Rev. Teri Peterson
Ridgefield-Crystal Lake Presbyterian Church
The Adventure Continues
1 John 1.1-2, 18-24, 4.10-12
May 20 2007, Confirmation Day
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when Christ is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is.
Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before God whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and God knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey God’s commandments and do what pleases him.
And this is God’s commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey Christ’s commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us. In this is love, not that we loved God but that God loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and God’s love is perfected in us.
For the past 19 weeks, something very exciting has been going on in this church. 20 youth, two adults, lots of parents, and I have been gathering here every Sunday night. We’ve shared dinners together—we lost count of the number of times we ate lasagna, though I believe the count stands somewhere around 8. We’ve shared stories of friends and family, homework and exams, pom tryouts, school musicals, and sports. We’ve also shared the stories of Abraham, Moses, Deborah, Ruth, David, Jesus, Paul, Peter, and even Emperor Constantine. We’ve talked about God’s call, we’ve talked about prayer, we’ve talked about worship, we’ve talked about what it means to be Presbyterian, we even talked a little about church history. We’ve explored who we are, what gifts God has given us, and how we can use them. We’ve talked about different ways to practice our faith. The youth have written faith statements and shared them with the session. We’ve talked with mentors, we’ve been on a retreat, we even re-enacted the Exodus during a lock-in, with Kettle Korn for manna in the wilderness of the choir room. We have talked about how to be good hosts and good guests, and we visited two other churches and a synagogue. It’s been a busy semester here at RCLPC!
We’ve done a lot of talking, a lot of storytelling. Can you believe we did all of this in just 19 weeks? The confirmation class has spent a lot of their time thinking about faith, church, and life, and how they’re connected. They’ve done the reading, the praying, the writing, the homework…so, if you’re looking for answers, these 20 youth can give them to you!
Just kidding, of course…one of the things we learned in this class is that there are no easy answers, that the mystery of God is always just a bit larger than our heads, that life and faith is a journey—and adventure—not a destination. We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.
The beginning of that journey is not, as some might think, the beginning of the class. Nor is it the first time we came to church, or the first time we read the Bible. The beginning of the journey can be found, according to this letter from John, in God’s love. God loved us, and so we embark on this journey, this adventure, of loving God and the world. That, says John, is what the life of faith is about. It’s not about having the right answers, it’s about loving people and continuing on the journey.
Many years ago now, most of these youth, and most of you, marked a symbolic beginning of this adventure by being baptized. Does anyone here remember their own baptism? Do you remember the hands and the water, the prayers, what you were wearing, how you felt? Do you remember the words that were said? In many churches, after a child has been baptized the pastor says these words from the first letter of John, “see what love God has for us, that we should be called children of God—and so we are.” It’s a wonderful thing, to be children of God. To be part of God’s family, to be part of the communion of saints, to be part of the church community—a community that promises to journey together on the adventure.
It’s not just the parents or just the pastors who are busy nurturing kids and youth in the life of faith. We all promise to guide and nurture those baptized. On the green bulletin insert you can see the names of people who nurtured these youth just during the past five months—if we put down everyone for the past 15 years, I suspect the bulletin insert would look rather like the church directory. Take a look at the youth being confirmed today. If you have ever been a Sunday School or Vacation Bible School teacher for one of these youth, raise your hand. If you have ever helped with their youth group, raise your hand. If you have ever been led in worship by any of these youth, raise your hand. If you have ever had a conversation—about church, life, school, anything—with one of these youth, raise your hand. If you have been involved in the confirmation class as a small group leader, a mentor, a driver, a chaperone, a chef, raise your hand.
I don’t want to be cliché here, but really—it takes the whole church. All of you play an integral role in the faith journeys of the people around you. From baptism to confirmation and well beyond, we are all companions on the journey of faith and life together. See what love God has for us, that we should be called children of God, and placed into God’s family in this place? And so we are.
What’s less often said at baptisms, at least of infants, is that it’s not always easy. We rarely say anything about call, about mission, about ministry in the tough places, when we have a cute baby up front. But it’s there. Baptism is a symbol of grace, it’s true. But it’s also a symbol of our calling. “If we love one another, God lives in us.” I think we often toss this kind of language around—Jesus living in our hearts, being Christlike—without thinking about it’s implications. After all, it’s kind of a tall order—to love one another, everyone, and so be the bearers of God’s image in the world.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this, of course. Way back in Genesis it says that God made humankind in God’s image. Since the beginning, we’ve been God’s image-bearers. But now here’s John telling us exactly what that means: when we love one another, even the people who are hard to love, even the ones who don’t want to be loved, even the ones who make us angry or persecute us or who do ridiculous things—then people can see God in and through us.
This is what we’re baptized into. This is the call symbolized at our baptisms, the call we renew every time we take part in a baptism here, the call we claim at confirmation. This is a call extends through our whole lives. When Martin Luther put his hand on his forehead and reminded himself “I am baptized,” he remembered not only the amazing gift of grace, the incredible privilege of being part of God’s family, the love that was there for him before he could love back, a love he could never repay. He remembered also the call to share that love, to bear God’s image in the world. He didn’t know what that would look like, or how he would do it, but he knew it was his calling.
That’s what we do here today. As we celebrate the journey these youth have been on, we reflect on our own journeys, and we celebrate that the adventure is not over—the adventure continues, now and throughout our whole lives. We don’t know where the road will take us, but we travel it anyway. As John says in his letter: “We are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed.” We can look and look, but we can’t know the future. All we can know is that God loved us in the beginning, before we could love God back, and that God will continue to love us and journey with us.
So, while I won’t say the journey will be easy, I will say it will be an adventure. Some of the things God calls us to do are hard. Some of them require disturbing amounts of hard work. Some are relatively simple. We do them all out of love—the love that has its beginning and its ending in God.
In a few minutes we will witness some amazing youth claiming these promises and claiming their call. They come to officially join the church, to affirm their faith, to take up their calling to proclaim the gospel at all times, using words when necessary. They are excited and ready to be a part of this community. They’re ready to be the hands and feet of Christ in the world. They understand that it’s not all fun and games, though there are fun and games to be had…they’re ready to be in ministry with all of you. Are you ready to be in ministry with them? Get ready, because together, with God’s love living in us, we can change the world.
As the adventure continues, may it be so.
Thanks be to God.