“Wars and rumors of war, earthquakes, all will be thrown down, there will be famines”.... The apostle Mark recorded these words of Jesus in today's reading, darkness and troubles promised; warnings for us so that we are prepared when these things happen. But this prophesy is not all-encompassing. We know that there will also be times of celebration and joy and singing praises to our God. And that is what today is about. We are celebrating the confirmation of Kennedy Rech. We celebrate this step in his faith journey even as we recognize that our Presbyterian theology teaches us that God chooses us first. And so we celebrate with Kennedy his recognition of the call of the Lord on his life. And his choice to answer that call in the affirmative.
Peter's words used here, “Born again” were really key words in the theology during the time I was in college. It comes from the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus where he asserted, “No one can see the kingdom of God without being born again.” Today we go back to terminologies and vows from baptism, for that is what confirmation is, confirming the vows made in baptism. The symbol of baptism is first, death; going into the tomb with Jesus symbolically by being under the water. But just as Jesus didn't stay in the tomb, we don't stay under water but rise into the new birth of salvation in Christ Jesus. This second symbol of baptism is a new birth of salvation; being born again in Christ. Our Salvation is the inheritance of which Peter wrote.
The questions I will ask of Kennedy this morning will reflect the questions answered on his behalf at his baptism. And we reflect on the answer we gave at the occasion of his baptism. We, the congregation, were asked, “ Do we, as members of Christ's church, promise to support Kennedy in word and deed and by prayer?” We have supported him through the years. We've witnessed Kennedy grow up in the church. And he has been faithful to attend, sticking it out even when his hair caught fire on Christmas Eve a few years ago! His sense of humor adds a lot to our fellowship time as can be seen by him and Frankie entertaining the congregation at an outdoor service: Frankie is pretending to be Kennedy's backpack.
A comment Kennedy made once during confirmation class; he wondered if we should be laughing so much. I answered that joy is the very heart of faith. Sure, our faith journeys bring us valleys where there are doubts and the question “why” when we lose a loved one. Kennedy's family has had more than its share of loss over the last couple of years. But the good news is we don't stay in the valley of the shadow of death. In his statement of faith, Kennedy put it this way, “I believe that God will always lead me in the right path and help me through the tough times I have.” That is claiming God's promises. This promise of our inheritance of which Peter wrote brings with it peace, hope and especially joy. Today's reading tells us, “So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while.” Trials and troubles come, but we are told over and over again in our scriptures that we can have joy. Joy is our inheritance; joy in the fellowship we share, joy in a young man professing his faith in Jesus Christ, joy in the gift of salvation. And so we gather today and celebrate.
Kennedy's memory verse came from today's epistle. Theologian Troy Borst wrote about this passage, “To use Jesus’ words from John 3:5, we who have been baptized into Jesus Christ have been born of the water and the spirit. To use the language of 2 Corinthians 5:17, we have been made new creations. We who are believers in Jesus Christ belong to a family that is bound together by the blood of Jesus and our faith in Jesus and the presence of the Holy Spirit in each one of us.” We are bound together in Jesus and that is a big part of our celebration today. Kennedy officially joins our fellowship.
This is good news, but there is also a call to action. Here is Kennedy's verse, “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.” Again from Borst, “These verses tell us to prepare our minds for action and to be self-controlled and to set our hope in God for the eventual revealing of Jesus Christ when He returns. While we are waiting for the return of the Son of God, we are preparing ourselves.” Kennedy has been preparing himself for this day during his years here in church. But not just for confirmation, but to bring our good news into the world. Faith is not about just coming to church and feeling the love of God, it is loving our neighbor as ourselves. It is action, and self-control; doing good and controlling the vitriol that has become so commonplace in our world.
The session examined Kennedy on Tuesday night and he answered tough questions with wisdom beyond his years; a thoughtful response to how he can “bring Jesus into the world.” And that brings us to our next hymn. It is a confirmation hymn as it asks the question posed by God, “Whom shall I send.” Today Kennedy, and I hope each of you witnessing this ceremony, answers “Here I am Lord, send me.” We are sent into the world to share the good news, the good news that Jesus offers us an inheritance of eternal life in paradise. And so we go in joy, in hope, with purpose and with the grace of Jesus, the love of God and the Holy Spirit's presence with us. Amen.
Hymn: Here I Am, Lord 525 PH