Fire in the House

“Divided tongue, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them.”  To be honest, I’ve never quite gotten it … the whole “tongues of fire” thing.  I’ve probably laid hands upon the heads of 600-700 teens over the years of my ministry, and never once did a “tongue of fire” show up over some kids head.  But I know those tongues of flame have been present.

Because I have had the privilege of watching some of those young adults grow up, and express the gifts of the God – in their lives and actions.  I have been privileged to watch young adults use God’s gift of knowledge to become teachers, and bless those that they taught by opening to them the doors of wisdom that education provides.  I have seen men and women enter the health sciences, and use their gifts of healing to make people whole in their bodies and minds.  I have walked with a few who literally expressed the gifts of God for the people of God, by entering into rostered leadership in the church.  You know some of these confirmands … some who stand among you today as fellow members of the body of Christ, serving as God’s disciples leaders and servants in this congregation.  Yes, “tongues of fire” and those who walk beneath them, stand among you today here and elsewhere.  And on this morning we add to this flock of God’s servants, 15 more young adults celebrating their day of confirmation.

THE FOLLOWING YOUNG ADULTS WERE CONFIRMED AT THE 8:00 AM SERVICE

Angela … I will start with you … not because you are first alphabetically … but because of the simple beauty of the verse you chose for your Confirmation Day from the book of Romans.  For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”  Your response regarding why you chose this verse was also beautiful in its simplicity.    You wrote: “It reminds me that God is always there.”  There is beauty in simplicity, Angela … especially in a world that seems to become more complex every day.  And as the world gets more complicated, it is easy to lose sight of many things.  I hope and pray that your simple but strong faith will always lead you into God’s presence, no matter how challenging the world around you becomes.  And that through you, others will be reminded that God is there for them, too.

Zach … you have chosen a classic verse from 1 Timothy which begins “Fight the good fight of faith.” And I loved your logic for choosing it, when you wrote, “faith can be hard to remember in a world of distractions.”  Man, is that ever true.  Our world is built for distraction … it comes to us in every way possible … through our phones … through our mailboxes … through our TV’s and movies … through the words we speak to each other.  And so God’s advice to make your good confession publicly, is sound and sure.  God is not speaking of the confession of sins here, but of your confession of faith … your profession of faith … the very event which the Rite of Confirmation celebrates.  Zach, if you can remember the heart of your faith in God and find ways to speak, you will never have trouble sorting out the truth from the distractions around you … and you will thus invite others to do the same.

Lauren your verse is from another classic text from the apostle Paul:  Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not boast, it is not proud. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.  Love never fails.  And in your comments about why you chose your verse, you point right to the heart of what makes it true.  You noted that you are loved by many people in your life and they have taught you what love is and what it can accomplish.  In our world we talk about love solely as an emotion that arises within us.  In the church we recognize that love is a character trait that we are taught … and that it is an experience for which we give thanks when it is present in our lives.  Lauren, if you can experience this kind of love … this agape love that St. Paul speaks of, then you will truly be blessed in life.  And you will have the great joy of teaching others about this greatest of gifts.

Nico … you bring us sound and practical advice … that of putting worry aside wherever possible in your life.  The verse comes from one of Jesus primary teaching moments … the Sermon on the Mount … and it reminds us of what is really important in life … and what is not.  Jesus asks you … and me … and everyone here the question from your Scripture passage:  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  To know the truth behind that question, is to know how to prioritize your life … and it leads to the knowledge of where real truth is found.  My sense is that you know this truth … it is one that has been cultivated in your family … and by your choice of this verse you claim it as your own.  I can only pray that it will remain a beacon of strength when the world’s anxiety knocks on your door.

Grace … your verse is also from the Sermon on the Mount … and these earlier words from that sermon point to the importance of bearing the light of Christ in your life and in our world.  Wow … can we hear wiser or better advice?  In your comments you speak a word that we all should believe about our lives … “God has always wanted me to shine.”  You’re involved in a number of activities that give you an opportunity to “shine.”  But I’ll call out your dancing, for just a moment … because while dance has often been a venue in which our talents can be seen to shine for others, it is also an activity that conveys beauty, and in a deeper way directs us back to God, who is the source of all beauty.  Grace, I hope your dance and everything else you do, will consistently allow you to spread God’s light of joy and happiness with others.

