Summary: A sermon for the 8th Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 9, Series A
8th Sunday after Pentecost [Pr. 9] July 6, 2008 “Series A”
Grace be unto you and peace, from God our Father and from our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Let us pray: Dear Heavenly Father, you came among us in the person of your Son, Jesus the Christ, to reveal your will for our lives, and through your grace, to redeem us from sin and death. Through the power of your Holy Spirit, open our hearts to embrace your Son in faith, and grant us humility and strength, that we might learn to live as faithful disciples of Jesus, sons and daughters of your heavenly kingdom. This we ask in Christ’s holy name. Amen.
As I have mentioned before, the pastors from the congregations involved in our confir-camp program meet at least four or five days a year, in order to plan for our up-coming camp. The truth is, although Lutherlyn staff provide a great deal of activities and oversight for our youth, we pastors contract for those services to be provided to support our program on behalf of our congregations. Our week at camp is not a Lutherlyn program, but our own.
Of course, the basic structure for the services that Lutherlyn staff provide has long been established, which means that, although there are various groups conducting confirmation programs at the camp, the fee for these services are the same. We all expect food service, shelter, and staff to be cabin counselors, and to enable our youth to experience the various fun activities Lutherlyn has to offer. And we have found, for the most part, that when we arrive at camp, the Lutherlyn staff have been very willing to work with us to see that our program has a successful week.
What we have found in our morning meetings while at camp, between pastors and Lutherlyn staff, is that our counselors are just as concerned about what our kids are learning in class, as they are about seeing that they have a lot of fun. Our ministry is truly a team effort, as we seek to live in community with one another as disciples of Christ.
But sometimes, in spite of all of our plans, training, and meetings, some things just arise that seem to disrupt the way we hoped things would go. This year, several issues came up that presented quite a challenge to our program. We had issues of disrespect for the authority of the pastors and counselors. We had issues in which some students actually defied the authority of Scripture, telling us that God had to be wrong.
And for the first time in any of our pastor’s recollection, we had two students in our confir-camp who were parents – not to the same child. One 3rd year student was the mother of an infant, who was adopted. The other was an enrichment student who was the father of a child whom he is attempting to raise with the mother, although they are not married.
Quite frankly, during this year’s camp, many of the discussions among us pastors and lay leaders centered on the following themes: 1) Is this just an unusual year, with the parents and such, or is this a true signal that times are changing? 2) Have our youth really lost respect for the church, even the Scriptures and God, or is it just an issue between certain pastors and their kids? 3) And finally, as in every conversation that we have, how and what can we do to address these problems?
I do not have the answers to these questions, at least at this moment. But I have, and will continue to invest a lot of time and thought to re-thinking how I might better reach “my kids” with the truth of the Christian faith, the truth of the Scriptures – that we are, by our nature, sinful, and in need of God forgiving grace, which we receive through our faith in Christ’s death and resurrection.
And I’m sure that as we pastors meet for our evaluation meeting in late August, we will spend considerable time discussing our curriculum, and how we present this material, as it relates to faith development. For there is a difference between having an intellectual understanding about God and the Scriptures, and having a living relationship with God as a disciple of Christ.
Is a person ready for confirmation simply because they have attended all of the classes at confir-camp, and met the attendance requirements for my Sunday school class? Are they ready for confirmation if they are able to pass all of the quizzes that I give them, and intellectually understand all of the material that they have studied? I don’t think so!
Confirmation is a rite in which a person affirms the faith of their baptism, affirms that they have been redeemed by God through Christ’s death and resurrection, and wish to assume responsibility for their own discipleship. Faith is not a matter of intellectual fact. Faith is not a matter of being able to know the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord’s Prayer – to say them by rote and even know what they mean. This knowledge can be helpful to our faith development, but only if it informs and awakens our faith, our trust in God’s redemption.