“And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each.” Acts 2:6
As has become our tradition, today’s sermon on this Day of Pentecost is addressed to our confirmands. But I hope everyone else will eavesdrop and heard a word for your life too.
Brian, Ellie, Tayla, Samantha, John, and Jared:
Every year I say that I can’t believe this day has come. Two years goes fast. But this time it feels like the past two years have gone extra fast. I’m not sure why, but here we are.
You have worked hard. You’ve worked hard to study the commandments and creeds, to learn stories from the New Testament and the Old Testament. You’ve drawn those stories and sculpted them and acted them out and discussed them together. You’ve tried different ways of praying and different ways of reading the Bible and different ways of understanding God’s gifts to you. You’ve learned more about what makes us Lutheran.
Among the many things that I appreciate about all of you, I love that you have amazing questions. Questions like:
- Will Jesus come back, or will someone else represent God in the way that Jesus did?
- How does the Bible help us make sense of science – and vice versa?
- Why does God allow so much suffering in this world?
- How does God forgive even the worst people?
I’ve loved wrestling with these questions along with you. I think you know by now that the most important questions, like these, don’t have easy answers. What’s most important is that God has given each of us a brain with which to grapple with questions – and to think of new questions – throughout our lives. Confirmation class might be over, but I hope the learning and growing you do in faith will never be over.
You also have some important wisdom. I love how clearly you have grasped some of the most profound truths of our faith. In your own words:
- God’s presence is everywhere. And even though God is sometimes not so very pleased with us, God still loves us.
- God can help us make difficult decisions.
- Even in dark times, God is there and is always gracious to us.
You understand – as well as any of us can understand – that God’s grace and love are bigger than the limits we try to place on it.
As one of you told me this week, “God has a space for everyone. There’s always a door for everyone, even if they’ve done something bad. God forgives that.”
It’s a weird and wonderful story, this story of Pentecost that we hear today. Remember that when this story begins, Jesus’ disciples are waiting, just as he had told them to do before he ascended into heaven. He’s given them a job to tell others about his love for all people, not just in their neighborhood but in the whole world. I’m pretty sure that when this story begins, the disciples are sitting around freaking out about how they’re going to do that.
And then, before they can figure out what’s happening, the Holy Spirit comes rushing through with fire and with a crazy wind. The disciples begin to speak, probably unsure at first of what they were saying, but amazed to discover that they are speaking in languages that they have never known before. All of those people gathered together from all of these places can understand what the disciples are saying. Everybody hears in their own language.[i]
This is one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible, and this time I kept thinking about how the Holy Spirit didn’t expect everybody to be the same. The people gathered together in Jerusalem from all of those different cities and countries do not have to give up what makes them unique in order to be part of this church that the Spirit is bringing together. What gives them their identities – the places they call home, the languages they speak – those identities are honored in this special way.
If you hear nothing else today, I want you to hear this. And I want to be as clear as I can be. You are exactly who God has created you to be. God honors what makes you uniquely you. There will be a lot of people who will try to convince you that you should try to be someone else, that you should be a little more this way or a little less that way. Do not listen to them. You are beautifully and wonderfully made, and while there will be plenty to learn along the way, you do not have to be anyone other than who you are.
Please remember that God’s love for you is entirely unrelated to what you are able to do. You have so many talents, and I love watching and hearing about how you use them – in classrooms, on the soccer field, on the basketball court, on the piano bench, in the jazz band, on stage, on a track, here at church, in leadership roles, in Scouts, in service to others, in friendships, in your families.
But God does not wait for what you will accomplish or what you will achieve to decide whether or not you are worth loving. You just are. Already. You have been from the moment you were born. God loves you just as you are right now. Your story, which some days can feel small and unimportant, is a part of God’s larger story, which means that your story always matters– even on those days when you’re not sure what you believe or what you should do.
In a few minutes you will step up here and make some promises about how you will try to live out what Jesus has taught us. As we’ve discussed, several of those promises aren’t easy – serving all people, sharing the good news of Jesus is word anddeed, working for justice and peace. As you seek to live out those promises, remember that all of the people in this room – and many more – surround you and support you and love you. They are another gift that God has given you.
But most of all remember that God loves you, that God is with you always. The same God you loved you and claimed you as God’s own on the day of your baptism loves you and claims you now. That love will never leave you – no matter what. Amen.
S.D.G. – The Rev. Dr. Christa M. Compton, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Chatham, NJ