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June 5, 2022
Today’s sermon, as is our tradition, is addressed to the confirmands. I invite all of you to listen in and find a word for your life as well.
Dear Ellie, Peyton, Alex, Gabriela, and Anika,
It’s been a wild and winding path to this day, hasn’t it? Your confirmation group has had the most number of adjustments to make along the way. We started our classes outside. For a while we met in the narthex with the doors and the windows open and our chairs really spread out. We eventually made our way to the Fellowship Hall, masking and putting our chairs in all kinds of weird configurations. We masked until fairly recently. I think there were a few Zoom sessions thrown in there. You have had to be flexible, ready to try something different at a moment’s notice. You have found your way through all of that with generosity and kindness, and I thank you for that.
In today’s world you know how tricky communication can be. Misunderstandings among friends can create all kinds of drama. And each generation, including yours, comes up with its own new language. The language of texting isn’t all that new anymore, and it’s changing all the time, but I remember a story in which a particular abbreviation created confusion between a high school student and her mom. The teenager would send a text to her mom about something important, like “Freaking out about math test” or “I feel really sick.” Her mom would often text back LOL. This young woman finally asked her mom why in the world she would be laughing out loud about these situations, and that’s when they both realized that the mom thought LOL meant “love you lots.”
That’s a funny example, but oh my goodness, there are so many times we just don’t understand each other because we aren’t communicating clearly. Poor communication is at least partially to blame for most of the fights that happen in relationships. It can even lead to larger conflicts like wars.
That’s one of the things I love most about this Pentecost story from Acts. We have these scared disciples who aren’t really sure what to do now that Jesus has returned to heaven. Jesus had promised them that this Spirit, this Advocate, would show up, but I don’t think they ever could have imagined how that would happen. And then the Holy Spirit comes rushing in, empowering the disciples to speak in front of all of these people from all of these different places. The disciples really couldn’t have imagined that all of those people from all of those places would be able to understand the disciples in the people’s own languages. It’s bonkers.
I love how God is bringing people together in this story, connecting people across all kinds of differences in geography and identity. Notice that God doesn’t ask any of those people in the crowd to give up their identities or languages, but instead makes it possible for them to communicate and build community in the midst of that diversity.
As you know, I appreciate the people in the crowd who ask the question: “What does this mean?” That’s a more helpful response than just saying “These guys are drunk!” I hope we can all stay in that place of curiosity, especially when it comes to understanding people who are different from us. What does this mean? What does this person mean? What does their story mean? What does this mean for my own learning and growth? What does this mean for how I can show up in the world?
That same Holy Spirit is at work in our own time, helping us connect with people who are different than we are and giving us power to do things we never imagined. The Holy Spirit works to build diverse communities of peace and purpose even when some people try to stir up conflict and division.
The Holy Spirit is there with each of you when you are worried about all kinds of thing: doing well in school or being a good person or treating other people with kindness or supporting your family’s well-being or meeting other people’s expectations.
The Holy Spirit is there with you when you are dreaming dreams about joining the military or going to college or finding something that makes you happy or helping others who need it or playing the sports that you love.
The Holy Spirit has already given you powerful visions for our world and for our church. These are visions we all need to hear. You have named visions for an end to war and violence, for an equal world for everyone, for good communication that leads to peace everywhere. You want our church to be a place where we can come together to help people who need help, to give back to our community, and to spread the word of God.
I love your dreams and visions. God loves your dreams and visions.
Remember that as you pursue your dreams and visions, you are not alone. That same Holy Spirit was there when you were baptized. The Spirit has been there with you as you took your first steps and started school and started to discover your gifts and passions. That Holy Spirit has surrounded you with people who love you and support you. That Spirit is with you on the stage, in the art room, or out there playing baseball or soccer or lacrosse. That Spirit follows you as you begin high school and all the adventures that await you there.
But there will be times when you will feel overwhelmed. You’ll be stressed – by the expectations that you feel from others and by the expectations you place on yourself. I want you to remember in those moments most of all that God loves you even when you fall short of all those expectations. When you feel broken or anxious, when you feel like giving up, when you think no one understands you, know that God is with you. God loves you no matter what, and nothing – nothing – can change that.
Notice, as we heard in today’s gospel, what Jesus says to his disciples as he faces his own death. He wishes them peace: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” He reminds them that his peace is not like the world’s peace. Jesus knows that the world’s peace often comes with conditions. The world wants to make us earn that peace, hustle for it. The world sometimes wants us to buy that peace with the lastest app or TikTok trend.
Jesus offers peace, like so much of what he offers, as a gift. Simply a gift. One that we can receive and share without having to “deserve” it. A peace that we can’t even understand. A gift of peace that moves within and among us, connecting us with each other and reminding us that we are held by God in every moment of every day.
As we celebrate your Confirmation today, I pray that you will be filled with that peace – and that you will carry it out into the world to share peace wherever you go. Amen.
S.D.G. – The Rev. Dr. Christa M. Compton, Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Chatham, NJ
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Join the fun this summer as we experience the ride of a lifetime with God!
Rafters will explore how to serve God and God’s mission for their lives. Rolling River Rampage VBS is for children who will be 4 years old by October 1, 2018 with the oldest completing Grade 5 in June.
Monday through Thursday, July 16-19, 9:30 am – 12:15 pm
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