Sermon for 21st Sunday after Pentecost

Text: Psalm 63:8 (CEV)
“I stay close to you, and your powerful arm supports me.

Staying close to Jesus after confirmation

Friends, especially Daniel, Hanna, Jessica, William, Grace and Elise,

In a little while you will come to the sanctuary and say that you are ready to say for yourself what was said on your behalf at your baptism by your parents and godparents. 
You will affirm that you want Jesus to be a part of your everyday life and that you intend to do your best to follow his ways.
You will state that you want to continue to grow in your relationship with Jesus
by reading and listening to the Word of God,
by attending worship services with your fellow Christians,
by coming to Holy Communion as often as you can,
by living a life of service and love, encouraging others and being ‘like Jesus’ to those around you.
You will confirm your intention to let the love of Christ rule everything you say and do and listen carefully to the guiding of the Holy Spirit as you make choices. 

I know that you will answer the questions that you will be asked with complete sincerity and truthfulness.  I can remember the day of my confirmation quite clearly (as I’m sure most of the people can here in this church today).  I was in Year 7 at school and I recall how sincerely I answered the pastor’s questions to the confirmees that day.  I really believed that following through on what I promised wasn’t going to be any big deal.  “Easy breezy”, I thought.  Perhaps like most of us who have been confirmed, you will walk out of church today feeling closer to Jesus than you have ever before.

But what about tomorrow?  You will be back at school. 
Maybe there’s a project that you have to complete. 
A test at the end of the week. 
The ongoing relationship issues between you and some others in the school yard. 
The arguments about handball rules or who is in or out of your friendship circle. 
Then there’s your brothers and sisters who always insist that it’s your turn to do the dishes or feed the dog.

And it doesn’t stop there.  Ask any of the older people here and you will soon find out that the issues of everyday life are sometimes small and insignificant and okay to deal with but sometimes they are big and overwhelming.  That’s why I and all the people in this church want you, Daniel, Hanna, Jessica, William, Grace and Elise, to stay close to Jesus Christ.

Do you know why we want you to stay close to Jesus?
Because he doesn’t just love you this much (hands slightly apart);
he doesn’t just love you this much (hands slightly more apart).
He loves you this much (hands outstretched),
and he went to the cross and his arms were stretched out on the wood to show how much he loves you.
He died for all your sins because he loves you so much.
Then he rose again on the third day to be your Saviour. 
And in Matthew 28:20, Jesus says, “I will be with you always, to the end of the age.”  Jesus Christ is better than anything else!

I say that because Jesus has made a commitment
to love you,
to support you and watch over you,
to care for you and support you,
to forgive and encourage you,
to help you and guide you.

He sealed that promise of commitment to you through the water of baptism when your life was joined to his and his life became yours.  He repeats his promise of commitment to you every time you hear him speak through his word.  He makes promises like this to you, “I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you" (Joshua 1:5).  It doesn’t matter how bad things get, you might even be dying, yet Jesus stands by his promise. 

I want to make it absolutely and brilliantly clear to you today your confirmation day and every day of your life – Jesus’ love for you and his willingness to do anything for you is unquestionable.  He will not leave your side – that he has promised and is certain.  But what happens is that we forget that we have all the resources and power of Jesus, our Lord and King at our fingertips and we forget he’s there.  He’s offering to help us, to hold us and hug us and we don’t reach out to him, trust him and look to him for help. 

Because Jesus is better than anything else, I want to share with you three ways to stay close to him after confirmation.

Number one.  Get to know Jesus’ love for you and how much you can trust him in the best and worst situations by knowing the promises that he makes to you.  Those promises are in the Bible.  If you believe that because of his love for you, Jesus will never abandon you and that he will enable you to deal with any situation then you have hope.  Hope is so important when things are going all wrong.

Someday, you might break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend. And you’ll ask, “God, why did you let this happen?  Why did you let me fall in love with this wonderful person only to have it end in a break up?”

Someday, you might have dreams shattered or left bewildered by a tragedy or confused where life is taking you and you ask, “God, what are you doing?  Why did this happen to me?”

There’s nothing wrong with asking these questions but in the end despair gives way to hope when we realise that no matter what happens we have Jesus as our greatest treasure.  He gives us purpose and meaning in the darkest times and in the end give us eternal life in heaven. 

Stay close to Jesus through the Bible – know his love for you, trust his promises, rely on his presence and strength to get you through – that’s number one.

Number two.  You can stay close to Jesus in prayer. You don’t even have to say it out loud – just quietly in your own head and Jesus hears and answers.  That’s how close he is to you.  Before you go to school in the morning, you can say, “Lord, help me to learn what you want me to learn. And help me to treat people the way I would want them to treat me.” 

After some unkind words you say quietly, “I really messed that up.  Jesus, help me to say sorry”.

With conversations like that you soon come to realise how close Jesus really is and how much a part of your life he is.  Prayer is a way that we can stay really close to Jesus or perhaps we can put it this way – prayer helps us realise how close Jesus is all the time and waiting for us to bring to him our problems and questions so that he can use his power and his love to answer them in the best way possible. So growing and building on your relationship with Jesus through prayer – that’s number two.

Number three. Stay close to Jesus in the church.  Now I know how uncool it is to go to church and be a part of the church.  Your friends will challenge you and ask why you do it.  You might say to yourself, “Well that’s it.  I’m confirmed.  I don’t need to go to church.  I know everything I need to know”. 

But going to church is good because this is the place where we receive the encouragement to be the best we can be for God.  And this is the place where we can encourage other people to be the best they can be for God.  And this is the place where Jesus encourages us and challenges us to be his disciples. 

This is the place where the Holy Spirit works through what God says in the Bible and through Holy Communion to prepare us to be strong in the face of temptation and in the times when everything seems to be going wrong. 

Church is not the place where we come to be entertained and so become bored when the musicians, singers, dramatists, dancers, preachers or whoever don’t meet our expectation.  Church is the place we meet God,
where God works in our hearts,
where we meet God's people and they encourage us,
where we listen, we pray, we receive from God, and we go out to be his people in the world.

My friends, there are a lot of great things in life. There are so many blessings God has for you but I can’t wish you anything better than Jesus Christ.  Because Jesus is better than anything else,
stay close to him in the hope that comes through his Word,
stay close to him in prayer,
and stay close to him in church. In fact, it’s not a matter of us coming close to Jesus but realising how close he already is to us.

This isn’t just a message for the confirmees. This is a message for everyone. We all need to be close to God and to know more and more how close God is to us in our walk through life. We all need Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Saviour of our lives.

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
6th November 2011

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