Zis-N-Zat From Pastor Asher

God is my conscience, Jesus lives in my heart… this blog is about what I see, what I think, what I do and how I serve God

Notes for a message based on John 10:10b-18; B – Lent 4; Confirmation Sunday; Confirmation Message

Scripture Readings for this Sunday are: Acts 4:5-12; Psalm 23; 1 John 3:16-24; John 10:11-18

You can read these Scriptures here: NIV – CEV // NRSV

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“Hasta La Vista, baby” (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

“Toto, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” (Dorothy, Wizard of Oz)

“Mama always said life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” (Forrest Gump)

“Thank you, thank you very much.” (Elvis)

“Bond. James Bond.” (James Bond)

“Houston! We have a problem…” (Apollo 13)

“We are the land of the free, because we are the home of the brave.” (Ronald Reagan)

Each of these quotations evokes emotions in our hearts and an image in our minds. Each of these quotations brings out a memory. Each of these quotations reverberates through our culture and in our collective imagination and psyche. Each of these quotations conveys meaning that is greater than the collective sum of distinct words.

There are many voices all around us that compete for our attention. If you don’t believe me, watch TV or listen to radio commercials, talk to your friends and acquaintances. Everyone has an opinion of what we should do with our lives. Words crawl into our ears, visual imagery seduces us, and appeal burns themselves into our brains. IF WE LET THEM, these voices will drown the voice of God.

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“I am the good shepherd. My sheep listen to my voice…” said Jesus in today’s Gospel reading. “My followers know my voice…” {paraphrase}

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Today we celebrate a decision made by some of our youths. They made this decision as a result of starting to learn what the voice of God sounds like and how to discern what God says. They were baptized as infants; their parents and the congregations where they were baptized made a commitment to God and to each other to nurture them in Christian faith by their example and teaching.

These youths made a decision to go to the confirmation retreat at Camp Pecometh (they were invited but they were not forced to; indeed some youths decided not to go). During the retreat they learned about the founders of our denomination (John and Charles Wesley), about how Methodism spread through North America and then was carried to every corner of our known world by missionaries. They had a chance to learn about what makes us United and Methodists. They had to deal with a challenge course where they had to work as a team to solve fairly complicated problems. It was heartwarming to watch them learn and to see how they worked together.

After the retreat, I asked each of them if they were ready to make a commitment to be confirmed in their Christian faith, as members of the United Methodist Church and as members of this community of faith – the community of Christ United Methodist church in Chestertown, MD. Those who said they are ready will be confirmed shortly.

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What is happening here today is an event of confirmation. It is an event in their lives; the rest of us are witnesses to that event. They will be asked questions about their faith, and if they are willing to profess their faith publically they will answer affirmatively. That is the easy part.

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The truth is that our individual faith development does not stop at the “confirmation” event. During our lives, all of us live through different stages, and during each stage we learn and understand more and more about God, about each other, and about the world where we live. Faith development is a lifelong process.

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That is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11 NIV1984).

In each stage of our lives we put at least some ways behind us and we invite something new into our lives. As a faith community we pray for God’s blessing on the life journeys of our young men and women, and especially those who are being confirmed today.

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Today we also have an opportunity to reaffirm our faith, reconfirm our belonging to God and to each other, and to reflect on our life’s journeys so far. In 1253, Richard of Chichester penned the following prayer:

“Dear Jesus. Every day I pray three things: to see you better, to love you more, and to walk as close to you as I can.”

Today’s event of confirmation is our invitation to reflect on how we see Jesus more clearly today than we saw in the past. Today’s event of confirmation is our invitation to reflect how we love Jesus more today than we loved Him in the past. Today’s event of confirmation is our invitation to reflect how we follow Jesus closer today than we did in the past.

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In conclusion, I want to say a few words about how confirmation is rooted in the Scriptures. In John 14:15-26, Jesus promised the coming of the Holy Spirit.

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After the Resurrection, Jesus “breathed” on the Disciples and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:22).

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Acts of the Apostles and other Early Christian Writings record the Disciples transmitting the Holy Spirit through the laying on of hands. In the Acts 8:14–17 we learn:

“When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to Samaria. When they arrived, they prayed for the new believers there that they might receive the Holy Spirit, because the Holy Spirit had not yet come on any of them; they had simply been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (NIV 2010).”

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My hope and prayer for all of us is that the voice of God is clear in our lives, that all of us find courage to follow that voice and to accept the blessings and the abundant life (John 10:10) that come with being a follower of Jesus. And may all of us become a vivid image of God in our world and culture.

{Confirmation}

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