“In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy…” Acts 2:17
Wow! Never had there been such a Shavuot which in Hebrew means Weeks, while in the Greek it’s Pentecost and means 50 days. Shavuot comes after the 49th day of the feast of Passover – when God’s people were freed from slavery in Egypt – and marks the giving of the Torah, the law, which as one of our Confirmands once told me, are the rules we need to live, really live. On Shavuot with the gift of the Law the rag-tag band of former slaves become God’s people. That’s why in our reading from Acts, there are so many people in Jerusalem – speaking so many different languages – for Shavuot is one of the three pilgrimage holidays of Judaism, and along with Passover and Sukkot was best celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem.
Wow! The wind blows through the house where the followers of Jesus are gathered while a blast of fresh air propels them outside while fire dances over their heads filling them with energy. Words in every language pour forth from their mouth proclaiming the power and wonder of God to all who have ears to hear…and in this second Pentecost, a rag-tag band of followers of Jesus become God’s people, the Church!
Wow! The Wind of the Spirit still blows, still creates Church and breathes new life into God’s people of St. John’s. Kites decorate our sanctuary today as testimony of the power of the wind. Our Confirmation students created them while on retreat last month as they contemplated the mystery of the Trinity as proclaimed in the Apostles’ Creed. One quadrant each for Creator, Savior, Spirit and then one for themselves and using words and pictures shared how they are God’s people, the Church! Not just in the future, but now! Then they flew the kites on the beach at Cape May as part of our worship late on Saturday evening and in the flying turned into children again, laughing and playing, full of the Spirit, sharing their unabashed joy!
In the weeks since, the seven who will be Confirmed tomorrow put their faith into words. They pick a Confirmation Bible verse and worked on writing a statement of faith. Tomorrow they will read them as the sermon. Tonight let me share some bits and pieces:
One young man who shared that he is pleased to be getting confirmed so he won’t have to get up so early on Sunday morning, also wrote: “Faith is important to me because it can get you through difficult things. I have been transformed in the way I think…I will live to change the world by helping people in need, like the homeless.” The Spirit stirring him from placidness…
A young woman wrote that she has been able to develop a relationship with God who has guided her through making decisions and most importantly helps her see the good through the bad. And that being confirmed means she will forever have a community of people that will support her and her faith.
One of our rather quiet and very thoughtful young men quoted Joshua 1: 9, his favorite Bible verse, “Be strong and courageous, do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go,” and then wrote: “To means this means whatever happens no matter how good or bad it is, everything will end up okay because God has a plan for everyone and is always with me.” Strong and courageous, indeed.
A young woman shared how she used to think her faith was basically nonexistent for she had an impossible number of doubts. Then she realized that faith is unique to everyone and it’s the questions and doubts that make faith stronger. She wrote: “Faith isn’t about being 100% certain that you believe in something. It’s about being open to something bigger than you. It helps me remember that there’s something greater in this world – large than the pressures, stresses and struggles of everyday life.”
One of our young men wrote about prayer, “I believe that when you ask God to fulfill a prayer, God creates the opportunities in your life to make your prayers happen. Sometimes you will need to look deep into the situation in order to find the small opportunity that God has given you. We aren’t going to catch every opportunity that God gives us, which is fine. Not catching the opportunity we have, at a certain time, should fuel yourself into striving harder and looking deeper.”
` A young woman has learned that God’s love is unconditional. She writes, “I think that faith is the reassurance that there is always a positive side, even in the darkest of times, when all you feel is doubt. Many people at this church have shared their stories and have helped me realize how faith means different things for everyone. Through service projects, I have learned that part of faith is being there for people.”
Finally, a young man who just wrote a term paper on Martin Luther, began his statement about the Lutheran Faith allowing questions and that Luther’s 95 thesis or questions allow us to ask questions of our own. For him those questions are: “How can a merciful God strike so harshly?” “Why, when a disaster rocks our world and we send up hopes and prayer, do they go largely unanswered?”, and “How, in all my doubt can my soul be saved?” He goes on to say, “It’s ok to question, it’s ok to falter, that it is ok because God in Heaven and people on Earth will help to show me how to lead a fulfilling, religious life. He concludes, “We are saved by grace alone and the grace of the people, the grace of this place, and the grace of God saves me.”
Wow! That’s all I can say. Who would have thought that the Holy Spirit was this busy in Confirmation! Now what about you? If you were asked to write your faith statement, what would it be? I ask you because it’s Pentecost and the wind of the Spirit still blows, still creates new life in God’s people, including you and me. Amen