too often, we end up being like Jesus’ birth family in this morning’s gospel. We see life’s questions and try to supply faith’s ready answers. To fit you into our boxes.

But spiritual friends can walk with you among the questions, the doubts, the times of great awe and wonder. They can do that, but not be too quick to say what you should think or feel or say or do, or where God is in all of it. And yet, they wait with you as people who believe that God’s answers will appear—when you’re at the end of your rope, they’re ready to keep doing the trusting for you, if need be.

Third, find a way to pray.

There is more than one. Some people never hear that, so I am telling you that now: there is more than one way to pray. Whether it’s on your knees with your hands before you, or walking the dog, or cleaning your room. Whether it is with words carefully chosen, or by picturing something that you want to lift up, or by letting your mind just run on its own.

Some people need to write. I am one of those. God is much more than what words say, and I know that. But words have been a path to God for me – and a path to me for God, the way he reaches me.

That may or may not be true for you. Find your way.

Fourth, look for God beyond the four walls of a church.

What we do here on Sundays is good, and we do it out of love for God, and because it gives us strength, and because we love the other people here, and a little bit because, well, it’s a habit.
It’s a good thing to do, and I hope you do it.

But even if every church in the world were full like Easter Sunday each and every week, I would still say that we need to look for God beyond the four walls of a church.

In the years ahead, you’ll find that the God moments, the holy times, the cosmic flashes when the hair on the back of your neck will rise almost all happen out there.

The reason Jesus is my Lord and Savior is because he says that those moments – those flashes – come most of all when we reach out to those who suffer, those who mourn, those who the world seems not to see, those who do not have the power to fix what is broken in their lives.

Jesus is my Lord and Savior because he says that places such as those are where God is to be found, and time and time again, I have found that to be true.

Seek out such places. Seek out such moments.

Finally, my last point is this.

Yes, God is out there.

Even so, learn the stories and music of the church.

Come on Sunday often enough; read your Bible or go to a museum and look at pictures enough; download versions of sacred music when you encounter it and grabs you enough…so that the wisdom of faith can get to work on you.

Some may say that faith is about understanding the right doctrines. Surely doctrines and creeds have their place.

But as life goes on, I think you’ll find that faith is more often found in the words from an old hymn that suddenly come to us, as if from out of the blue. Or that we hear again for the first time in a while.

Faith is found in that moment on Christmas Eve when we pastors get to stand up say, “And in those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be enrolled.”

Faith is found when you sing “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee” at your wedding, and at the baptisms of your children, just as you did at your grandmother’s funeral, and on so many Sundays along the way.

If you learn them well enough, the music and the stories of the church won’t be things you need to seek out – you’ll find that they seek you out, which is to say, that they will be part of how God seeks you out.

I hope in these next few years you will clear the ground and plant the seeds for that to happen.

V.

There is, of course, a whole lot more to say.

We’re not even going to try to say it this morning. After all, the point of this morning is that our words can only take you so far, anyway.

But on this day, we celebrate the faith that is now yours in a whole new way.

The promises made for you in baptism are now yours to fulfill.

Knowing you as I do, I am excited to see how you will fulfill them.

The future of the church is yours to work out.

God bless you in the working.

Amen.

Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s