Message given by Amy Beck and Jim Dunlop
Sunday May 23
Because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.
PREFACE for 8:15:
The message for today was prepared to be addressed to the confirmands. Nonetheless, the message for today is universally applied. For those of you have become adults in the eyes of the church, we hope the message will remind you how you can continue to take serious the promises you assumed when you were confirmed. For those of you yet to become adults in the eyes of the church through confirmation–recognize that at some point in the future, we as a congregation, will ask you to assume responsibilities for the promises made at your baptism. Today, we ask a special group of 15 young adults to take on these promises made on their behalf long ago.
Kelsey, Larry, Landon, Braden, Owen, Jason, “Bob” or Seth, Mike, Carrie or “Lucy”, Elise, Katie, Maggie, Chelsea, Olivia, and Sylvia…It is hard to believe that this day has arrive. Jim and I both remember 3 years ago when we started working with this group as 7th Graders, they were full of energy and had trouble sitting still. When we would attempt to circle up and have a discussion with the group, we quickly learned that sharing highs/lows was about as far as we could get…we thought that this group may produce some future actors/actresses because all we could get them to do that first year was role play the lesson of the day. We also thought they had a pretty easy life when their low for the week would be coming to confirmation or that they had school on Monday. At the conclusion of their 7th Grade years, teachers began conversations about remaining with a class for all 3 years to establish a relationship with the group which would help with future discussions. Because of the energy and the dynamics that this group displayed, the other teachers were very open to Jim and I remaining with this group for all 3 years. I can honestly say that it has been a true blessing because we have seen this group grow in relationship with one another and as a community of faith. But, we were never able to gel the girls and guys together…
You may not know this, but I never was really interested in teaching confirmation. In my ideal world, Sunday School or Confirmation would be best spent at the Ragged Edge with an Egg Sandwich and cup of coffee. Part of me secretly longed for the day where I could drop my family off at church and sneak away for an hour to enjoy the guilty pleasure of a newspaper, food, and coffee.
Reluctantly I agreed to get involved for a year to fill in. I’m not sure who I was filling in for, but, why not? I could do it. I would help Amy with the “squirrelly” 7th graders for a year and then they could find a real teacher. Then we decided to stick with you guys through today and I couldn’t say “no” to that.
Around this same time, I became a parent. My daughter Addison was born and she was baptized. In Romans today, we hear about receiving the “spirit of adoption.” With the presence of the Holy Spirit in baptism, we are adopted and claimed by God. The 15 of you have helped me understand my role as Addison and Samuel’s father. (By the way: thanks to everyone who took turns holding baby Addy and baby Sam in confirmation classes over the past few years.) At baptism, I made some promises–as did your parents at yours. We promise to teach the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and place in their hands the holy scripture. We promised to bring them faithfully to God’s house. The 15 of you have helped me understand it because you’re at the opposite end of your parents’ promises made for you.
Today, you take on those promises for yourselves. Today, we (“we” being you AND us) affirm your baptisms and you become adults in the eyes of this congregation.
As I think about the promises I have recently made for my children, I am VERY excited about the promises you are making today for yourselves.
We won’t be naive to think that all 15 of you will continue to arrive faithfully each week as you have for the past number of years–now as your own decision (I know I didn’t want to go once I was your age). However, there’s no reason why that can’t be the case-you continue to participate each week. If we know anything about these young adults, it’s that they’re not normal.
For 3 years, in Sunday School and on retreats, you felt like you were at a middle school dance, the girls sat on one side and the boys sat on the other. Very rarely would you see Larry and Jason try and break that barrier. Although, Jason must have finally got through! As Jim and I were looking back over the last 3 years of retreats and Sunday School, there are traits to each one of you that cannot be forgotten…
Although the last 3 years were a lot of fun and have produced some great memories, there is also a very serious side to confirmation and that is the responsibility and commitment that you will be making today…
Don’t think that it doesn’t matter; it does.
Our congregation welcomes these 15 adults today as full members–brothers and sisters in Christ. And we need you now more than ever.
You are able to serve on council. While we have always had a youth member of council, there’s no reason why we can’t have more. Your status is now no different that of your parents.
You can teach Sunday School. Our elementary rotation Sunday School program is desperate need of teachers. You can teach. As a side note, we promise that you will learn more by teaching than your students will–trust us, we’ve learned a lot from you.
This congregation struggles at times to come up with a quorum at its congregational meetings–15 new adults can make a profound difference. You could represent this congregation at Synod Assembly some year–each congregation gets to send a male and female voting member–there’s no rule on age.
Here’s the challenge: you get to decide for yourself. I imagine for some of you (ok, all of you–myself included) the temptation to do nothing and not come to church will be strong. Hey, it’s your choice, right? Sadly a majority of the baptized and confirmed members of this congregation make that very choice each week.
But that’s what’s easy. That’s what’s average. Unfortunately, it’s what’s normal.
