Blessed Pentecost. Blessed Day of celebrating God’s Spirit, who blows where she wills, working in and through people for God’s love of all creation. Blessed Affirmation of Baptism and Day of Confirmation for each of you and your families and friends, confirming God’s Spirit in you as Jesus promised.
First, all Jesus’ words in response to Phillip’s request, “show us God,” including all the Father language for God, as limited as that is and as we talked about in class that doesn’t make God in any way male; but is a problem of language and a culture of patriarchy, then and still; and that God includes and embraces all genders, and we need to imagine God more like this, in all genders and identities so we see the fullness of God in the diversity of people; all of Jesus words to say: God and Jesus are one; a unity; this close, so that if you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen God.
We spent a lot of time over the past two years of classes looking at Jesus. Especially in stories in the Bible, and other people’s and your reflections on these words. And we explored what images of Jesus you see. I know it isn’t all clear for you. It isn’t for most of us. Hopefully it’s a lifelong exploring and seeing Jesus again and again. But I hope you’ve clearly seen Jesus’ love and care for people, especially people that have been rejected or disadvantaged by others. In Jesus’ time that was people who were poor, of a different culture, religion or circumstance, people who were sick and differently able, women, children, the elderly, the stranger or refugees from other places. And sadly, it isn’t so different in our time, with the same people often rejected and disadvantaged still, and adding LGBTQ2S+ or queer people, indigenous and other non-white people. Jesus loved and loves all people, especially the suffering, and including the privileged, getting angry and challenging us to change and show compassion and solidarity with those who suffer. Jesus tells Phillip and all of us, we know God loves like this because Jesus and God are one. God loves you like this, always and no matter what, because Jesus does.
That unity in love is in the Spirit today. Jesus’ love doesn’t stop because of not being there or here in the flesh. Jesus’ love continues in the Holy Spirit, the promised Spirit that teaches and reminds us of Jesus’ words and actions, that you and we speak and act in love by the Spirit’s leading in the places and circumstances of your time.
And that Spirit can do some wild things. Wind and fire and people speaking in every language so that others think everyone must be drunk. But it is people filled with the Spirit speaking about God in Jesus so that everyone hears in their own language and understands Jesus/God’s hope and new life for the world. That’s the Spirit Jesus promised.
In your time, the Spirit/wind blowing, and fires of truth and reconciliation, are leading us to hear the truth of the attempted genocide of indigenous people in our nation, including missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, and the urgent reconciliation work required to restore lands, cultures and languages, to create safety and security, so central to indigenous people recovering their communities and our recovering as a nation of indigenous and nonindigenous people together. That’s the Spirit Jesus promised.
And so also work to end racism and homophobia, instead celebrating diversity in culture and language and sexual orientation and gender identity that you’ve learned and talked about in school, and we’ve talked about together in class, and that you’ve seen and shared in our work as a church to uphold, to welcome and include and celebrate diversity, and to stand against hatred in all forms in the community and the church, that most often we see is not an issue for you and many of your friends, that you do you not fear, but see and accept and celebrate differences in yourselves and others. That’s the Spirit Jesus promised.
And so also in concerns of poverty and equity, homelessness and affordable housing, refugees and sponsorships, and in God’s mission that takes us beyond ourselves in and with the neighbourhood and world, and more that we are not seeing yet. Where the Spirit blows, in whom the Spirt lights a fire for the sake of others and this world, including each of you, is not something we determine. How we speak and act are always changing, or ever-reforming as we like to say in the Lutheran church, and that can be challenging, pushing us beyond what’s comfortable. But that’s more of an issue for people my age, than yours. And it’s what’s exciting about being part of the church at its best, not knowing exactly what God wants and needs us to do now, but knowing we have God’s Holy Spirit with us to teach and remind us of everything we need to know. All in God’s Spirit of adoption as children of God, not slaves, not troubled nor afraid, but free and at peace, forgiven and loved, as Jesus promises, uniquely the people you are and God is forming you to be, from the day of your birth and baptism and everyday after. That’s the Spirit in you Jesus promised.
