“Confirmation has been a great experience with great people. To me, Confirmation means to learn, build, and understand your connection with God.” -Sam
“Confirmation is a community project. Not only do you have to work hard. You have to work hard with others...‘Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.‘ If Jesus forgives us for our sins, then why can’t we forgive others?” -Joey
“I think it is very good...to have trust in God all of your life, even as an adult.” -Sarah
“I believe that the Word is the idea of Jesus, a human God that, rather than simply watching over us from a great kingdom, will come down to be with us and to be us, a God that will share in our joy and our sorrow and everything in our lives because he loves us and created us in his image and because we are the same, we are one, united in God.” -Malcolm
You teach us, too! It’s not just the other way around. We have so much to learn from young people today. They’ve been teaching me these past years. Praise God!
Today’s lesson is about praising God. And giving praise to God means being who God made you to be.
In King David’s case, that means being a leader, a peacemaker, a uniter.
In our confirmation students’ case, that means a gymnast, a horseback-rider, a dancer, an actor, a scientist, a musician, a student, a son or a daughter, a friend, a sibling. This is who God’s made you/them to be!
Who has God already made you to be, who is God continuing to call you to be? Everyone is called. (Martin Luther’s doctrine of vocation: “God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid,” said Luther. According to Luther, vocation is a "mask of God." God is hidden in vocation. We see the milkmaid, or the scientist, or the teacher or the artist. But, looming behind this human mask, God is genuinely present and active in what they do for us.) This is most certainly true for us as well! For our confirmation students as well! In what they do even now, and certainly in what they will grow to do...
And by the way, I don’t think God is sitting there hoping for you/we to go one direction and not another -- Is young Malcolm going to become an astrophysicist or a school teacher or a pastor? -- I don’t believe God is rooting for one and not the other. I believe that God is saying, “Surprise me! I’ll love you no matter what!” That’s true for all of us: “Surprise me. I’ll love you no matter what! I’ll be rooting for you no matter what! And even if you make those dangerous turn -- even when you hurt others, hurt yourselves, hurt the world I gave you -- I’ll be loving you, waiting for you to come back home, back to my forgiveness and grace.”
Today’s scripture passage is about giving praise to God: That takes some work. We’re not used to doing that.
Heard a story this week: Group of middle schoolers from an all-white Lutheran congregation in the Midwest visited an all-black, Baptist church as part of their confirmation program -- praising singing for 1 hour. And THEN, the pastor stands up: “Let us begin worship now.” Asked after, what was that? “Well it takes one hour of praising God to ‘get out of the way’; it takes one hour to forget this false notion that we’re in charge; to remember that we’re not god, only God is God, to trust and give our selves fully to praising God.
“Only then are we ready to worship.” They had so sing their way into worship and trust.
When we do that, however we get there -- whether through literal singing...or praying or resting or walking -- when we sing our way into worship and trust, we don’t just place ourselves totally into God’s hands, but we enter into our truest selves too!
When we stop lying to ourselves and others that we’re in charge here, that we’ve got all the power, and simply dance into our week like David danced into Jerusalem, free of inhibitions and notions of power -- dancing like that was a symbol of letting go, and complete bodily praising of God -- when we let go...then we’re arriving at our truest selves.
Entrusting ourselves to God, worshiping God, singing and dancing before God, we are arriving at our truest selves. We are created to worship God, and in that we become who God has truly made us: instruments of peace, instruments of joy, instruments of creativity, instruments of life, instruments of Good News. God made made us to proclaim Good News.
Little children, and birds, and trees have so much to teach us in this way -- they simply are who they are. Praising God as they play, chirp, grow toward the sun. That’s how they praise God, that’s how they give glory to God, and entrust themselves to the God who made them! Martin Luther talked about the whole creation praising God in his commentary on Psalm 150, and Luther loved music: “As long as we live there is never enough singing.”
Sarah praises God, Sarah sings through her gymnastics, Sam sings to God through his horseback-riding, Joey through his dancing and creative work on computers, Malcolm through science and literature and art and drama!
“Did you know you’re praising God, when you do what you do?” You’re being who God made you to be!
You/they teach us! Isn’t that a happy surprise? We often assume it’s only the other way around: adults teach the children. But God’s always surprising us. We have an “improvisational God,” as our former presiding bishop likes to say. Sam, Malcolm, Sarah and Joey: You being who God made you to be is a lesson for all of us...and it is a hymn of praise to God!
Worship God, this week friends. Here/this is a great place to start, but we’re only at it for a little more than an hour. Find ways to stop, remember who you are and whose you are, give thanks.
Our blessings abound, and sometimes we can take them for granted, or be too blinded by anger, fear or bitterness to notice this...but everything we have, everything we are comes from God and belongs to God. Any of it could be taken at any moment. Stop and give thanks this week, not out fear that it all might go away, but out of sheer praise and thanks to the God who creates us, redeems us and sanctifies us this day.
Thank you God, for the grace that you’ve showered down on us in so many ways. For the lessons of youth. For the lessons from our youth. For Sam and Sarah and Malcolm and Joey, and all that they already do to serve and praise you. For their families and this community who have loved and nurtured them to this point. For each of us here, and the multitude of blessings that we have experienced, for the sun and moon, for plants and animals, for the joys of both work and rest, we join King David in thanksgiving and praise. AMEN.