October 25, 2020
Today is Confirmation Sunday and we are so pleased to welcome eleven new youth into Christ’s church as members. This service was originally planned for Pentecost, which took place on May 31. On that day, amidst the fresh waves of grief and protest that were sweeping the nation because of the killing of George Floyd, I also preached, offering a prerecorded YouTube sermon on the coming of the Holy Spirit, the fact that sometimes there are no words, and the reality that the acts of the early Christians, gave witness to a new social reality called the church.
We postponed the Confirmation service planned for that date until this fall in the hopes that we could do something in person. And indeed we did. At 9:30 this morning, Pastor Dave and I joined the eleven families on the front steps of the church to hold our confirmation service, in person. And now we have just witnessed the baptism of Ethan. Ethan, welcome to the family of God.
A confirmation service is always a special occasion. To see youth come forward and profess their faith in Christ and their desire to join the church is an encouraging and hopeful thing. These days it is especially so. And to have them in person out on the steps was a rare and lovely event. Indeed it is especially fitting since, like a baptism, Confirmation is meant to be a public proclamation of one’s faith in Christ.
On such day, we see our youth, both our youngest members and our own youthfulness, renewed like an eagle’s. And we so respond in gratitude saying, “Bless the Lord, O my soul.”
“Bless the Lord, O my soul.” It is a beautiful refrain from Psalm 103. But there is much more that Psalm 103 tells us. And it is an even more beautiful thing to hear our high-schoolers telling us the same things.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all God’s benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases;
who redeems your life from the grave
Rachel, you wrote in your Statement of Faith:
In 2020, COVID-19 and quarantine made me ask, “Why does God allow this virus to do so much harm?” This time of uncertainty has made me question many things, but my faith remains strong. Sometimes, all I can do is believe that someday this will end. I may not know all of the answers yet, but I do know that joining the church officially will help me understand the Trinity, and my life, even more.
Bless my soul! What words. Rachel, we all have such doubts, such questions, and such fears. And yet, yes. Here in this church, and in any church we hope, we are drawn into the Triune God’s eternal fellowship. This, and only this, gives our life meaning. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103 continues:
O Lord, you provide vindication
and justice for all who are oppressed.
You made known your ways to Moses
and your works to the children of Israel.
Brad, this is what the church believes, and David, to whom 103 is attributed, proclaims what you proclaim when you say:
I believe God is my guide. I believe he guides me through the rough times and helps me do the right thing.
“Although I’m still unsure about many things…I know,” you write “that God has purpose for me.”
Brad, may your life be spared many of the things Moses did, and things the children of Israel experienced, but may God’s vindication for the oppressed be made known by what you do all your days. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Ciara, like many of us, you wonder about the bad parts of the Bible and what they say about God. You say:
There are many things written in the Bible which can be seen as controversial and can portray God more negatively. This makes me wonder whether or not I really do believe in certain things that are written in the Bible. But what I do know is that I believe in the good of God, that God loves everyone and will always be there for us even when we feel as if we have nothing.
Ciara, though the Bible certainly has hard parts, and I’ll admit that even the good parts of the Bible make me wonder, hear these words from Psalm 103:
Lord, you are full of compassion and mercy, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love; you will not always accuse us, nor will you keep your anger forever.
Ciara, you too know this and tell us that,
even when we sin or push God away, God forgives us no matter what because of his unconditional love. I have learned this through Nassau Presbyterian Church, which is why I want to continue my journey with God, Now that I’m older, I really do believe the Christian faith.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. We welcome you, Ciara, and ask you to keep telling us this.
Hear Psalm 103:
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so great is your steadfast love for those who fear you.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far have you removed our transgressions from us.
Or in the New Pierson Edition:
I went to NorthBay which was a weekend with God to feel free and away from all the stress in life.
To Pierson, and to all the people of God, know that God wants you to follow Christ to places that enable you to feel free from all that binds you. Pierson, keep teaching us this.
Psalm 103 tells us:
As a father has (motherly) compassion for his children,
so you have compassion for those who fear you, O Lord.