You are none of those things. If there’s anything we’ve learned about you guys is that is not who you are. You don’t conform. You are like no other class. You are quirky. You are adventurous. You are brutally honest. You care. God has chosen each of you. God has claimed each of you.
Here’s what we’ve learned about you in the past three years:
- Kelsey-She can definitely throw a football! She showed the guys up in this class With everything she is involved with; she is hard to keep up with!
- Larry-You knew you could always give Larry a hard time until it came to the Steelers and Football, then you crossed the line
- Braden-He was always wearing shorts, no matter how cold it was outside or if there was snow on the ground. If you asked him where he wanted to be, he would always say in bed/sleeping.
- Owen-His Dirt Bike was his life. Nawakwa will never forget him since he left his mark! We also learned that he is all talk…so much for wearing that Snuggie publicly at McDonald’s Owen!
- Jason-We thought he was quiet with not much to say but suddenly turned to a comedian-in-chief of the group…and a ladies’ man much to our surprise.
- Seth “Bob”-Bad News, you still have school tomorrow…his low was always school on Monday or coming to confirmation until he went on the 8th Grade DC trip and then that was his new low. He never ceased to amaze us like the one Sunday he got up and won the FinkBowl…Bob does talk!
- Mike-All Around Kid-Athlete and Chef, He always wanted to be doing something and he was always the first one up on retreats to help with preparing breakfast.
- Carrie or is it Lucy-was responsible for decoding Jason…did not know you had that ability.
- Elise-Loves her sisters and we learned how important her family was to her. She was always happier when her sisters were home.
- Katie-She is a concerned/loyal friend…always look out for her friends well being.
- Maggie-Would be the one with the insightful answers…she may have been the only one to take Jim and I seriously She was also the one that no one wanted to go up against in the FinkBowl competitions.
- Olivia-Was always very committed to the group. Made Owen jealous with her Snuggie
- Sylvia-was very quiet, had a great smile and wore that well…Maybe she was hoping we would not ask too many questions then! She would answer a question if we asked her directly!
- Chelsea-God knows you, has claimed you, and loves you. We hear you really know your stuff and are strong in your faith.
- Landon- although you were really quiet, you were always the first to jump up when we mentioned Capture The Flag.
You’re now adults in the church and you decide where you will enter the life of St. James. The choice is 100% yours. What are you going to do about it?
On Pentecost, when we listen to and read the Acts passage we are reminded of our uniqueness when we hear of the disciples each speaking in their native tongue. Our hope today is that we can bring a little fire to this group. The Holy Spirit is inside each of you. How will you respond to its calling?
Can you imagine if you all got yourselves elected to council in the next few years? Why not? It’s possible. What would happen in this congregation? Would it be business as usual? I doubt it.
What would the generation of children behind you be like if you all made a commitment to mentor these elementary kids by teaching their Sunday School class?
What would the financial priorities of this congregation be if the 15 you joined the Finance Committee?
What would happen if 1 of you showed up? Things would change. Things would be different. It only takes 1 of you to create positive energy…What can happen with 5 of you? What can happen with 10 of you? What in the world might happen if the 15 of you accept your invitation into full adult membership of this congregation by rolling up your sleeves and making a profound commitment to stay engaged?
This is in no way to guilt you into deciding to keep coming here. It’s your decision. If you feel any guilt at all–it’s entirely of your doing. There are plenty of role models in this and other congregations who would say, you can just walk away now and choose not to come.
But there are faithful servants who we would choose as role models above that.
Take Pastor Sam Schmitthenner–a retired pastor, missionary, and constant source of energy. Does he still need to keep teaching Sunday School to 6th graders or showing up to the youth house every Wednesday morning to help wash dishes? No one would think any less of him if he hung it up. Oh, and does he need to keep writing books to share?.
Or what about David Shaffer. Most kids his age are out having too much fun and not going to church. With Amy leaving, David has stepped forward to lead our youth ministry. What a blessing he will be in your lives in the months ahead as we figure out how to fill the gaping holes that Amy leaves behind.
Of course, we all know Mike Guise. On any given communion service, Mike carefully counts the number of communion assistants and leaps to the altar to fill in when someone has forgotten it was their week to serveJ In between services, he and Jack Crist faithfully move around to all the Sunday School classes collecting the offering.
Another favorite person of mine is Karen Smith. Last year when you were in DC on the 8th grade trip. Karen, always the last person in line, counts our confirmands over and over to be sure that we’ve not lost anyone as we walk countless miles through the busy blocks of our nation’s capital.
Those are only a few of the people who have chosen to listen to where God is calling them. It is often very easy to ignore God’s call. But imagine if the Holy Spirit had descended among the disciples–now on their own–and they had disregarded its calling. Where would any of us be today?
Do what you want–you will anyway. God has gathered and claimed you. Today you assume responsibilities for the promises made at your baptism. While Romans reminds us that we all are Children of God being led by the Holy Spirit; you become adults in the Church. As an adult in this congregation, what is God asking of you?
And by the way–these questions were not for our 15 new adult siblings–they’re for all of us.