Entirely too often, a Christian in the news with a microphone and a loud, angry voice makes me cringe in horror. In the never-ending rhetoric of fear, hate and finger-pointing, I find little which resembles Jesus. On those days, I feel like issuing a disclaimer to anyone who knows I call myself a Christian pointing out the ways I am not like THOSE people.
Then I remember all the many things Jesus said about pride, humility, arrogance and unity. While I would like to pretend He was talking about THOSE people, I am pretty sure He meant me too. Sigh…
Just at the point where I am tempted to throw up my hands in frustration for much of what organized religion represents, I experience days like this past Sunday at my church. I remember other days like this Sunday, too many days to describe, and I am reminded of all the reasons I keep showing up.
As is the tradition in many communities of faith, this past Sunday was Confirmation Sunday at my church. During this service, our church celebrated the decisions of 55 eighth graders who have spent the last few months learning about the history of the Christian faith, the particular traditions of the Methodist church and the expectations for membership in our local faith community. In our church, each young person is assigned an adult mentor who is not a family member to walk through the process with them. Sunday morning, they listened to the message especially for them while sitting next to their mentors.
Our pastor repeatedly reminded us the word of the day was commitment.
As I listened to the message and the unfolding blessing of each young confirmand, I thought back on my own confirmation many years ago and the confirmation of each of my children a bit more recently. As each confirmand knelt at the altar, all our pastors, their mentor and their parents laid hands on them while one pastor blessed them with these words:
(Full name of confirmand,) remember your baptism and be thankful. (First name,) may the Holy Spirit work within you that, being born through the water and the Spirit, you may remain a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ. Amen
The sacrament of baptism, the commitment of confirmation and the regular blessing of communion are all symbols of decisions to invite God into the passing of our ordinary days. We show up in church hoping God will show up in our lives. We offer up our tiny babies in baptism knowing we are embarking on a journey for which we are ill equipped. When they are older, we encourage them to take those first independent steps into their own understanding of what it means to live a life of faith. Each month, we come forward with hands outstretched as we once again ponder the mystery and incarnation of the bread and wine.
We wander away and we return, remembering the millions of others who meet together in sacred buildings and humble homes and call themselves the church.
Sometimes, in spite of ourselves, the church becomes just what Jesus hoped it might be. If we are humble and prayerful, it becomes a place where imperfect people show up and offer themselves to one another and to God.
Here I am. Show me how to be the light in this dark world. Send me to love the unloved, feed the hungry, comfort the hurting and fight injustice. Let’s go together, so we won’t be scared. Jesus will be with us.
Like many young people, my husband and I wandered away from regular church attendance in our 20s. As we grew in maturity and started a family of our own, the seeds planted in us and the prayers prayed for us on the days of our baptism and confirmation blossomed and we began to miss being part of a community of faith. Our dearest friends and closest confidants, the people who have loved us and our kids through all the ups and downs of life, have been found in church.
I have found healing more often than heartbreak within the walls of the church, so I keep showing up.
I have found love, forgiveness and grace more often than criticism, judgment and shame within the walls of the church, so I keep showing up.
I have found encouragement more often than rejection within the walls of the church, so I keep showing up.
We bore witness to 55 young people saying Yes to the church on Sunday. I pray they will stick with us and I pray we as the church will prove worthy of their commitment. We need every single one of them.
And we need you.