Later this morning/This morning, I’m sharing these words with our Confirmation Class – 10 remarkable young men and women who have worked hard all year long to arrive at this moment. This sermon is in part for them, but it is also a message for all of us and so I hope you are willing to eavesdrop in and hear as well.
My young brothers and sisters being baptized and confirmed today: Sometimes people think of Confirmation as the day you join the Church. After you are baptized and confirmed, you now belong to church.
Well, you have belonged to Immanuel for a long time. You have attended Sunday School with Eunice and Deb. Wendy and Pat have taken care of you in the nursery. You have had lock-ins here. I bet there are places in this building some of you have been in that I haven’t seen yet. You have belonged to Immanuel for a long time, and Immanuel has belonged to you.
Baptism and Confirmation are really about something even more profound than belonging to church or belonging to Immanuel or even the United Methodist Church. Baptism and confirmation are celebrations, ceremonies, that announce to the world that we belong not just to church; they are announcements that we belong to Christ.
My young sisters and brothers being baptized and confirmed today: You belong to Christ. All of us here who have taken Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord and who have decided to be followers and disciples of Jesus, we belong to Christ. We are Christ’s.
And that means that you now have a new role to play in your everyday lives. It means that your job, every day, for the rest of your life, is to represent Jesus Christ to the world. Your job is to love people like Jesus would have loved them. It is to treat them with the respect Jesus would have shown them.
I think this job is harder to do today than ever before.
Because our world wants to divide us up into groups.
The athletes and the musicans.
The smart kids and the popular kids.
Rich and poor.
White and black and brown.
Republicans and Democrats.
United Methodists and Baptists and Catholics.
And sometimes when you find yourselves in one of those groups, you start to think that your group has it all together and has all the answers. And you stop paying attention to the people in other groups. You stop trying to figure out what they think. You might start to judge them for who they are and what they represent.
But here is the thing that I have learned so far… a lesson that is lifted up in our scripture this morning…
We need one another.
Last week, at the confirmation retreat, we took a survey to help us figure out our spiritual gifts – our place in the Body of Christ.
And we learned that some of us are like stomachs: we are teachers who can digest complicated ideas and explain them simply to others. We learned that some are brains: we are organizers and planners and lead others. We learned that some of us are feet: we are willing to go to the places in this world we are needed to love and serve.
We each have a part to play. We are not the same, but we are each essential to the Body of Christ.
A really big part of growing up and belonging to Christ is letting go of all of the ways the world tries to divide us and looking for the unique role we can play in bringing others together.
Paul encourages us to be worthy of that calling to belong in Christ. We are to be humble and gentle and patient with one another. We are to accept each other with love.
Friends, that is not always easy. We are not always going to agree. Sometimes those worldly divisions of money or power or color or preference sneak into the church, too. Sometimes there are fights in churches because we can’t agree about what to do.
And if we are ever having a hard time with that, then Paul tells us we need to remember that this Body of Christ, all of us, are bound together in unity. There are some things that link us together, like ligaments and tendons that hold this whole church together.
We have to remember that we are one body and one spirit. We have one hope that we share. We claim one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God.
Together, as confirmands, you spent some time figuring out what it is that you believe. The creed that we wrote together lifts up that oneness and unity. It describes what we mean that we are one body, together.
One of our founders, John Wesley, had a saying that he used regularly:
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things charity.
And that means that we are always united by these things you have said together in your creed. They are what bind us together. In all the other details, we might not agree. We might choose different ways. We might not believe exactly the same thing. And that is okay. We have the freedom – the liberty to do so.
But in absolutely everything, we are supposed to love. Because we belong to Christ.
And so in the future… when you are the Ad Council chairperson or the head of Trustees… when you are teaching the preschool class or volunteering in the kitchen… and you get frustrated with one of these church folks, remember this unity.
Remember what holds us together. Remember the core of who we are: we are human beings, created in the image of God, who mess up sometimes, but who are defined by how we have been forgiven and our forgiveness of others. We belong to Christ.