A Trio of Truths
What a year it has been. And it has passed so fast I can hardly believe it. I sort of wish we had taken some before and after pictures of you all to show how much you have grown in this past year. You have changed in many ways and I think pictures would have shown physically what we have observed spiritually. In other words, you came to us as spiritual children but have grown into spiritual young adults.
It is fortunate for us that we did receive comments and questions from each of you during our first sessions together way back in October. I have saved a few of those remarks and want to share them with our church family today. What this will show is the kind of mindset you brought to us all those months ago. I have gleaned these comments from your personal Statement of Faith and I have changed the names because that seemed like the right thing to do.
Some comments were about family:
• I know God loves everybody but God never met my sister.
• I would like to go to heaven someday because I know my brother won't be there.
• I think it must be very hard for God to love everybody in the world. I only have four people in my family and I find it impossible.
Some were concerned with theology and the afterlife:
• Who does God pray to? Is there a God for God?
• I hope to go to heaven some day but later rather than sooner.
• Are there any devils on earth? I think there may be one in my class.
Some were for simple, yet serious needs:
• Please say a prayer for our high school baseball team. We need God's help or a new pitcher. Thank you.
Some were just comments:
• I liked your lesson last Sunday. Especially when it was finished.
And one surprising note came from co-teacher, Bob Abley, before a recent trip back home:
• Please pray for all the airline pilots. I am flying to South Dakota tomorrow.
It has been great to watch your grow in this year. Your bodies have changed. Your personalities have sharpened. Your intellengence has become focused. You have left the comfort zone of childhood and ventured into adulthood.
Your discussion went from simply repeating easy answers you learned in Sunday School grades, to really thinking about what we were talking about. Sometimes you experineced a revelation that stretched your thinking and rocked your world. Sometimes you disagreed and challenged. Sometimes you found comfort in seeing what the Bible said about one thing or another. It really was an amazing year and Bob,Tony and I are very appreciative of your devotion to the Confirmation program.
Today I want to leave you with what happens when conventional, secular, worldly wisdom meets the Word of God.
When I was your age, back when the dinosaurs ruled the earth, many in my generation were hugely inluenced by the lyrics of the popular songs of the time. I was a child of a very different age, an emerging age when the top 40 hits had important messages. Songwriters became prophets and spiritual leaders.
One of the strongest voices was good ol’ Bob Dylan. Let me correct that because, as my pal Willard Smith used to say, “Bob Dylan can’t sing, play guitar and is horrible on harmonica, but the man can write a song.” So talking about his voice is a bad start. Bob Dylan was a songwriter like no other. We were influenced by his songs and they became part of how we understood life and saw the world.
I can remember one song that touched me very much. Bob reminded us that, “The TimesThey are A-Changing.” In this song Bob addresses everyone, from young people, to politicians, to parents and to those of his generation making commentary on their world.
I grew up believing that we were in enormously important times, as in fact, we were, but as I grew older I realized that all times are important. Change is a constant and there is always a war, a tragety, a social concern, injustice, and all the rest of the troubles we read and hear on the news.
I remember May 4th, 1970 like it was yesterday. My mom worked at Kent State in the Art Department and she knew some of the kids involved in the unrest. After I learned of the shootings of that day, I walked to a local cemetary and sat on the marble seat that was attached to the structure in which cremated remains were interred. I had my flute with me, and my guitar. It was a bright, but cloudy May afternoon, and I watched the clouds move along, exposing patches of blue in the sky. I watched the shadows of the clouds scrap along the ground, going over the gravestones and monuments like shifting waves on a rocky beach. I was upset, confused and greatly disturbed. I wanted to cry but didn’t know how. I was filled with rage and even some hate. And I don’t remember the conversation, but I had a good talk with God. I was very honest and expressed my displeasure at the crappy job he seemed to be doing here on earth. It was later that year, the year of my 15th birthday, that I made a decision to become a Christian and accept Jesus into my life. That was 40 years ago.
And I imagine that for some of you in this year’s Confirmation Class, you have no idea what happened in our area on May 4th, 1970, so you may have been wondering why I would go and talk to God about the world and have such an emotional reaction. That was the day of the shootings at Kent State where four students were killed and others injured
For me, that is one of the most defining moments of my life. And for many reasons. But it was my time, and not your times. For you, the wars that perhas disturb you will likely be Iraq, or Afganistan, if you get upset with it at all.
My point is that we always think that the times in which we live are the times that define all humanity. And we grow older and find that these intense changes keep happening at every age. Seemingly, there is no constant, and Bob Dylan is shown to be wrong when his song is compared to the Bible which tells us in the book of Ecclesiastics, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Meaning, there is always war, always hunger, always injustice, and lots of other unplesant things. And if history teaches us anything, it shows us that each new crisis or challenge in each generation will seem to be the one that will either define or end the world. Think of all the disasters we have witnessed in the past few months – earthquakes, volcanos, oil leaks, disease, and more war. From these disasters come hunger, death, more disease and global sadness.
So what do we look to for help? Who do we seek out to lead the way? We turn to new commentators for clarification and find that they argue and disagree among themselves. We seek the wisdom of politicians and governmental leaders and find they lack direction and insight. We call for help from religious leaders and we discover that even they see either doom and gloom or are blindly optimistic. It would seem that if the Bible tells us that there is nothing”new under the sun,” then there must be something under that sun that is the standard from which such a phrase may be understood.
To sum up our year I want to give you three thoughts which I believe are the truth to such questions. And they all tie into what you see before us on this table.
The Same Yesterday, Today, and Forever
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) I have here an empty bowl and an assortment of containers. This bottle of water is to represent Jesus – our savior, our Lord, our friend, our example. Jesus means so much to so many, and to each of us it is as personal as we wish to make him.
The Bible refers to Jesus in many ways, but some of my favorite relate to water. He is called the Living water, the fountain of life, and in his parables he offers himself as the solution for our spiritual thirst.
We can see the water in the bowl and the water in the glass. Are both waters the same? The answer is yes. The water has not changed even though it is now in separate containers. Is the water still the same even if we can’t see it?” Of course it is. In the letter to the Hebrews (Hebrews 13:8) the writer says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Whatever way we believe or others believe in Jesus, Jesus is still the same. We may change, but Jesus does not. We may see Jesus in one way, but other Christians may see Jesus in a different way. Believers can see Jesus differently, but Jesus does not change.
I also have play dough. And no matter what I do to this stuff, it remains what it is, a colorful pile of doughy material that shifts and forms as I squish it and fold it and twist it. This material response to the influences put upon it.
For my first truth, I want you to remember that Jesus is the water of life that will sustain you, nourish you and give you refreshment.
The second truth is that Jesus will never change. He is the same into the future as he is today and was yesterday. He is there for us as the constant. While the world cringes, and goes through tumultuous times, Jesus is the constant that God has placed in this world to offer direction and clarity.
The third truth in this trio is that having God in your life will change you in glorious and wonderful ways. We believe that God holds a plan for each of your lives and that over time God gently and wonderfully molds us into the goal of being like Jesus.
Let the waters of Christ’s spirit flow over you. Let Jesus strengthen you, move you, cleanse you and nourish you. Become the person that God wants you to be – a person far greater than you could ever be on your own. On this day of your Confirmation, take the plunge into the life of God that will transform you in many ways, and join the many here in this room that have found that to be the best decision of their lived.
God bless you all.