First Lesson: Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26
Responsive Reading: Psalm 1
Second Lesson: 1 John 5: 9-13
Gospel Lesson: John 17: 6-19
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Let me begin this morning like I begin nearly every Sunday morning with a story. Let’s go back in time to the year 1994. We know 1994 for Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan, Forrest Gump, and the death of the voice of Generation X - Kurt Cobain.
1994 was the year of my own confirmation at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lindstrom. Picture me in 1994, rocking a mop-top haircut, about twenty pounds heavier without the muscle. I liked to dress with jeans so baggy that you wouldn’t want to run down the street due to the risk of being arrested. I thought Snoop Doggy Dogg as people knew him back then was God’s gift to music. I still got yelled at by my parents plenty at home! I will admit that after years of self-reflection that they were probably generally right.
I want to tell you a story from my own confirmation that serves as a public confession. My class had about forty kids. We had so many kids that we needed to have a rehearsal for the confirmation ceremony a few days before. When you have forty kids trying to follow directions, you are bound to have some chaos. Having turned fifteen just a couple weeks prior, I thought I was a lot smarter than I really was. So I desired to show off my cleverness to some of my friends. I wasn’t really all that unique for a fifteen-year-old. So as me and some friends were standing right next to the Everlasting or Eternal Candle. This candle that shines in our presence this morning is always lit to symbolize “How the promises of the Gospel shall never leave us or forsake us”.
Now in my fifteen-year-old mind, I figured that the reason that this candle always stayed lit is because it must be one of those trick candles that I had seen at birthday parties. So I asked my friends to watch as I gently blew over the top of it (hoping to get a laugh). My plan didn’t work though as the candle went out, and smoke started filling the sanctuary. I figured I was for sure going to hell at this point! I avoided getting caught since there was no way to keep straight who was doing what. I lacked the courage at this stage in my life to confess my sin. What this story illustrates is that if anyone had any doubts that God could forgive them for what they’ve done wrong, look no further than myself standing up here today.
Today’s confirmation lesson comes to us from Acts the 1st Chapter. Our lesson comes to us from the earliest days of the Christian church. It’s a tale of the eleven remaining disciples of Jesus as they seek to chart out a course in this world. Many of us wrongly think that faith would be easy if only our lives could encounter Jesus just like the Disciples did. The Disciples lives though were anything but easy. The Disciples had plenty of disappointments and fears as they lived during the Church’s early few years. The Disciples encountered all sorts of nasty things being said about them and received all kinds of threats of physical violence as they looked out onto the horizon until the Lord’s return. The Disciples could have easily given up on trying to establish a church, yet they didn’t. The Disciples knew that starting the Christian church was a matter of life and death that went beyond even their lives or death.
In today’s lesson, The Disciples need to choose a replacement for Judas, so they decide to cast lots. The Disciples pick a man named Matthias. Today’s sermon though is not about Matthias. Matthias is perhaps the least famous Disciple. There are no books of the Bible named after him.
All that we know about Matthias is that legend has him traveling around the Greek coast trying to start churches. Matthias’ story is ultimately the story of the Confirmation class for today. Your story from this day forward is an open book. The question for this morning is “How do we be a church in a world that seemingly rejects its authority more every single day?”
You might wonder how did I go from a poorly behaved confirmation student to a confirmation preacher? I began to realize a few things about life.
To do this reflection, let me reflect on the words of the great American philosopher P. Diddy. P Diddy back in the day came out with a well-known tract called “Coming Home.” This song actually has quite a bit to do with Diddy’s spiritual journey.
Diddy in the Chorus cries out:
“I’m coming home; I’m coming home! Tell the world I’m coming home. Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday. I know my kingdom awaits, and they’ve forgiven my mistakes.”
Diddy's whole song is expressing a yearning for redemption. The whole song consists of Diddy expressing remorse for how he treated his baby mama and his kids. Diddy reflects upon painful memories such as the Death of his best friend, the Notorious Big. Diddy is expressing his desire to go home is hoping to go to the one place on earth where he might be forgiven for his mistakes. For P. Diddy is going through a spiritual crisis that we often see in the Church, Diddy's expressing a drowning through his awareness of his guilt and sin.
My message for this morning is never get like P Diddy though and believe that you have sins that God can't possibly forgive. For God is working in your life in ways that might not be obvious today, they might not be clear for ten-twenty or even thirty years. Our God will not stop loving you! Our God will love you irregardless of your imperfections, your failures or your sins.
The reason that I dedicate my life to this type of work is because everyone needs forgiveness. People out there can and will say all sorts of nasty things about you. The reason that the Church exists in my life is because I need a means of hope in a fallen world. I need to be a part of a place that looks beyond what we see every single day. I need at times of joy, celebration, and death to be in the presence of people who also believe that God is somehow working through it all. I long for Water, Wine, Wheat, and Word that no one else can give outside these walls. I could have very easily stopped being involved in the church after I was confirmed. I would have rather slept in on a Sunday morning. What brings me to church is the opportunity to connect real life experiences with what’s going on deep with my soul (sin, grace, law and gospel). The candle never stopped burning even as I attempted to blow it out!
