I remember the day. Eight of us lined up in the front of the old church. The boys wore ties. The girls wore dresses. We all wore white robes. Our grandparents were so proud. Our parents took pictures with their Kodaks and Polaroids. The new preacher tried to tell a few jokes and stumbled through our Scandinavian names the best he could.
And then it happened: The preacher laid his hands on my head and said: Craig, may the Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, may you live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Remember your baptism and be thankful. Amen.
I’ll say words similar to these this morning—thirty-four times. It doesn’t matter if the person saying this blessing is a saint or a scoundrel—it only has to do with God and the one being prayed for. And what a blessing it is.
I don’t remember much about that day. We had sandwiches and salads for lunch. Those eclectic fruity Jell-O salads with shredded carrots and chopped celery covered with a bizarre blend of cream cheese and Cool-Whip. I didn’t attend church or participate in ministry much the next few years. I remember going four years later on graduation Sunday. Standing up front with the exact same friends and a different preacher butchering our last names.
The next time all of us gathered in the church was about twenty years later. I stood in front of the crowded church wearing a black robe and a stole around my neck. My childhood best friend laid peacefully ten feet in front of me. He died too young. Two of the others sang some of the most heartfelt and compassionate music I remember hearing. At the end of the worship service, I went and laid my hand on the casket and said a different blessing: May the Lord bless you and keep you; may He make His face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you; may He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace. What distance and interests and time separates, God joins back together. Nothing quite like the church. At its best, it connects us to God who gives us abundant life in this world and eternal life in the world to come.
Today is a great day at The Water’s Edge: We welcome our eighth Confirmation Class. These thirty-four students have learned, worshipped, and served together. They have been equipped with the tools necessary to help them thrive as a disciple of Jesus. Confirmation Sunday isn’t the end of a journey. It is the beginning.
To the Confirmands: you are not only the future leaders of our church. Your ministry has already started: sharing the grace of Christ with people in your life and in God’s world. I pray your high school years are some of the best of your life and I pray you continue to grow in your love of God, your love of people, and your service to the world.
The best is yet to come…