Note these dates: April 5, 2006, October 23, 2006, May 11, 2004, July 11, 2004, August 26, 2005, May 20, 2006, September 10, 2006, July 1, 2005, August 21, 2005, February 2, 2004, September 13, 2009, January 15, 2004, July 3, 2004; These are your birth and Baptism dates. These are days of new life for each of you. They are reminders for you and those close to you and all of us with you of God’s giving you life, of the Spirit of God in you the way Jesus describes Jesus and God living “in” one another, that they are one. Jesus carrying out the work of God. The Spirit in you and the community of God’s people, carrying out the work of God/Jesus for the sake of the world; in love and languages and ways everyone can understand and respond to, as you have received, as you are doing. We see it in you, in your care and responding to each other, in love for others and this world God made; and in your unique gifts, in things that made us smile: making origami but still listening and responding and now baking bread for communion in that same Spirit; in a flip of your hair when your Biblical name and stories came up in our conversations, reminding us you had the same name and importance as your Biblical name sake; your love of vintage/retro things, coming to class with a Walkman with a cassette tape of Pink Floyd, “Dark Side of the Moon” to listen to and interest in the ancient stories as well; your enthusiasm to tell honestly and openly what was happening in your week, a straightforward truth about the good and not so good, your passions and interests, in a way that is infectious opening all of us a little more; a quiet smiling presence, having read everything ahead, speaking thoughtfully but only when necessary, choosing to colour and sculpt and listen carefully; knowledgeable of the Biblical stories, wanting to know more, be challenged more and discuss and question truths about God and humanity and all creation with us and your peers; and deep thinking, deeply questioning and wondering about what all this means, in the Spirit of our Lutheran practise to ask just that question, what does this mean, and acceptance of not knowing; And so also your sponsors, with gratitude to them and their interest in and care for and engagement with you in this journey of learning and faith; and to Ben and Christopher, as teachers and learners with you and their fun loving energy and interest and love and concern for you and your wellbeing in life and faith. This is the Spirit in you and others with you that Jesus promised. That you affirm and we confirm in you today that is the Spirit’s gift to you and to all in Baptism. And that we pray and trust will continue to grow in you as the Spirit continues God’s work through you and all of us together as the Spirit blows and wills.
I was at the funeral for Bishop Marlin Aadland, I don’t think most of you would have known him. He was Bishop of our Synod of BC when the ELCIC first formed, from 1985 until 1998, before you were born. People knew and spoke of him as a great student and teacher of the Bible and theology, seeking to understand and speak of God, a great and loving spouse, parent, friend, colleague and Bishop. He had a great mind, a good sense of humour, was a story teller, and I knew him as generous in his support and encouragement to me and others. He knew his life was nearing its end and wrote some things to share with others, that we share with you:
While I have the energy, I want to express some parting thoughts. In spite of the fact that I’m not feeling that well, I want to express gratitude to God for a whole lot of things:
· For a family home in which I was loved unconditionally, and most importantly, where I was brought to the waters of baptism. I cannot remember a time when God or Jesus was not a part of my life. I’m grateful for a broad, extended family of my youth who encouraged me to follow the path that I did.
· As some of you know, I wanted to be a ball player or a preacher. I think as ball player I would’ve starved. I have no regrets about the major decisions in my life. I always wanted to study, to go to universities and be taught by good professors; that happened at Augsburg College, the Lutheran theological seminary in saskatoon, and Boston University. I never aspired to be a Bishop, but am grateful for the opportunity to have met so many wonderful people throughout the church.
· I always wanted to preach and teach because the hymn “I Love to Tell the Story” is very real to me. There is no greater privilege in the world than to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
· I don’t want any of you to worry about me. I’m pleased to commit all of you into God’s care until we meet again. So I won’t say goodbye, but instead say, “God be with you until we meet again.” My greatest joy will be to meet you all in heaven. God’s peace be with you all, with my love and gratitude. ~ April 18, 2019, dictated while in hospital
That’s the Spirit Jesus promised. That same Spirit in you. That same Spirit in this community of faith that surrounds you, prays for you, hopes in you. God bless and keep you on this day of affirmation and confirmation of that Spirit of Jesus/God in you, now and forever. Let it be so, in all our relations. Amen.