Kyra, you drew your Confirmation verse from the psalm that was the foundation from which Martin Luther wrote our Lutheran Alma Mater … A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.  Psalm 46 was at the heart of Luther’s praise of a God who stands at our side in all circumstances in life, a claim that was voiced most clearly verse 2 which you identified:  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.  You have cultivated a number of places of refuge in your life … athletics … music …church … and of course, your family.  And you have captured the heart of faith in your explanation for choosing this verse, where you noted “God is always at our side.”  To know that truth, is to know that fear need never consume you, no matter how difficult the circumstances you may face.  So Kyra, we all pray that you may always sense God at your side, and that you may regularly find ways through your diverse activities to lead others into that experience of trust and confidence.

Xander … you chose a verse which is built around a concept that is not terribly popular in our world … sacrifice.  We love to receive things from others  in our lives, but we don’t often speak of real sacrifice.  But you do, and your understanding of the logic behind sacrifice is sound … it is built upon the act of serving others.  We talk about the need to serve in our lands … but often with heavy hearts and a frown on our faces.  Your verse from Hebrews points to the fact that true service … true sacrifice … is given gladly and with joy.  And is it pleasing to God … because God made the ultimate sacrifice for us in sending Jesus into our world to die for our sins.  A life built around this kind of service and sacrifice, Xander, is a life that is indeed blessed.  We pray that very life upon you today … and always.

Quinn … the verse you chose is from one of Jesus great parables … the parable of the sower.  But first I want to reference the verse your mom picked for you from 2 Peter, which we printed in the bulletin insert.  Most of know the parable of the sower pretty well, but this verse from 2nd Peter is also important.  Because it points to the truth that real love … agape love … that self-giving love to which God calls us … is built upon the foundation of those character traits that this verse notes for us … goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, mutual affection, love.  These are traits that a farmer understands … they are words that you understand … and you said as much with these words that explained your choice of the parable of the sower for your verse.   Remember to take care of what’s important and the rest will flourish.  You are wise beyond your years, Quinn.  And I pray that you will always find yourself able to focus on what is important in life, so that what you sow in the land and in lives will flourish, too.

 Drew, you have chosen the most economical Confirmation Verse in your class – seven words. I can do all things through Christ.  And in some ways its simplicity is its power.  Because for the Christian, everything leads us back to Christ.  To know that Christ walks with you in every setting offers you the strength you noted in your reason for choosing this verse, and helps you make sound decisions.  Those who know you, Drew, can see that strength and soundness in your words and actions.  And thus, not only will you find your life blessed by the knowledge that God leads you … but you will also find that others around you will draw strength from your Christian witness, and will have the opportunity to meet Jesus through you.  I’m not sure we can pray for much more than that in life.  So Drew, I will simply pray that God regular leads people into your life, so that through your witness, they too may come to know God’s strength for themselves.

THE FOLLOWING YOUNG ADULTS WERE CONFIRMED AT THE 10:45 AM SERVICE

David … I will start with you … not only because a last name that starts with a “W” means that you rarely get to be first in line for anything … but mostly because your Confirmation verse in many ways lays a solid foundation for Confirmation Sunday … and for life itself.  The model of selfless service is a crucial foundation for any follower of Jesus.  You note the strong example that your parents have set for you in living their lives in this way.  And you made note of a quote that our dear Sylvia Lashley puts at the bottom of all her emails:  “Live in such a way that if anyone should speak badly of you, no one would believe it.”  It is a perfect description of how a mature Christian should live … and it is the lens through which those who know you, see your life expressed.  You have learned the joy of serving others … a joy that offers great satisfaction in life.  And David, I have little doubt that you will wear this mantle of humble service throughout your life, and will teach and inspire others to do the same by your example.  And in so doing, you will bless others, even as you bless your own life.

Colin, you chose a verse that is a popular one today from Philippians chapter 4: I can do all this through him who gives me strength.  That can be a fairly easy statement to make when things are good.  But St. Paul wrote these words from prison … possibly in Rome late in his life.  And in writing these words, he spoke with an authority that was strengthened by the threat he faced while under arrest.  I don’t know how much difficulty you have faced in life, to date, Colin.  But you can be assured that in the years to come, you will face difficulties … difficulties that arise for all of us … our Christian faith does not promise us a life without any struggles.  But to know Jesus, from whom you can gain strength, is to share in a power that can overcome and balance any suffering you endure in life.  That is what we pray upon you this day and always, Colin … the strength to always be able to see Jesus at your side, walking with you in your struggles.  For that leads to a life that is blessed in all things.

