“A Letter from Lori: Living Into Love”
7Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9God’s love was revealed among us in this way: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him… 11Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God lives in us, and his love is perfected in us…16bGod is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them.
To the 2018 Confirmation Class of the Congregational Church of Manhasset, Grace and peace to you. Your unique journey has led you to this moment. Carve out a tender space in your memory for this day. Sense the love of this church family gathered here together. Witness the joy on the faces of your parents and family members. You are loved. Your journey of faith began with a covenant of love. At your baptism, your parents promised to bring you up in the life of faith. They promised to pray for you and to teach you the ways of our loving God. The Church promised to support you and to encourage you along life’s way. Today, this promise of love is being fulfilled.
On this day, your confirmation journey concludes. You have studied hard. You have listened well (well enough I suppose for 8:50AM every Sunday morning.) You have asked difficult questions and made new faith discoveries. You have doubted and you have believed. You have decided to become a follower of Christ’s way of love. Your confirmation is complete. But your faith journey continues.
This year in Confirmation you have heard once again the ancient stories of our faith. We remembered once again the creation story and witnessed God’s might and mystery. We observed God’s promise to Abraham. We remembered a miracle child born of Sarah. We witnessed Joseph’s struggle in slavery and his rise to power. We watched Moses amid his many insecurities lead the Israelites out of Egypt. We wandered in the wilderness with the Israelites. We witnessed the calling of a shepherd boy as king. We observed David’s triumphs and downfalls. We heard prophets proclaim of One to come to redeem and restore. We traveled with the shepherds in search of the baby king, the promised child. And then we looked into his life ever so closely.
We observed Jesus heal the sick, raise the dead, walk on water and turn water into wine. We heard him say “blessed are the peacemakers”. We heard him say, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. We heard him say “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven. We heard him say, “Love one another”. We watched him give a voice for the voiceless and challenge the wealthy Pharisees. We watched him walk the way of the cross willingly. We observed his last breath and we discovered his empty tomb. We remembered with bread and wine the blood and the body. And through the Holy Spirit we live and we move and we have our very being.
These stories unite us in faith. But our faith does not come from knowing the details of a story. Confirmation Sunday is not a celebration about what you now choose to believe or not believe. Today is a celebration that you have committed yourself to a way of love in this life. In your journey of faith, lest you forget the words to the 23rd Psalm, may you remember the way of God is always love. Lest you forget the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, may you remember that God is love. God’s love restores us even when we are unaware. It is God’s love that enfolds us even when we are blinded by circumstances. It is God’s love that lifts us to new ways of perceiving life. God’s love sustains us when we are weary and nurtures us when we can’t see past the hurt. God’s love holds us. And it is God’s steadfast love that will carry us through this day and the next day and into the life to come.
Enter into this beautiful world, Confirmands, and discover abundant life through God’s way of love. This morning as you stood before your church family, you read this promise: “I believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and covenant with this Church to love the Lord my God with all my heart, and with all my soul, and with all my strength, and with all my mind; and to love my neighbor as myself.” If you forget everything you learned in Confirmation class, (which you had better not) remember the words to this promise. God’s call to faith is simple. Love God and love others.
Each week as we gather in this sanctuary, the wall of symbols behind the choir reminds us of our part in God’s work of love in our world. Each symbol, as we learned during the confirmation retreat, represents various pursuits of humanity. While they may not be the most modern of symbols, they portray a beautiful image of God’s hope for humanity. The grains of wheat dispersed throughout remind us of our call to represent God’s love in all that we do. Some of you will excel in sports and athleticism. Embody God’s love on the field and on the court. Encourage others and be fair. Some of you are beautiful dancers, talented actors and actresses and gifted artists. Use your gifts to serve God. Embody God’s love in your creativity. Some of you have been given brilliant minds. You understand many of the world’s complex calculations. Perhaps you will one day work towards scientific breakthroughs and discoveries. Identify God’s love and mystery in your work and in your research. Recognize miracles around you. Some of you have abilities to see all sides of a story. And some of you are just great at arguing. Perhaps some of you will one day stand before juries and judges to plea your case. Remember Jesus’ call to equality as you represent others. Be a voice for the voiceless. Defend the poor and the weak and the innocent. Represent God’s love and offer hope. Be like the grains of wheat. Disperse into this world. Be light. Be peace. Be love.
The United Church of Christ slogan exclaims “God is Still Speaking.” On this day your confirmation is complete. But God is still speaking. Listen to your life. Listen to the gentle movements of God’s spirit. Remember the covenant of love that has brought you here. Trust that it is the love of God that will continue to sustain you throughout all of life.
As you begin your new life of faith in Christ, hear the words to this ancient Celtic blessing. For this is our prayer for you.
God to enfold you
God to surround you
God in your speaking
God in your thinking
God in your sleeping
God in your waking
God in your watching
God in your hoping
God in your life
God in your lips
God in your soul
God in your heart
God in your sufficing
God in your slumber
God in your ever – loving soul
God in your eternity.
May the Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, both this day and forevermore.
With love and gratitude,
God of love, we give you thanks on this day for our Confirmands. As they have come to re - affirm the love they have felt and witnessed throughout their lives, may you continue to reveal your goodness throughout all of their days. For through our Baptism, you claim us and set us apart for the life of faith. By your Spirit you are working in our lives, empowering us to love and serve others.
Bless these Confirmands this day, O God. Establish them in your truth, and guide them by your Spirit, that, together with all your people, they may grow in faith, hope and love.
Help us all encounter You O God, in new ways along this journey as we are transformed into your likeness. Unite us together as a body of believers that we might be a light in this community and throughout our world.
We pray today for the countless concerns that face all people. We pray for those who are hungry, thirsty, and who have no place to call home. We pray for those who are in harm’s way or separated from family. Comfort them O God. Give them peace that only you can give. May our hearts be in tune with your spirit as we seek to care for all of your people.
We pray for the needs in our own family of faith.
Give us sensitive eyes and ears as we sense your presence. And remind us each day, that it is in You and You alone that we live and move and have our being. For it is in the name of Christ, we pray. AMEN.
 (Ancient Celtic Prayer – Carmina Gadelica)