Acts 2: 1-8
Today is Pentecost, and it is also Mothers’ Day. Also, today is the day the church honors those who have taken responsibility for their own salvation, which has been held for them until now by the church; today is also Confirmation Sunday.
This year there are five Confirmands. We, along with Debbie James, have been together, since last September, and we have told the stories of the Christian church, the Wesleyan movement, the United Methodist Church, the Center Moreland Charge, and the Center Moreland United Methodist Church. They have learned how we received the Bible, and what we mean when we say Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I commend to you that while they don’t know everything about the church (but then again, no one does), they are ready and able to join this congregation, the United Methodist church, and the universal body of Christ as full, willing members who are all seeking to go on to perfection (and that little bit of Methodist code is something they can explain to you, as well!)
The way we teach the young is to tell stories. I don’t mean teaching in the calculus/trigonometry sense, but in the sene that every child learns who they are and where they fit into th world around them. We tell stories about people who have come before them, in the family, which is why Mothers’ Day is so important, along with Fathers’ Day. They learn what it means to be a Rought, a Schoonover, a Venn, a Jenkins, a Lomascolo. Hopefully the stories have been balanced between stories of nobility and stories of warning.
My job as their confirmation teacher was to tell those stories of the church, in balance. They have heard the stories of Christ, the apostles, and others in the church who have made great changes or done great things. They already know the story of Pentecost, and we even have the hand motion that goes with it! They have heard about Martin Luther, and John and Charles Wesley. In January I played for them the I Have a Dream Speech of Martin Luther King. They have also heard the stories of the crusades and the separation of the Methodist church over slavery. We have talked about current issues in the church.
They have had the seeds planted in them. Certain seeds, some slow growing, but ultimately will grow into the vineyard that God will work in each of them. Two of those seeds were planted two weeks ago, when we took a trip to Washington DC. The morning was spent in the Washington National Cathedral, and the afternoon was at the Holocaust Museum. After that, It told them that I had taken them to those two places on purpose, and they had until today to find out what my purpose was. I invited them to try to figure out what that purpose was.
Now, they get to see if they were right.
When you walk into the National Cathedral, you are overcome by several things. First, the amount of people who are in it. I have yet to be in that Cathedral where there aren’t just crowds everywhere, and tour groups busily buzzing by. Second, you are struck by the enormity of the place. They tell you on the tour that the building is a tenth of a mile long, and the roof above you is about 10 stories high. Because of the way the ceiling is designed, and the patterns of the gothic architecture, it doesn’t seem that high. They’ll tell you that it is the 6th largest cathedral in the world, and the 2nd largest in the US. They talk about what cathedrals are, and the style of architecture that allowed walls to go so high and let in light. They tell you about the rose window over the main doors, and the moon rock that is imbedded in one stained glass window.
Cathedrals are places of celebration. They celebrate the joy of being God’s people, they celebrate the love of Jesus unleashed in the world.
On the other hand, the Holocaust museum can’t really be said to celebrate anything; more so, it’s purpose is to remember. In the lifetime of some of the members of this church, one of the greatest acts of inhumanity in the history of the world occurred, the attempt by Hitler to exterminate the Jews. In the main exhibition, you walk through four floors of information, roughly chronological from Hitler’s election as Chancellor to the repatriation of Jews worldwide and the creation of Israel. Pretty quickly into the story, you begin to hear bits and pieces of the role of the church.
The designers of the museum don’t lay it on thick, but it is clear that the role of the church was twofold, and while half was resistance (there was even a special colored triangle that dissident pastors in the concentration camps had to wear), the other half was acceptance of what was happening, and even active participation in the persecution of Jews and other minorities at times.
So, at the end of the day, they had heard two stories—one of joy and creation, the other of oppression and death. And the church was involved in both.
They, by becoming full Christians today, step into the cloud of witnesses who will, one day, have grandkids and be teachers and tell children in their churches about God, Jesus, the Holy spirit, the church universal, and the church they grew up in a little village. These are the stories they must tell. Being a Christian is one of the great parts of being alive, human and on this good earth, created by God. The Bible says we are to care for it, and everything within it. But Christians have made many mistakes, many of them in God’s name, and remembering those mistakes are also part of their responsibility.
This is the call for all Christians. To know their story. To know Christ, To know father, son and Holy Spirit, to know church universal, to know their church locally. To know that we are called not to lord our salvation over the world, but to be in service to the world in the name of Christ.
These are the stories we must tell. These are the stories they are now responsible for, and must tell.