Sierra, Elisabet, and Brittney, today is the day of your confirmation. On behalf of the gathered friends, family and the congregation, let me express our best wishes to you on this special day. We have witnessed your growing in faith for many years, and we are happy to celebrate this day with you. Brittney, we especially wish you comfort in these days of sorrow as you recall your grandmother who died this week and whom we lay to rest tomorrow. May you know the consolation of a loving God walking with you in the valley of the shadow of death and the joy of life to come.
Sierra, Elisabet, and Brittney we’ve done many projects together: power point presentations, skits, plays, a host of art projects on biblical stories, and some writing along the way as your faith has grown. You’ve done things on food and faith, women and justice, the story of Jonah, the story of Jesus, the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Creed. All three of you have contributed a great deal to our community life. Brittney, it was your suggestion that brought together the retreat at Bethel Horizons this past November. Sierra, and Elisabet, you have been involved in our worship in a variety of ways. All of you have exhibited care for those in need. And we celebrate all of that on this day. Congratulations.
You are confirmed on a Reformation Sunday, that time when Lutherans recall the beginnings of our church when Martin Luther in the 1530’s in Germany led a renewal movement. That movement eventually resulted in a split with the Roman tradition. On All Saints Eve, or Hallowed’s Eve (from which we get Halloween) Luther nailed the principles of reform to the front church door and the movement began. Those principles of reform were an emphasis on God’s grace, love, and acceptance of all, using the Bible and our own conscience to shape lives that assist God in building communities of justice and compassion.
That we confirm on a day when we recall reform and renewal is an important thing. It is a reminder to the three of you that you will still be formed in faith, still grow in faith, still be renewed in faith as you grow in years and spirit. You will not always believe all the things you believe now. And you will reform and revise your views regarding God and others as your life unfolds. Sometimes something you felt was important about God will be changed or be dropped as you envision a new way to relate to God.
Such is the Lutheran way. Ours is not a static faith, but a reforming faith, a renewing faith, a revising faith, a faith that shapes and then reshapes itself as we are called to walk more deeply in the ways of God over the course of a lifetime.
We wish for you that continued growth in faith in the years to come. We not only wish it for you, but we wish it for others including your families and friends. For we are all being formed and then reformed by God.
If you have come to church today, and it has been awhile since you have worked on the faith in your heart, perhaps now is a good time to reflect on where God is taking us, what God wants for our lives and world, and how we all might get there. The principles of faith, the foundation of faith: loving grace, compassion, justice, responsibility, conscience shaped by scripture, and freedom do not change. But these new times in which we are living require new ways of being Christian together. In the presence of the growing faith of these young women, in the presence of the reforming nature of our Lutheran heritage, it is time for all of us to become something better, for each one of us to become that something more to which we are called by God.
These lessons before us help us with the construction or renovation of faith. Hebrews, the second lesson, talks about intercession. Intercession is a special kind of prayer. It is a prayer for others. As God re-forms our faith, God places in our lives people for whom we should pray. Think about your week. Who are some of the people, especially people on the edges of your awareness, for whom you should pray. As we intercede, as we pray for people, our own faith grows. And if your prayers lately have been mostly about yourself, well, it’s time to change that.
Jeremiah, the first poet this morning, reminds us of two things regarding a growing faith. First, faith involves singing and music. All three of you are musicians. In music we draw closer to God and as your music matures so does your faith grow. But there is something else in Jeremiah: a gathering, a coming together for a joyous celebration, a party. Fellowship and friendship are an important part of a growing faith. Alone it is hard to renew our faith. But when we come to the party, when we gather with others, when we eat a little bread and drink a little wine together, we have the strength we need to continue the spiritual journey with our friends.
And as our faith grows and matures, we see in Mark, the last lesson, something else about renewing faith. It involves opening our eyes to new things, to seeing some things for the first time, to being opened to the miracle of healing, to become aware that our faith, our trust, our hope makes us real and whole. As our faith renews, our eyes are miraculously opened to God’s new possibilities for us and others.
Prayer for others, music in one’s heart, gathering for the celebration, and opening our eyes to the miracles around us, these are the construction materials for a maturing, reforming, renewing faith. And this is the reformation faith for all of us in this room and especially for these three young women who witness this day to the baptismal promise of God’s presence through each chapter of life.