In Many Tongues
Trinitarian Congregational Church
Pentecost – Confirmation Sunday
Anthony S. Kill
May 20, 2018
Texts: Jeremiah 1:4-10, Acts 2:1-21
Congratulations to our Confirmands today: Katie Robie and Evan Apperti. As you may know, as part of the Confirmation program, each of the students is asked to write their own Personal Statement of Faith: What do you believe about God? About Jesus? About the Holy Spirit? Why do you want to be part of a Church? Why do you want to be part of Trinitarian Congregational Church?
It’s an interesting and challenging exercise, and I’m always impressed by the diversity, and sometimes the depth of their answers and insights.
You should try it sometime – each of you, all of you! What amazing unique answers and insights might you have? What do you believe about God? About Jesus? About the Holy Spirit? Why do you want to be part of a Church? Why do you want to be part of Trinitarian Congregational Church?
You may already know your own answers, but it might be interesting and enlightening to articulate your answers at this point in your life, and put them down in writing.
Another exercise that the students did at the end of their program was to imagine that they were retiring, toward the end of their active life and imagine that their friends were giving them a Testimonial Dinner to honor their person and their achievements. Then I asked them to write their own testimonials: How would they like to be recognized? What would they like to be remembered for? As you might imagine, it was little hard for them to project themselves ahead about 50 years from the age of 14 or 15. But again, it was an interesting and enlightening exercise.
I think that too would be an interesting exercise for any of us, at whatever age. I know that some of us are already at that point in your lives, or even past that point, but still: How would you like to be recognized? What would you like to be remembered for? What would be said at your Testimonial Dinner? What would you like to be said at your Testimonial dinner? What would you like to not be said? And what might you do differently in your life to make that happen?
Now I want to say a few words directly to the Confirmands. (The rest of you can listen in if you want!) As you two today continue on your journey as young adult Christians and disciples of Christ, you have a variety of gifts to offer, each one uniquely. Like those first disciples at Pentecost, you will each speak to the world with in your own unique language, and perhaps a variety of languages. The language of your choice of friends, the language of your use of social media, the language of your academic interests and passions, the language of your eventual career choices, the language of your vocations and avocations and hobbies, the language of your love choices and life partners.
It is our hope and prayer that today’s commitment, your commitment to live a Christian life, and be engaged in a Christian church, will always be your native tongue, the dialect that will infuse and inform all the other choices you make.
I’m guessing you probably won’t be going out to preach to the Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, especially since most of those places don’t even exist anymore.
But by your choices and actions, where you choose to speak up, and where you choose to keep silence, you will always be proclaiming the truth of who you are, and what you believe, and what God or gods you serve.
But in every situation, you manifest your Christian faith, not only by what you say, but by what you do, and all the ways you interact with all the diverse people who will cross your path, and all the ways you stand up for a cause, or walk for a benefit or a protest, or refuse to participate in the violation of another person, or a people or our planet.
Saint Francis of Assisi, the greatest medieval preacher, is supposed to have said, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.”
And John Wesley, the great Methodist preacher, is cited as saying, Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can.
“Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” And in order to do that, you will need to stay attuned and attached to the vessel of Christian faith in which you were raised, and to which you are making your commitment today. And that vessel is the church of Jesus Christ – whether that be this congregation, or a congregation in whatever city or state or part of the world you find yourself in 10 years, or 20, or 50.
I’d like to remind you again, and remind the congregation, of some of the reasons why that is so important for a happy, healthy, faithful life. I shared these reasons with the students last week, and with the congregation in a newsletter last year, but I think they bear repeating. This is based on an article by Anne Russ, a Presbyterian pastor. These are her top ten reasons why you should be part of a church, and keep coming to church.
10. Coming to church doesn’t mean you have no doubts about God or faith or religion. It means you have a place you can share with people who have their own doubts.
9. Bad stuff is going to happen in your life. It just is. A church community cannot be everything to everyone in time of crisis, but when the bottom falls out of your world, it’s great to have a community to lift you back up.
8. Bad stuff is going to happen in your life, part two. The time to build a relationship with God is not when life turns ugly and you’ve run out of all other options. Attending worship regularly helps build a relationship with God and others that will give you a solid foundation when the winds blow and the storms come. It is a place where you can find grace, and find forgiveness – even when you feel you don’t deserve it. Especially when you feel you don’t deserve it. And believe me, there will be times in your life when you will need grace and forgiveness.
7. Not all churches are moral judges, all too happy to tell you what they think you should do or shouldn’t do, and condemn those who don’t follow their rules. Most of us are for people, for acceptance, for hospitality, for grace and forgiveness. Really, we’re out there.
6. Any church worth its salt has really good food on a regular basis.
5. Churches offer paint-by-number opportunities to serve. Many people would like to help the poor, the hungry and the homeless, but they don’t know how to get involved, how to make the time to be involved, or what they can do to really make a difference. Churches offer you ways to plug in to help those who need it most. (And your church,, Trinitarian Congregation does a really good job of that through it’s Missions Committee.)
4. You’ve got a gift. Probably two or ten of them. Becoming involved in the ministry of a church will help you use your gifts, and probably discover and use gifts you never even knew you had
3. Not all churches are after your money. Good churches want you to have a healthy relationship with money. Sure, churches need to pay the electric bill and the pastor and the sexton and the administrator, but money and church is more about you than it is about the church. It’s about our own relationship with money. World events have proven that it’s much better to put faith in God than in a bank account. Church can help you with that.
2. Taking a break from our hectic lives to come to church is accepting the gift of Sabbath. Wayne Mueller says “[Sabbath] dissolves the artificial urgency of our days, because it liberates us from the need to be finished.” We don’t take Sabbath and come to worship because we have time and have finished up everything that needs to be done. We take Sabbath because it is time to stop, and we are designed to stop, rest and reflect. Those who don’t are destined to crash and burn.
1. Jesus is really cool. Even if you don’t know if you can believe in all the miracles, and even though those of us already in church often do a lousy job of following him, come to church to get to know Jesus. The more you get to know him, the more you’ll understand why people call his way The Way.
And finally, I’d like to remind you of the words on the UCC banner that hangs down in Carville Hall, and is reprinted in today’s bulletin on what it means to be a Christian, and be the church.
We’ve also printed it in today’s bulletin and sermon, for you to take home with you, and post in your room, or hang on your family’s refrigerator or bulletin board.