Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sermon for Pentecost 8: "God is For You"

A Sermon for the Confirmation of Victoria Shatro
            For most everyone here today, this is an ordinary Sunday morning, just like every other Sunday morning we come to church. 
            But for Torie – this is a special day – it is the day she will confirm her faith.  It is her confirmation day. 
            It is a day that means many different things – and just one.  Confirmation Day is a day when a young person, in some ways, becomes an adult in the eyes of the church.
             In that way, it is a little like your Quinceanera last March, Torie, because at that time you vowed that you would be a Christian young woman,
            you received encouragement and prayers from the people who gathered, and – I remember this – you changed from wearing flat shoes to wearing heels – a sign that you are growing up.

            Confirmation, too, is a sign of growing up. 
            Today you will make promises to be a follower of Jesus, to “confirm” the faith given to you when you were baptized, the faith so many people have shared with you throughout the years. 
            But confirmation isn’t JUST a sign of growing up. 
            And it’s not just a day to MAKE promises to God – but it’s a day to remember the promises God has given to us.

            Promises like this:  “the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness… because we don’t know how to pray but the Holy Spirit prays for us….”
            Promises like this… “All things work together for Good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”
            Promises like this…. “If God is for us, who is against us?” 
            Or promises like this…. “Can anything separate us from the love of God?  No, I am convinced that neither life nor death, nor anything else in all creation can ever separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
            Today these are promises for you, Torie, for this day when you will make promises of your own,
            promises to be faithful to God as God has already been faithful to you, promises to worship and serve and share and shine your light in the world…..

            The most important thing to remember is that God’s promises come before ours. 
            That everything we do and everything we are is a response to God who has given us such a firm foundation. 
            Nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.  Nothing. 
            God is for us.  God is for US,  and not because we’re so perfect, or have dotted all of the I’s or crossed all of the t’s. 
            God is for us, because the one who created us, sees beneath the flaws and the failures, the sees beneath the regrets and the sorrows, sees one for whom Christ lived, and died and rose.  
            God is for US – and God is FOR us – and I don’t mean that God will make sure that nothing bad ever happens to us, or that we will live a charmed life. 
            God is for us means that in the midst of everything that will happen to us – good and bad, success and failure, life and death – God will not desert you.  

            I remember once using this scripture reading at a funeral. 
            And the person who was to read brought a different version of the scripture, and when she read it, it made me sit up straight, because here is what she read,
            “Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love?  Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?”  
            The answer to these questions is “No.”    
            Whatever happens to us, whatever our life looks like on the outside, whether we’re having hard times or good times:  God is for us.  God is for you. 
            Nothing in all creation can separate you from God’s love.

            You may not know this today, but you will experience it some days – that there are things in the world that try to separate us from the love of God.,
            try to convince you that God is NOT for you, that God doesn’t care about you. 
            I remember reading a memoir this past year, and there was this memorable little story in it. 
            The boy grew up up very poor in a sort of chaotic household. 
            And he relates a day that he turns to his grandmother, in the midst of some family crisis or another, and says to her, “Does God love us?”         That broke my heart.  The circumstances of his life caused him to doubt the love of God for him. 

            But that brings me to one other thing I want to say today. 
            We have this foundation, this unshakeable foundation – this gift of God’s love that never leaves us or fails us. 
            You have it Torie – you received it when you were baptized – and everyone else here has it too – but we also have a calling.  And this day is about both of those things – this gift and this calling. 

            And “God is for you” means that too. 
            God is for you means that God has called you to be his person in the world, that God has said, “I want Torie to be one of my people, not just to experience my gifts and my love.
            But also I want Torie to be one of my people to share that love with the world.    

            I remember the agony of getting chosen, or not getting chosen, for things when I was in high school.  Mostly sports. 
            We used to divide up the class into two teams to play softball, or basketball, and I always worried about whether I would be chosen, because I wasn’t very good. 
            And then one day I remember getting to be one of the first ones chosen – for basketball. 
            To this day I have no idea why my classmate chosen me – but you know what – I LOVE basketball. 

            I don’t know what God will call you to do, Torie –
            I know you have a heart for children, and a strong spirit.  I know that you are a pretty good public speaker. 
            Maybe someday you’ll help build a well in Africa.  Maybe you’ll advocate for those who are weak and vulnerable in the world. 
            Maybe you’ll tell a small boy somewhere, that God does too love him – and that Jesus died for him. 
            Maybe you’ll cook food for homeless people.  Maybe you’ll walk alongside people who are grieving. 
            Maybe you’ll bring communion to shut-ins. 
            Because God calls us in our whole life, not just one part of them, to know that God is for us.

            This is no ordinary day.  not just for Torie – but for all of us.
             It is the day of Torie’s confirmation, but it is also a day for us to re-affirm our faith, to stand on that firm foundation once again and put our trust in the one who promises to never leave us or forsake us.  
             It’s a day for all of us to delight in the grace of God, the gifts of God, and our calling to be an instrument of that love in the world.   

            Because nothing can separate us from the love of God. 
            Not the things you can imagine, and the things you can’t imagine.  Not the past, not the future.  Not poverty – or even riches. 
            Not grief or joy or struggle or success.  God is for you --- and has called you to live with him – not just in heaven, but in every day, and in everything you do.



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