What I Would Wish for Them: Old First E-pistle

What I Would Wish for Them: Old First E-pistle

Confirmation Class with Alexa, Eric, McKenna and Meg has been a blessing this year. I’m not always sure what the young people have gotten out of it! But I think I can safely say that Jonathan V. (my great co-teacher with the little slips of paper!) and I have gained more than we invested or bargained for… (isn’t that’s the way with all teaching and ministry?).

They will be confirmed this Sunday: please join us in worship and welcome the newest adult members of our church!

We finished Confirmation Class focusing on grace. We didn’t plan our year this way, but I couldn’t be more pleased. In fact, this serendipity assures me that there’s been a hand and a heart much greater than Jonathan’s or mine guiding us all along.

I like finishing up with this focus because “the difference grace makes in our lives” is the take-away that I hope for our Confirmands. It is, it seems to me, the groundrock and the umbrella for everything else we talked about. It’s the heart of our Christianity. What better blessing with which which to launch these four into their adult lives?

There are many other things — all the way down to random religious facts! (which Eric is pretty good at, thanks to his Catholic school education) — they could know about our tradition. Theological fine points. The persons and relations of the Trinity. The difference that Paul and Luther made. How the church has changed over time. What the United Church of Christ is about. Minutae of Old First history.

Or a bit more pragmatically and focused on the living out their faith: They could know the meaning of the holy days and how the liturgical calendar works. The various creeds and why we see them as guides and not tests. What we believe communion and baptism, our sacraments, do.

Or if we were more old-fashioned about our confirmation curriculum, we could have expected them to memorize the Books of the Bible (in order!) And specific bible stories.

I am impressed by how much of all this our confirmands do know. (Thank you to previous Sunday School teachers, parents and the church: your efforts have not been in vain!)

But more to the point of the faith, I’d settle for them having some confidence about who God is and how God is present to them and moving in their lives. To that end, thank you, Jonathan, for ending us on grace.

The difference that grace makes in our lives! The promise we won’t be abandoned (which doesn’t mean we will be shielded from all suffering either). Life will sometimes be difficult, but God will be there. And that’s the difference we can count on.

The difference that grace makes! There’s room for mistakes, our own as well as others’. Because God offers sufficient mercy and forgiveness. Second chances. God keeps trying. And we can do likewise.

The difference of grace! Living into God’s grace, we can grow in our sense that a posture of gratitude is a strong position from which to live one’s life. And that there is before us a promised land, this expansiveness — to keep working on really living and really loving. All we are to be is ourselves, imperfect and yet sacred as we are.

What I really hope Alexa, Eric, McKenna and Meg have absorbed is that God loves all — including them — freely, and that making room for such love in your life… letting a love like that touch and inform and guide you is life-changing… and enough to change our world too.

Last week, we played a game that one of the confirmands introduced us to. Sort of like the children’s game “telephone.” But instead of whispering something in each person’s ear to find out how much the original changes by the end of the communications-line, in this game, you alternate drawing to illustrate and writing what you see. You fold over the page as the paper moves along from person to person, so that each participant can only see and work from the previous sentence or image.

In that sense, the game is like love itself — you either pass it on in some way that is recognizable and redeeming, or something goes horribly wrong! Ok, the game is still a game, so either way, the game is fun. Not so in life.

Maybe the “perversions” that happen in the game are a sign for how difficult love turns out to be, even starting with grace:

“No one can — or has to — earn his or her importance” just 6 people later had become “Love is the same in the morning and at night when we work.”

“Grace allows us to live with other’s and our own mistakes” devolved to “grace is thinking of a duck,” but was rescued in the end to become “Grace equals infinity smiling.”

“We should treat others with as much love as God treats us” for a time became “Love is like loving someone on fire,” but by the end was closer to home as “Love is the same when you are mad.”

“Grace is a gift we pass on” became “Grace is a burning heart to people.” I guess that one depends upon our interpretation of “burning heart!”

I love these four “kids,” and I think on Sunday, that church is saying that to!

See you in church,

Michael