For you know well how we are formed;
Maxine, you tell us likewise:
I do believe that something watches over us…I find myself asking my creator questions whenever I can’t find answers. So I hope there is something out there like God that hears me. Maybe I will have a surreal experience with religion, maybe God will surprise me. Only time can tell, and when it does I will listen.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, Maxine. May we all listen and trust as you do.
Psalm 103 tells us:
you remember that we are but dust.
As for mortals, their days are like the grass;
they flourish like a flower of the field;
when the wind passes over it, it is gone,
and its place shall know it no more.
But your steadfast love, O Lord, is forever
Kathryn, you tell us:
God gives us stories in scripture, like the great flood, that show us that he does not give up on us. God raised Jesus from the dead. It gives me hope to know that there is life after death.
Kathryn: In an era when death is proclaimed by many to be the most powerful force there is, may your hope be our hope. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103 tells us:
your righteousness is for the children’s children;
for those who keep your covenant
and remember to do your commandments.
Trip, you tell us that this covenant of God with the children’s children is why you are here:
I want to join the church to further my relationship with God and myself. It’s hard for someone to further their relationship with god in an isolated society. That’s why the church was built to create a community to have a physical foundation in which people gather to share thoughts and songs and prayers. Someday hopefully, I will be able to teach future generations about the information I learn.
Christ’s righteousness is for the children’s children. And Trip, we know that when you tell others about this, they will listen. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103 says:
The Lord’s throne is established in heaven;
God’s dominion rules over all.
Bless the Lord, you angels, you mighty ones
who do God’s bidding, who obey the voice of God’s word.
Grant and Ethan, you two mighty ones, both of you talked of how going to church, hearing Bible stories, and being together keeps your life clean and shows you purpose:
Church is a great place to find clarity in your life. When I listen to stories in the Bible, it shows my purpose in life. I learned that one of the major purposes of my being alive is to share Bible scripture and show faith to people who may not be as close with a church or are struggling.
One passage that has stood out to me is in Colossians 1, “He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.” This illustrates that he is someone that is a leader and will always be there. I think that’s important because there will be many times in life where I will be confused and can seek God for guidance. ”
Grant and Ethan: May God take your mighty lives and may you both be messengers of God’ s good dominion over all that is under the heavens. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103 announces:
Bless the Lord, all you hosts of God,
you servants who do God’s will.
Elise, you gave an example of this when you wrote of traveling to Taizé:
It was so nice meeting people of various different cultures all together in one place, and to finally know what it’s like to be in a different country where the norm was not in English. Taizé was so interesting because I loved how everyone seemed to be at peace with one another. Everyone had their own jobs to support Taizé as a whole, from washing red bowls to holding up signs in the church asking people in the building to be silent. Taizé’s uniqueness, such as the acoustics were amazing to behold as well. The sounds of literally hundreds of people were bouncing off the room in a nice way, and it was therefore very easy for me to submerge myself into worship.
Again, Bless the Lord, all you hosts of God, you servants who do God’s will. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Psalm 103 closes with:
Bless the Lord, all you works of God,
in all places where God rules;
bless the Lord, O my soul.
Soren, you offer a most interesting commentary on this line when you say, “I believe faith is the key to faith” and “Instead of talking about the church, I want to experience the church.”
Soren, in saying “faith is the key to faith” you actually restate what Paul says in Romans 1:17: “the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, “The one who is righteous will live by faith.” Bless the Lord, O my soul.
As a work of God, our faith is indeed not our own. It is a gift and work of God who opens our hearts eyes to the creating love of God the Father, the redeeming love of Christ the Son, and the renewing presence of their Holy Spirit. And so we say Bless the Lord, O my soul. For we have been created by God, redeemed by the Son, and renewed by the Spirit.
And so I ask, what is the Confirmation Class like that our youth give voice to the most beautiful promises and the deepest hopes of our beloved psalms?
It is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, though we do not know how. …29 But when the grain is ripe, at once we goes in with a sickle, because the harvest has come.
Confirmands, know that your presence, your Confirmation, your membership blesses all our souls, for God is raising you up in a way that fills us all with wonder and praise.
Bless the Lord, O my soul. And we pray for these confirmands, that they might be the church of Christ, for their children and for their children’s children.
Bless the Lord, O my soul.