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Join Us For Worship!

Join Us For Worship!
Sundays at 8:30AM, 9:45AM, and 11AM

Saturday, May 26, 2012


PENTECOST-CONFIRMATION SERMON 2012

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.  And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting.  Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.  All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit

The congregation that I served during my seminary internship had a long and interesting history. In 1935, at its 50th anniversary, it was at risk of closing from ongoing decline, but they called a young pastor fresh out of seminary who turn things around – and a new spirit took hold in the congregation. After their first Easter Service together, after the last shout of “Christ is Risen!” echoed and folks went home to their turkey and their ham, a fire broke out in the organ and ruined the sanctuary. It was midway through the Great Depression and things looked bleak. On the front page of the local newspaper, where one expected words that summoned the pathos, the pain, the anguish, the hopelessness of a moment when everything seemed lost; there one expected news that their 50th anniversary would be their last, that this was the final nail in the coffin, that with the Great Depression crushing the spirits of people everywhere, that their spirits, too, had finally succumbed to the national numbness. However, what the pastor said when they quoted him went something like this: “We will rebuild. Christ is risen and the victory is already won.” 

Christ is risen and the victory is already won.

And they did rebuild. In the midst of the depression. When bank after bank turned them down for a loan. They persevered. Where a dying church once stood, from the smoldering ashes of a now destroyed sanctuary, the potential for ministry that touched the lives of thousands of people was released.

How could a small struggling congregation facing the loss of their sanctuary, facing, too, the challenges of the Great Depression, dare to declare Christ’s victory? Have the audacity to declare: Christ is risen and the victory is already won!

We need to go back to the first Pentecost. To the coming of the promised
Holy Spirit.
On that first Pentecost, Peter quotes the prophet Joel:
'In the last days it will be, God declares,
       that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
       and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
       and your young men shall see visions,
       and your old men shall dream dreams.

At first glance, I think that Spirit frightens us:
It frightens us because it is not comfortable.  It does not come in a box with instructions like some bookshelf from IKEA. It is moving, at work, inviting, challenging, asking for our creativity, our commitment, our trust, and defying our every attempt trying to make it do what we want to do, to go where we want to go, to serve only who we want to serve.

Think about that: The Spirit that fills us at Baptism and guides and sustains our faith is the Spirit that brooded over creation, that raised up the mountains and the oceans, that set the stars in the heavens; the Spirit that breathed into the first humans the breath of life, the very breath of God. It is that Spirit that gives all of us the power to stare into the eyes of hopelessness and declare Christ’s victory again and again.

Even as it gives us courage and fixes in our very souls a hope that can never be taken away from us, it frightens us. It frightens us because we do not know where it may lead us. What it will invite us to do. Who it will call us to embrace. How it might call us to change and change and change even as it transforms us and is always at the transforming us, calling us to new and deeper lives of faith.

Confirmation is an invitation to a deeper life of faith. Lia, Summer, Kimberly, and Kaitlyn, like all of our young people, you are not the future of the church, but its present. The Apostle Paul reminds us that “…in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”

Far too many churches have tried to shape their young people to fit what the adults think church ought to be, rather than seeking to acknowledge and embrace what God is blessing in their midst in and through both their young and old, their youngest and their most senior. This struggle is also our struggle. And it is the Holy Spirit that gives us the courage and the vision to imagine a different way to be church and then seek to live into that vision.

'In the last days it will be, God declares,
       that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
       and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
       and your young men shall see visions,
       and your old men shall dream dreams.

Lia, Summer, Kimberly, and Kaitlyn,  Trinity Lutheran, the faith community of which you are a part is not all that it will be – the work of the Spirit continues as it must until the day of our Lord. Help us to discern what God is blessing in our midst, challenge us to embrace that work, bring your own gifts, your passions, your creativity, your hope to the work in which we all share for the sake of the Gospel. Confirmation is our acknowledgment to you with all humility that we need you for all that God is calling us to do and to be.

My friends, I now turn to all: Christ is risen and the victory is already won!
Do you believe that to be true?
Do you believe it with your whole heart – with all of your being, more than you believe anything else in this world?

We believe it by living it, plain and simple.
And that is not something that we can do on our own, is it? No, we need the Holy Spirit in the fullness of its power at its most audacious; its most creative.

But, the Holy Spirit is not a breakfast cereal. It is not the same with every spoonful. We do not know what we are getting with every bite. It is always in motion; constantly changing and inviting us to change; surprising us and inviting us to embrace the surprises; inviting us to a deeper trust in God and an openness to all that has done, is doing, and will do; inviting us, and this is key, to embrace what God is already blessing and that takes discernment, a real seeking after the Spirit, asking “Where have we seen God already at work?”

Christ is risen and the victory is already won.
Say it with me: Christ is risen and the victory is already won.
Then let our prayer always be: come Holy Spirit, come.
Amen!

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