07 Pentecost 01 Confrimation Sunday Matthew 28.16-20
Well, you made it. That’s got to be the feeling anyway, am I right? For two years you have been working on classes and projects. You have done service hours, gone on retreats, spent time in small group, and all building up in anticipation for today, for this moment, right now. A sigh of relief. And I must say that I am quite proud of all of you. Although I did have my doubts.
(Slide 1) Seeing is believing. That’s what they say anyway. That is how we operate at least. I believe what my eyes see. That is not unreasonable is it? Our eyes see what is there. Ok. So now we have a little test.
(Slide2) Are these circles moving or not? Actually they are not moving, and if you can’t see the movement in them, consider yourself lucky. (Slide3) Are these moving? Yes, and as a matter of fact you are getting sleepy, very very sleepy. You will do my bidding… (slide4) OK. What about this crucifixion scene? Do you see anything here? (ClickMouse) How about now? (Go to blank slide).
Kevin, would you come up here please? Smile for the people? Would you please tell everyone, what you told me when I asked you how you lost your teeth? So with that in mind? Would you still say that seeing is believing?
Take today for example. It would seem that today you have arrived at a completion, and end a type of graduation if you will. I mean, come on, you are even wearing gowns. But seeing is not always believing, today is not the end of something but it is a beginning. In a moment you are going to stand up here and say before God and before these people that the faith you were baptized into is now your faith, and not only that, but you are going to live out and live your life according to that faith. This is no small matter it is a very big deal.
Today’s worship has come together rather nicely to emphasize this theme. You hear it in the words that are spoken, in the songs that are song, through everything the message that is communicated to you is that today is not an end. It is a part of the journey that you are on.
But it is not the beginning either. The beginning was that day when water was splashed on your head and you were baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Today that faith given to you baptism is confirmed by the Holy Spirit and by you. You won’t look any different when you leave, but neither will things be the same.
In Matthew’s gospel there is a story about Jesus and his disciples. It is sometime after that first Easter, and you have to guess that these guys are still trying to get a grasp on what is going on. I mean the things that they have experienced are not exactly, well normal. I mean they certainly didn’t go the way that they were expecting them to go, not according to their plans anyway. They were probably wondering why God didn’t consult them first, you know, just to make sure that his plans lined up with theirs.
They were expecting Jesus to come in and kick the Romans out and to take revenge on all of their enemies and to become King forever. Instead Jesus goes and dies on the cross, and though he rose from the dead, let’s face it, this just isn’t normal.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever experienced something in life that didn’t go the way that you had planned or hoped for? You make plans, but they change at the last minute. Your friend at school is suddenly no longer your friend, and not even an explanation as to why. You worked so hard in that class and yet you get your grades and…heart ache. You make it to confirmation day, and now you find out that this is not actually the end. And that you are not actually graduating.
The fact of the matter is, that life is full of uncertainties and heart aches. Life has a way of leaving you hurting and full of sorrow. That is the nature of the world that we live in. It is a world that is corrupted and twisted and broken by sin. And as a result things don’t always go as planned.
Well, like I said, this is what the disciples were experiencing. And after Easter they find themselves in Galilee. Jesus had told them to meet him there and so there they are. They see him, and their response? What do they do? They worship him. They worship Jesus. And then we are told something interesting. Some doubted. What? That can’t be right? Does it really say that? Some doubted? Now this is not a refusal to believe kind of thing, is this more of an “I’m not too sure about this whole thing.” Kind of a response. And yet here they are. They are worshiping, but some of them are doubting.
I guess that this just goes to show that seeing really is not believing, especially when you can’t exactly believe what you are seeing. But it is not the sight of Jesus that removes this doubt. Not even close. Instead, it is his words that send that doubt running for the hills.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” This is what he tells his disciples. This story in Matthew’s gospel gives us the beginning of the Christian mission. It doesn’t begin with the disciples and their gifts and abilities. But it begins with Jesus, with his power and with his authority. He is not just watching from heaven, like we would watch a movie in the theater, but he is actively using his authority in this world. He does that in and through his people.
“I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Wow. Does this sound like the disciples are at a graduation? No way. If anything you could say this is a kind of confirmation. Jesus isn’t saying to them, well, you’ve made it. You spent the last three years with me. I’ve taught you everything that you need to know, so I’ll be seeing you around.” No Jesus says, “Go and make disciples of all the nations.”
This is not a statement that allows for a passive kind of response. He is not telling them to sit around in church, but he is telling them to go. And do you know why he is telling them to go? Because life is full of uncertainties and heart aches. Life has a way of leaving you hurting and full of sorrow. That is the nature of the world that we live in. It is a world that is corrupted and twisted and broken by sin. And so while Jesus has paid the price for the sins for the world, for your sins and for my sins. He has made us his own dear sons and daughters in the waters of baptism. He brought us into relationship with God. He is with us always. No matter what. We belong to him. And that is a source of great comfort and strength. He has done this work in our lives so that we can go and love and serve the world.
However, belonging to Jesus is not about being better or having a special stance before God. No, instead, belonging to Jesus means that you and me and all of his people are chosen to be witnesses and servants to the world. And this is how we are able to “go.”
Now that seems like a pretty big deal, and as a matter of fact, it certainly is. It is a big deal to be a part of God’s mission in this world. That is why Jesus has promised to be with us always. That is why he has given us to one another. That is why it is so very important to be part of a community of faith, to be in God’s word, and to spend time in prayer.
Because living life as one who belongs to Jesus is a life that is lived differently. It is a lived that is lived in love and service to one another, so that together we can love and serve the world, and the reason why we love and serve the world, is because of how much God loves the world. Being a Christian is not about agreeing to a certain philosophy or checking the right checks on a test, it is about a different way of life. It is about life that is lived differently from the way the world lives. That is life lived with other believers in Jesus; all for the sake of the world.
Seeing is indeed not believing, and if you still don’t believe me, I can put some of those circles back up there until you do believe me.
Today is not the end, it is not a graduation, but it is important. And so let me leave you with this thought. You are not the future of the church. You are not the church’s future. You are now, at this moment, as we sit here, you are the church now. There is no need to wait, because Jesus’ words to “go and make disciples” are spoken to you as well. And so today, before God and before these people you confirm your partnership and your membership and your role in the mission that God has given us as his church to do in this world. And know that you are not alone. You are in very good company (Play Video).
I am so proud of you. Welcome to the family. Welcome to the mission. Welcome to life. Amen.