Jillian, you have chosen a Confirmation verse from the psalm which I identified at the 8AM service as the foundation from which Martin Luther wrote our Lutheran Alma Mater … A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.  Kyra also chose her verse from Psalm 46 and, like you, noted this promise from verse 1: God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear.  Fear can be an insidious presence in our lives … it has the capacity to shut us down, and immobilize us in those moments when it is most important for us to act.  What I loved about the reasons you gave for choosing this verse, was in the brief phrase, “where I need help, or someone else needs help.”  To recognize that God is there for you in a pinch, is a great and wonderful thing.  To know that God is also there for others to whom you are connected is a faithful and caring thing.  Much of our lives are lived around other people … and these days, many of those with whom we travel through may not know Jesus.  To be willing to share the strength God gives you with other, in difficult times shows the maturity of faith to which Christ calls us.  I pray that you will always find ways to share that strength you have found with others, Jillian.

Kyle, your Confirmation verse speaks about “knowing and relying on the love God has for us.”  You quite simply have to know the love of God, to have the courage to walk around the church on Christmas Eve as the back half of a camel, right?  But what I loved about your explanation for the reason you chose this verse the First Epistle of John, is the examples you gave of where you see this love of God in your life.  Teaching our children … worshiping with your family … volunteering here at church (and not only as half of a camel … and most intimately, in your personal conversations with God.  Kyle, to know your God so deeply as to allow conversation it to be richly blessed, and suggests a mature faith life.    Our great God is all about relationships.  And God finds no greater pleasure that to be in conversation with his children.  The parents in this room, including yours, would say the same thing … there is nothing better than being connected to our kids through the words we share.  So Kyle, we simply pray that you will always find the time and the inclination to talk with God … in good times or baa … and in times of sorrow and joy.  May God always be your companion.

Alex, we will visit Philippians 4:13 one final time, as it is also your Confirmation verse.  We’ve already heard the fine words that defined Colin’s choice of this verse, and its service to us in times of difficulty and suffering. But you have taken the words, and applied them to every situation in life with these words of explanation for why you chose this verse:  It reminds me to do my best through my faith in God.  These are strong words that capture the other side of this advice from prison that St. Paul penned for us.  Yes, we sometimes find ourselves in great need when we are struggling.  But we also need to acknowledge God’s presence in the positive times of our lives.  Because God’s guidance about how we can best live our lives is a blessing to us all the time.  It provides us strength and motivation to seek growth in our lives and faith.  And it allows us to have the courage to set goals for ourselves, and to strive for excellence in what we do with our lives.  Alex, I pray that you will always God as your source of courage and strength to strive to accomplish all that you set out to do in life.

Brenna … the last of our 10:45 confirmands.  Brenna has chosen a verse from the first Epistle of John … Brenna I offer you my  apologies for the typo in the insert that attributed this verse to St. John’s Gospel.  The verse reads as follows, “God is love, and anyone who doesn’t love others has never known him.  The phrase “God is love” is as old as the seas … and that’s because it is as clear a summary of our life with God as we can imagine.  So much of faith feels like an individual experience … we often read the Bible alone … many times we are praying alone … sometimes when we struggle with God, we do so alone.  But the Christian faith is intended to be communal … it is lived out most effectively with others.  You identify that truth clearly, while also noting the need of the worldwide community to hear this truth, also.  What I loved about your explanation, Brenna … (and you did not disappoint me … the length and depth of your explanation of this verse, was what I have come to expect of you) … what you did was tie the love of God to this community of faith.  This is solid theological work … you sound like a preacher … just sayin’.  Brenna, we pray you will always find communities where God’s love is alive.

 

So did you see any tongues of fire above their heads?  Maybe, maybe not … but know that they are there … because the Holy Spirit is present in all those who are sons and daughters of God.  Confirmands, we bless you for this life that you affirm … a life first promised to you by God through your parents.  A life you have taken on as your own as you have grown up in the Christian faith.  We pray that God blesses you richly not solely on this day … but on the rest of the days of your lives, for which this day has prepared has prepared you.  And we pray that those with whom you spend your days, will in fact see those tongues of fire that remind others of the God who has loved you and who has taught you to love others.  Amen.

Rev. Craig Ross

Rev. Craig Ross

Senior Pastor

The vibrancy of life here at St. Peter’s makes my service on our staff a joy and privilege. Visitation, teaching and preaching are the ministries that feed my pastoral identity, as together our staff and lay members share in our missional calling … Building a community of faith by God’s grace.

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