Words

Posted by on May 9, 2014 in Faith Words |

Words of Faith

Rev. Rita S. Platt

May 4, 2014

Confirmation Sunday

“Words”

Scripture           Matthew 16:13-18

The view from the bottom of the ladder was bad enough. As the young man stared up to the top, the ladder seemed to stretch a mile into the air – up and up and up. The platform for the high dive looked a mile away. Then again, he was only 11. His friends were there talking about how cool it was to jump off the high board. He wasn’t so sure. I mean, that platform was a mile up in the air. But his friends were there and they were urging him on.

So he started to climb the ladder.  Someone told him not to look down, but to look straight ahead as he  climbed. Guess what the young man did?  He looked down! He was terrified by what he saw and he was only about half-way up! The view from the bottom of the ladder was bad enough. The view going up the ladder was worse! The young man looked off in the distance, and it seemed like he was up as high as the rooftops of the tallest buildings he could see! He looked down at the pool, and it looked like a dot far below him! He was terrified! He grabbed hold of the rails on the platform, frozen. He looked out at the distance; he looked down at the pool; he  looked down to where his buddies stood on the ground below the ladder and he  realized that he  had to make a decision. 

Today is Confirmation Sunday, and that’s what’s happening right here at South Avenue United Methodist Church. I wish we had a high diving platform, because those who are about to be confirmed are about to make a decision whether or not they are willing to dive into discipleship.

But there is no board – just a lot of words; most of them talking about Jesus. People have always had lots to say about Jesus. Some recognized his power and imagined him as the one sent to rescue Israel, the Messiah for whom they all longed. Some today imagine Jesus as the one to solve all of life’s problems, the great Tylenol for whatever pain we suffer. The one who will save our world from whatever it is that troubles us this week. Some look at Jesus and see one who heals. We look around and see TV evangelists marketing Jesus from elaborate TV sets, dispensing healing and miracles in direct proportion to the donations sent in.

Do a Google search on the Internet for Jesus and you will find 11.7 million hits. Some see Jesus as the Mr. Fix-it of the spiritual world, dashing about, sanitizing lives, removing pain, suffering and hardship if we only pray hard enough. Some see Jesus as the answer person, waiting for the right word to apply so that all discomfort will disappear. God gives us different words. The story of Jesus in the Bible is one of suffering and death. Not long ago we read the story of Jesus’ death on Good Friday. It is a story of failure, weakness, suffering and death on a cross. This is the story of one who died for the unlovely, the unlovable – one whose body was pierced for you and me. But Jesus did not stop there. To the cross he adds resurrection. To failure he adds words for you and me, the message that we heard at our baptism: “You are chosen; you are my child, the one I love.” God’s words for us today are words of hope and victory in midst of failure, weakness, suffering and death. We are loved no matter what, we will never be forsaken.

This is a day of words. As confirmands you will speak words of commitment, affirmation, high hopes, and celebration. We as parents, sponsors, relatives and friends will mouth the words with you.  Today we remember the words spoken by parents and sponsors at your baptism. That day we spoke for you, making promises to bring you to this day when you can speak the words of commitment for yourself. Words that will help you live as God’s people into the future: – to live among God’s faithful people – to hear God’s Word – to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through your speech and your actions – to serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus. These words are a tall order. These are promises which are beyond the ability of any of us to fulfill on our own. These are proud promises today, yet promises which we as adults know, looking back on our Confirmation day, are easy to forget. Promises like those of Peter who said, “I’ll never deny you!” yet did three times. Promises like those of James and John, “Let us sit at your right and your left” without any idea of what that would mean for them.

Yet words when spoken in the light of God’s acceptance of each one of us become a possibility. Words bringing with them the promise of forgiveness readily available for all of us to try again to live up to our confirmation promises when we fail.

The good news for you as a Confirmation class and also for the rest of us is that Jesus will build his church upon people who don’t have it all together. People like Peter who makes brave promises he can’t keep. People like you and me who have great intentions but can’t always quite follow through.  But we can’t use that as an excuse. Even though we know we won’t always succeed, we have to dive in. As we give 100% effort to following Jesus, the Holy Spirit will work through us.

I invite those here today to remember the day you were asked these questions…Remember the words you said. Think about where you are in your faith journey today…if you realize you just have your toe in the water. Today is a perfect day to renew your commitment to follow Jesus 100%.