Summary: Although preached at a different day than the Day of Pentecost, due to illness, I used the Gospel for Pentecost and believe it is a good sermon
Affirmation of Baptism, June 15, 2008 John 14: 15-17
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, through your Son, Jesus the Christ, you revealed your Word of truth for all who come to embrace your saving grace in Christ’s death and resurrection. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, enable us to receive your Word with understanding, and enable us to grow in faith, that we might live our lives as your disciples. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
This is a special day in the life of our congregation, not only because we rejoice in receiving two new members to our congregational family, but also because one of our youth will be affirming the faith of his baptism. Traditionally, we would celebrate the rite of confirmation on the Day of Pentecost or on Reformation Sunday. But due to my illness, Eddie has graciously agreed to postpone his confirmation until this morning.
However, as you may have noticed, I have chosen as my text for this morning, one of the Gospel lessons normally assigned for the Day of Pentecost, and in particular, verses 15 through 17 of the 14th chapter of John. It is a text that is not only appropriate for the rite of confirmation, but one that might help us all to affirm anew the faith of our baptism – the faith of the Christian Church.
Listen again to these words of Jesus, as he prepares his disciples to
understand his coming death and resurrection. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and will be in you.”
Here, Jesus is promising his disciples the gift of God’s Spirit, what he calls the Spirit of truth, which we believe we receive in baptism. But what is this Advocate that will be with us forever. What is the role of this Spirit of truth, that Jesus promises will be in us?
One of the things that I try to pound home to “my kids” in confirmation class, is to understand the difference between “belief” and “faith.” And in order to do this, I try to use examples from everyday life that illustrate the difference. One of those illustrations, which you may have heard me describe before, centers on the sport of rock climbing and rappelling.
When I was a bit younger, I would take my confirmation students to the big rocks at McConnel’s Mill, for a day to enjoy this sport. However, before we left, we would spend an hour or so explaining safety and letting the students hang on the ropes and harnesses that we explained were tested to hold over 2000 pounds. We even let the students hang on the equipment, suspended from a tree, and then asked them, do you believe that this equipment will support you? They all said, “Yes, I believe that the equipment will support me.
But when we got to the rocks, secured the ropes to the base of a tree and to the kid’s harness, asked them to stand on the edge of a sixty foot cliff, and to lean back so that their weight would transfer from the top to the side of the cliff, it more often than not, took a lot of encouragement to help them through their first rappel.
It was then that I made the point that it is one thing to believe that the equipment will hold you. It is another thing to stand on the edge of the cliff, and trust your life to your belief. That requires faith – to trust your belief in the safety of the equipment, to act on that belief, even in the midst of great fear. That is faith.
During my illness, another illustration surfaced that I might be using with my kids over the next few years. About a week into my hospitalization, Dr. Reasbeck, my primary care physician, whom I had been seeing since my first year in Greenville, informed me that he would be taking the weekend off. This also happened to be the time that from my point of view, my condition took a turn for the worse.
I developed some unknown allergy, which left my body covered in huge hives. This caused my immune system to attack all the joints in my upper body with an acute rheumatoid infection, including my jaw. I could hardly move or eat. Several good doctors were called in, who consult in trying to find a cure for the problem, with little success. In fact, I became very frustrated, even agitated with one of the doctors.