The thing about your life ahead is that it will not go according to the script. You will probably have your heart broken. You will come to a place where you yearn for answers. It is at these moments that I pray that through it all you see that this is the place that shall stand beside you. We do not stand beside you because we are perfect ourselves. “We are an imperfect church made for imperfect people”. We rather stand beside you because this place belongs to Jesus. We belong to the one who promises to stand alongside you until bringing you till the day of Resurrection.
We are now at the end of our confirmation journey. The times of high/lows, would you rathers, watching me throwing Catechisms around the room, Sardines, Mafia, Toilet Plunger vs. Toilet Brush Hockey, and hearing legendary stories of Randy LaBarge wrestling a bear in his underwear has come to an end.
I want to conclude this morning by saying a few words about each of our confirmands.
Brandon Dow- Brandon’s passions are the Boy Scouts and being outdoors. Brandon my words of wisdom for you this morning are “own the type of person” that you want to be. Don’t buy anybody else’s generic brand. What I have learned in my thirty-five years of living is that there are going to be people that aren’t going to click with you for whatever reason. There are going to be people who lack the courage to stand beside you when you need the most. Brandon if you “own the type of person” that you want to be. You will be less concerned with what others are going to think about you. You will come across the type of people that wish to be what you’re ultimately about in the end. For those who reject you for who you are, their behavior says more about them then it ultimately does about you. Brandon, I’ve dealt with you quite a bit over the past few years. You do have a lot going for you. Remember that you need to be your own brand of awesome, not anybody else’s.
Nick Perfetto- Nick’s a fiery, competitive guy. When Nick thinks he knows an answer when playing Jeopardy, Nick leaps up from his chair. I’ve had to try to get Nick to chillax on more than one occasion. Nick’s deep, dark secret since he’s getting confirmed I can blast to the whole town of Silver Bay is one time when traveling down to Adventure Zone in Duluth, Nick kept pressuring me to play the song “Roar” by Katy Perry until he finally wore me down. Nick absolutely loved coming to confirmation at Sychar. Nick’s asked if he could come back even next year. Nick’s energy is what makes me excited to finally be able to have a youth group for kids that we confirm today in the years ahead.
Hunter Monson- QB 1. The neat thing about Hunter being with us the past few years has been seeing his growth as a human being. Hunter has been more responsible, helped keep the class on track at times, all the while remaining his smooth self. For the record, Hunter Monson is the only person that has ever sent me a text message stating “sup girl.” Hunter will often come early to Confirmation, and one of the best things about him is watching him interact with our Little Fishes. Hunter can get the kids’ affection in a short amount of time. Hunter, I want to personally “thank you” for choosing Sychar as the place of your confirmation journey.
Zach Lewis- Zach hit a shot to win a JV basketball game against Cook County earlier this year. I believe that I was the only adult to storm the court afterward to give Zach a running high-five. I’m sure that I looked like a huge dork at this moment, but the thing is that I really don’t care. I am how I am, and for that I don’t apologize. Leaders will always stay faithful to their convictions above all else. Zach was a leader amongst our confirmation class. What is noteworthy about Zach is the way that he leads, he doesn’t compromise, he will not sell people out, he keeps his cool and he believes that he can get his point across without sheer intimidation. Zach carries himself in a way that commands the respect of others. Zach your role going forward in this world will be defined by these very things that you do so well.
Sylvia Davey- Sylvia had an interesting confirmation experience being one of the two girls along with Lily Lewis with upwards of ten boys at times. Sylvia could tell you all that a person could ever want to know about the behavior of 8th, 9th, and 10th-grade boys. Marc and Becky need not worry though as Sylvia was more than able to hold her own when kids got out of line. The thing that stands out about Sylvia is her loyalty to others from family to friends to her own commitments. Last Wednesday due to school scheduling conflicts, we had no kids due to track meets, softball games, and baseball games. Sylvia asked me if she should skip, so that she wouldn’t miss the last confirmation. Sylvia’s loyalty is on display as she plays Basketball all winter, regardless of the outcome, her attitude stays the same. When the boys would get rowdy Sylvia’s attitude towards them would be the very same the next week as the previous week. All these things speak to Sylvia’s ultimate character as we reflect upon what she has brought to this church.
Gunnar Frahm-The thing that stands out to me about Gunnar is his rare sense of selflessness. I’ve had Mr.Nicklay, and teachers make comments to me unprovoked about the rare type of kid that Gunnar is always going out of his way to help others. Just last weekend, Gunnar sent me a text message hoping to buy his mom flowers so that he may honor her in front of the church. When I talk to Gunnar about his plans, his number one goal is not his own personal interests. Gunnar’s number one goal is to see to it that Renee and Faith are always in good care. Gunnar knows that he’s a bit different in how he sees the world from other kids. Gunnar, I want you to look at this is a good thing.
I once had a wise professor say unto me “No one ever changed the church or the world by following someone else’s path”. Gunnar I ask that you go through life with patience, your time will come, and when it does it will be awesome.
You will someday be able to see the purpose behind God’s plan for your life. You will be able to see that God’s will for you is always good as you encounter the one who gave himself for you upon a cross.
Let us as a congregation give thanks to our confirmation class today. We confirm a group that has celebrated Sychar over the years. We celebrate receiving as members here today the future of this church. Thanks be to God for his work and presence in the lives of Brandon, Nick, Hunter, Zach, Sylvia, and Gunnar on this day.
Pastor Stew Carlson
These are all Sunday sermon's written by Pastor Stew.