5th Sunday of Easter, May 19th 2019
Acts 11:1-18, Psalm 148, Revelation 21:1-6, John 13:31-35
So tomorrow I head out for my Sabbatical.
You have heard me and others share that over the course of 3 months this will be a time for rest, refreshment and to refocus on our ministry together.
Sabbath is important.
God built it into the fabric of creation.
Rest and renewal is important for the rhythm of our lives, our faith and the use of our gifts.
And it is kind of ironic that today we hear from our Gospel lesson Jesus sharing,
“I am only with you a little longer, you will look for me… where I am going you can not come.” …unless I see you out surfing of course.
With today being Confirmation Sunday…
I’m tempted to look at our 8 youth who are affirming their baptism and now becoming adults within our congregation to share with them, “Ok, the ball is in your court, you are in charge, I’m leaving all this in your hands…
and then do a mic drop…
But with this mic tucked behind my ear, and me wrestling with getting it off and dropping it…
it would most likely not be that effective.
And while I say this tongue and cheek, somewhat jokingly,
There is some truth behind it.
This isn’t my church.
Yes, I’m called to the specific tasks of Word and Sacrament,
and I am one of the shepherds within this particular flock…
But I don’t own all this.
This is your church as much as it is mine,
we are a part of the Body of Christ together.
And so our confirmation disciples have heard me say before and I will keep saying it…
“Confirmation is not a Graduation from church and the life of faith.”
Yes, they have been through 3 years of confirmation classes, been to camps and retreats, done service projects, and wrote faith essays articulating what faith means to them… so yes, this IS a celebration, a big step… but this isn’t an ending…
rather it is a new beginning, a new chapter in this lifelong story of learning what it means to follow Jesus, who we claim to be the crucified and risen Christ.
And this is an opportunity for all of us…
To reaffirm the gift of grace and faith given to us in the waters of baptism.
This is a chance for us to step up, to take responsibility, and to continue to grow in a faith that challenges us to follow Jesus daily.
So allow me to get “God Loves Geeks” on you a little bit.
The movie “Avengers: End Game” has been a pretty big deal for geeks like me. (I asked our confirmation disciples if they have seen the movie, most of them have)
This movie is a culmination and climax of a collective story,
the Marvel Cinematic Universe, for over a decade.
(most of you were like 3 or4 when that first Iron Man movie came out)
And it’s not just comic book fans and geeks who are going to see this movie, a lot of people have seen this movie,
it’s made like 2 Billion dollars and still going strong.
I’m not going to spoil the movie, but the movie’s title is “End Game”
It’s an ending.
Some big earth and universe shattering events happen in this movie, there are some dramatic returns and some big time story arcs come to a close.
And who cries in a superhero movie… I guess I do.
I will say that for me it was a very satisfying close to a particular story.
And yet, is it over?
Do you think Disney (who oversees the Marvel Cinematic Universe) is like, “well we made a couple billion dollars,
that seems to be enough… that was a good run y’all…
time to close shop.”
They have a new phase planned.
In fact, they rolled out a new movie trailer a week after End Game hit the theaters for the new Spiderman movie coming out this summer, and it has continuity and tie in’s with End Game…
The story continues…
And so what’s next?
We will have to wait and see, and I am still excited.
And so let’s reflect a minute on the Jesus story,
on our story of faith…
Jesus had some climactic End Game moments,
Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Easter…
Universe shattering events that would change the world forever…
There were tear jerker moments and dramatic returns…
And yet, the disciples thought that was the End…
They were like, “Whelp, that was a good run, I guess it’s back to fishing for us.”
Is it over?
The story isn’t over…
Faith isn’t over… a new phase, a new chapter has begun.
The story continues in the book of Acts with the disciples discerning and wrestling with what it means to be a people and community who follow the crucified and risen Christ together, and what it means to share the love of God to all people.
“What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”
“The Spirit said go with them and to make no distinction between them and us.”
And even in the book of Revelation, the book of the Biblical End Game.
The story continues to unfold like that vision Peter witnessed of the sheet coming down from the heavens.
God is still active and at work among us and with us.
Coming down to us… with the hope that we are loved with a love stronger than death and unconditional grace given to those who are thirsty for it.
And right when we think it’s over…
We hear again these words from Jesus before he is crucified and before he is resurrected….
“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.”
Viewing this teaching through the good news of Easter…
We who follow Jesus are like, “a-ha, that is what our Rabbi means. That is what love looks like, and now we continue this story of love in our own lives and as we live our own faith.”
And so Confirmation comes to a close, an “end”…
(for 8 of our youth)
But is it over?
There are more questions to ask.
More doubts to wrestle with.
More epiphanies and “a-ha’s” to experience.
More love and grace to grow into and to share.
And all this is rooted in the good news that in the waters of Baptism God loves us with a love stronger than death.
Last night at our confirmation banquet… we had a great meal together… and at the meal, at each plate there was a “fortune cookie” but this wasn’t just any fortune cookie…
they were “grace cookies”…
You open them up… there isn’t a fortune per say, but rather Bible verse…
At our table there was a miracle.
Clara opened hers and it was empty, she was a little disappointed, “No grace for me?”
But I was like, “it’s empty” well happy Easter!
But then Ben sitting across from Clara opened his… and he had two Bible verses in it… what?! It’s a miracle.
What are the chances that they were across from each other!
One was empty one had two, and so Ben shared grace with Clara!
That is what Jesus is sharing with his disciples then, and what he is sharing with his disciples now.
We are a part of a team…
and we have gifts to share to make a difference in this world…
And no we are not the Avengers… or the Revengers…
We are a community of grace called to love like Jesus.
We, us, the Body of Christ, are called to love one another as Christ has loved us.
And so yea, I am going away for 3 months, but you are in good hands.
Continue to grow in your faith.
Keep the story going…
You all are in charge…
Go and love like Jesus…