Our Gospel lesson tells a simple story – Jesus blesses the children. But, while pictures of idyllic sweet children climbing onto Jesus’ knee may be the image that comes to mind, Jesus was actually doing something quite surprising. In Jesus’ day – children were considered unimportant – they had no status – there were just a bit of a nuisance. That’s why, when parents started bringing their children to Jesus for him to bless, the disciples tried to shoo them away. But Jesus turns their expectations upside down, telling the disciples, “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.”
Jesus isn’t saying it’s too late for adults nor is he asking adults to enter a time machine to become kids again. But Jesus is encouraging all of us to become like children are at their best: They are eager and open to learn, willing to ask questions and they don’t assume they know all the answers.
That’s what Jesus invites you and me to be – open to the Word of God, willing to ask questions – and to not assume that we know it all already. Because no matter how old you are, you are a child, a beloved child of God, named and claimed by Jesus in your baptism and God speaks a new word each day for you.
Confirmation is a special time in which we intentionally explore faith questions with our heads, our hearts and our hands, studying the words of scripture, asking questions, doing works of service, praying for one another and having fun in Christian community. This is not a journey that ends with the Affirmation of Baptism. It’s just the beginning. The purpose of Confirmation is to spark in you Confirmands the desire and tools to make practicing your faith a part of your life-long journey.
Today I want to remind you all of the most essential parts of our faith – and the reason that faith in God is relevant for you and me today.
Let’s begin with the question: Who is God? We respond that we believe that God reveals God’s self as God the Father, the Creator who made heaven and earth; as God the Son – Jesus Christ our savior, redeemer, messiah and friend; and as the Holy Spirit – the One who heals us, encourages us, and is with us always. We will be confessing our faith using the Apostles creed later in the service. We use creeds to help us to wrap our heads around this question of who is God? – while at the same time being reminded that our words can NEVER contain or explain God or the mystery of God fully.
The next question: Who are you? And who are you in relationship to this Holy One? God answers that question when you are baptized: You are a child of God. You are a brother or sister of Christ. This is the gift that you have received.
In the Small Catechism Martin Luther asks the question that we still need to ask today: “What does this mean?” What does it mean to be a child of God? What does it mean for your life that God created you? What does it mean for your life that Jesus Christ died for your sake? What does it mean for your life that the Holy Spirit walks beside you? What does it mean for your life that you are a beloved Child of God? These are questions about your relationship to God – and these are the questions that we, as Christians live out in our daily lives.
In your baptism – whether you remember it or not - God proclaimed – through the pastor or whoever was God’s agent in baptizing you - that God loves you and that you are God’s child. God doesn’t forget God’s promises. And, there is nothing that you can do that can take you outside of God’s love and grace.
And yet… people often find this hard to believe. Some people try to do everything right just to prove that they are worthy of God’s love. But then… they mess up. What then? If you are like one of these people, hear these words: There is nothing that you can do to make God love you more than God already does… AND… there is nothing you can do to make God love you less!”
One person who found this hard to believe was a young woman who broke into her neighbor’s house looking for cash for drugs – and when she discovers that the owners are home, she ends up shooting them. How could God still love her?
The amazing truth is that, while we have to be accountable for our actions -- this young woman was sentenced to prison for a long time – but… God did not abandon her and will not abandon you. The question wasn’t whether the Holy Spirit was there – because the Holy Spirit is there with us even when we make bad choices, even when we mess up. The question for this woman is whether she is open to hear the Holy Spirit calling her to a different life – a life of faith.
Sometimes the environment around us or the things that we do make it hard to hear that God loves you. But again: “There is nothing you can to do make God love you more…and… there is nothing you can do to make God love you less!” God doesn’t change God’s mind about you – no matter what.
Quite the opposite - God wants a relationship with you! And…like any other relationship, your relationship to God needs tending – not for God’s sake, but for yours.
I know that it’s easy – since we know that God is always there and will always love you – to just put God on the bottom of the list. After all, God will understand if you have a paper due or a game to play – or watch or work to get done – right?
Some of you are wonderful gardeners and I am thankful for the people in the Hennepin County Horticultural Society and the Robbinsdale Diggers. They care for - and tend the gardens here at church and have made them beautiful! I’m not a great gardener -- mostly because I don’t take the time. I don’t tend my garden very well. And I really am bad about watering the flowers in my house and office. So what happens? This is what happens. (dead plant) It’s not the plant’s fault. I simply did not tend to this relationship.
I think I’m gong to have to throw this plant out. Luckily, God doesn’t think that way about us! God is always there to receive us and to restore us, to forgive us and make us whole. But it’s hard to tend to our relationship by ourselves. That’s why we gather together. When we gather for worship we begin by confessing what we have done – and what we have not done to be the people that God made us to be. And God forgives us. Every time.
Just like the plant needs water, we need to quench our thirst by hearing the word of God. Just like the plant needs nutrients, we are fed with Christ’s body and blood at the Lord’s table. And just like the plant needs the sun to blossom and grow, we need the Son of God to blossom and grow and to be God’s people. So it’s not that God doesn’t understand that we are busy – the point is that we need to tend the relationship because we need it.
Brothers and sisters, friends in Christ, God loves you – and wants a relationship with you. May you take the time to tend to your relationship with God. And please know that you don’t have to do it alone. That’s what your church and church family are for – we walk with one another on this journey. When we come together for worship, for study, for service to our neighbor, we strengthen one another, we pray and care for one another and -- together – we are blessed. Thanks be to God! Amen.
Today we are gathered by the baptismal font. What do we do here? We baptize. People – not just children – but people of any age can and have been baptized here. The youngest person I’ve baptized was just a few days old and the oldest person I’ve baptized was about 70 years old. Today we are having an Affirmation of Baptism – Affirmation – can you say that? Means Affirming – saying “yes” to the promises that were made in baptism for you when you were too little to speak for yourself. Today one of our confirmation students will be affirming – saying yes – to the promises that were made to her and for her in her baptism. Do you know who makes promises at baptism? Parents and God parents and the congregation promise to support those who are baptized… And God makes a promise at our baptism. God promises the baptized person that from now on he or she - you are a beloved child of God, a brother or sister of Christ and marked with the cross of Christ forever. God promises to be with you through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Gospel according to Mark, the 10th chapter.
13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it.” 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.