Pentecost III Proper IV – June 1, 2008 – The Episcopal Church of St. Paul
(the Rev’d Dr.) Elizabeth Kaeton, rector and pastor
Today is the long awaited day. For a year and a half, the young adults in our Confirmation Class have been preparing for this day to finally arrive. At four o’clock this afternoon, at the Cathedral of Trinity and St. Philip in Newark, nine of our finest will receive the Sacramental Rite of Confirmation. They are: Elizabeth Ann Cooper, Gabi Crowley, Robert Christopher Halliday, Tara Michelle Hanley, Courtney Ann Johnson, Gibson Dominick Oakley, Emily Katherine Pletchan, Taylor Michelle Rea, Jeffrey James San Filippo.
Jesus has some powerful words for you this morning. The particular gospel passage comes toward the end of the instruction Jesus is giving his disciples about what it means to be a follower of his words. He has said to them, “Judge not, that you be not judged. .. first take the log out of your eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” And, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find it; knock and the door will be open.” And, “Enter by the narrow gate . . . for the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those that find it are few.”
Finally, he says the words we hear in this morning’s gospel reading, “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”
With the exception of Gibson, I did not baptize you, so you did not receive a Baptismal Love Letter from me, the way all children baptized in this church do. I hope you think of this as your Confirmation Love Letter. I have some things I want to say to you, to build on these words of Jesus, that I’d like to think you may consider from time to time as you take your place as young adults in the church and in the world.
We have had a very full year and a half together. We’ve talked of many things: from the symbolic architecture of the church, the meaning of the vestments and Eucharistic vessels, the Sacraments and Sacramental Rites, the history of the church, and how the Creeds came to be. You’ve even written your own creed – the statement of what you believe about God and Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Church – which we will read together this morning.
We’ve also talked about important issues of growing up and the various situations of temptation in which you might find yourself – from shoplifting to human sexuality, dating and drugs – and how it is that we who are Christians who happen to be Episcopalians and members of the world wide Anglican Communion might come to make a moral decision.
We’ve discussed and disagreed, had opportunities to serve the community, had moments of embarrassment and others of absolute brilliance and worked hard at car washes and spaghetti suppers to earn money for the mission trip this summer.
This afternoon, you will take the vows that were once made for you at baptism, when you were just a wee babe, for yourself. In doing so, it will be one of the first public acts of the beginning of your young adulthood – a time when you state publicly what it is you believe, the values you have, the things that are important to you.
Tim and I have tried to provide you with a firm foundation on which to build your Christian faith and life. We have attempted to build on the foundation your parents and grandparents, and the rest of your family members, have given you. You have chosen sponsors or godparents, people to whom you can turn in the future, should the questions of life become more complex and confusing and complicated than you anticipated and you need some help figuring out what to do or what to say or what to think or believe.
All these are part of the cornerstones of building your own house on rock rather than sand. Before you can know where you are going, it’s important to know where you come from and take stock of where you’ve been. Your family and the things you’ve learned from Tim and me will help you put this cornerstone into place.
Before you head off on the great voyage of your life, it’s important to know what you believe and what are the ultimate values of your life. Your church family, which is the Body of Christ, the Incarnation of Jesus, is another cornerstone of your own, personal household of faith. Whether you come to agree or disagree with them, what you have learned from them will shape and form you, for good or for ill, and help determine – by presence or absence – what it is you ultimately, finally become as an adult.
Finally, it is good that you have chosen a mentor in your godparents. We all need mentors and guides. Even Tim and I have them, as do your parents. Mentors and guides are the third cornerstone of a house built on rock. No one of us can ever have the answers. No one of us can ever see the whole picture. We all need people in our lives who can help us see beyond here and now, and can provide advice and guidance along the way. It is the wise person who is strong enough to know s/he is weak and ask for help. Never forget that. The weakest person is often the one who thinks s/he is strong and does not need any one. The neediest person is often the very one who does not know s/he is in need.
These three cornerstones are the rocks on which you are building your own, personal household of faith: family, faith, mentors. If you tend to these three rocks, when the storms of life come, as they always have and always will, you will be ready for them. If you don’t tend to these three, then your life will be built on a house of sand, and the storms of life will become the difficult and dangerous task of trying to live on shifting sand. Eventually, life may even blow you far from your moorings. If that happens – and, it has happened, even to the best of us – just remember what you’ve learned as you rebuild your life: family, faith and mentors – and Jesus will take care of the rest.
You will get lots of advice over the years – some of it good and some of it not so good. As Jesus says, the path to being a Christian is narrow and the way is hard. A lot of the not so good advice will come from people who think themselves very religious. There is an old saying that the difference between religion and spirituality is that religion is for those who
think there’s a hell and are afraid that they will end up there and spiritual people have already been to hell and back and are not as afraid. I hope you will find people in church, and in your life, who are religious and deeply spiritual. You may want to seek them out, as you may find that both are the best guides and mentors in life.
But of all of them, Jesus, who has been to hell and back, will give you the best advice. Some if it you heard just this morning. I hope you take them with you, for you may find that they will serve you well over the years ahead: “Judge not, that you be not judged. . . first take the log out of your eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” And, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek and you will find it; knock and the door will be open.”
Finally, he says the words we hear in this morning’s gospel reading. I hope you take these words of Jesus as your personal meditation for your life as a young adult Christian: “Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.”