First UCC – Carlisle 06/09/19 Transformation
Jeremiah 1:4-10 Acts 2:1-12 Luke 10:25-37
The passage from the book of Acts is something many of us are likely familiar with. We have likely heard the story on a regular basis about how the disciples were in a house together on a particular day when change and transformation came to them and the entire community. We may recognize when we hear the part of the Pentecost story of the sound of a violent wind, and the flames of fire that appear. From this story, we can also learn about the words that the disciples were speaking were suddenly understood from people from different communities and countries. This Pentecost day was a day of transformation. People beyond the local community began to learn about the power of God, and what the disciples were sharing. Thousands of people were baptized that day. But one of the more significant accomplishments of that day was it was the beginning of the church. Now the Christian church did not appear fully formed. It was not even accepted by many for the first several hundred years. But this day marks the origin of the Christian church and the spread of God’s word into communities and places afar.
People learned from this initial Pentecost, and grew from the experienced. The crowd that was there that day had their faith formed and strengthened. The disciples also witnessed in this passage what God can accomplish, so it is more than likely the disciples were further transformed them on their journey of faith from this divinely infused event. It can be said that no one on that day was ever the same after that encounter with the Holy Spirit.
Encounters with God often bring about change and transformation. Things were no longer the same for Jeremiah after his call to be a prophet by God. Jeremiah was very young and was therefore surprised when God called him into service for the Lord, to be prophetic and share the word of God with others. And like some of the prophets and leaders before him, Jeremiah was reluctant and even offered up reasons as to why he could not the follow the call of God, why he would be unable to face this new calling. His excuse was he was too young. If we took the time to look through the Bible, we would find other examples of people who questioned their call: Moses, who was led by God to become the leader of the Israelites and to lead the Jewish community out of Egypt and away from slavery and put them on a new path, still tried to deny god’s call over the course of an entire biblical chapter; there was Elijah, who demonstrated god’s power in defeating hundreds of prophets of Baal, or raising the widow’s son from the dead, and yet he also attempted to deny God’s calling.
No matter how a person looks at it, things will no longer be the same for the confirmands who are being recognized [later]. And this may cause some anxiety on behalf of the confirmands. For one, there will no longer be snack times on Sunday morning when they met with me. Now they will have to find their own snacks when they are hungry on Future days and evenings. Furthermore, they will not a have a set time to share their highs and lows. Some things will no longer be the same for these seven youth in our midst. They have been developing and growing over the past year. Now they are entering into a new phase of their lives, where they will continue to face challenges and new experiences.
Confirmation is a time of teaching and learning, but it is also an opportunity for reflection and introspection of faith and where our journey of faith takes us. We all need to remember that it is not just the confirmands that have been on a path of faith this past year. Regardless of how many worship services we have attended, how many Bible studies we have participated in, or many animated conversations on faith and theology we have been a part of, that we are all finding our way along the path of faith. It does not matter our age, our background, where we grew up, if we are grown and mature, or what our ethnic, cultural and socio economic make up is, we can all further develop our view of the world from a faith perspective and determine how we need to be speaking, acting and living. Change well may have happened this past year in our journey of faith, be it small adjustments to great transformations.
What kind of changes can occur within a person? Let us consider the Gospel passage for today, the well know passage of the Good Samaritan. One of the great points of this story is the mercy and compassion that we need to offer the people that we encounter in our lives in a variety of circumstances, and so this can be a change in people who understand this story. But by looking at this passage, we can also begin to contemplate the effect of transformation that the life and ministry of Jesus had on others. The premise to this passage is simple. A lawyer wanted to test Jesus, to challenge this teacher. The lawyer is able to quote Holy Scriptures to Jesus when he is asked what does the Law say about inheriting eternal life.
The lawyer feels confident enough in his knowledge of religious and social law that he is able to answer Jesus’ responding question of what does the law say.
The lawyer feels certain in all of his knowledge that he pushes Jesus further in the conversation and that Jesus needed to define who is his neighbor. And this is where we hear the story of a man journeying, and he is robbed and beaten and left for dead. And the only person who comes to the aid of the injured man is a lowly Samaritan, a person that the Jewish community would have shunned. Yet, it is this lowly person who offers compassion and mercy in this trying situation. With this lesson on kindness and concern, Jesus asks the poignant question of the lawyer, who showed mercy?
The possibility for transformation from this story is clear. We the reader get a sense of what we ought to be doing, who we need to be helping and caring. This may be a moment of learning and enlightenment for us. We also get the sense that the lawyer has been impacted by the story Jesus tells. The lawyer comes and thinks he has all of the answers, only to find out that there is a lot more for him to learn about life in this world. There are always more opportunities to learn from, to be further transformed. In the past nine months, these youth had some opportunities to be changed and to develop as future leaders for the church and for the community. So we can observe some changes in them now since the beginning of the class. But we must recognize that everyone, young and old alike, all have the chance to grow and develop.
There is the opportunity to speak with the confirmands and one thing that can be said is well done, congratulations. And we offer up the observation that they may have been transformed by this time of learning and being in community with one another. We must also remember that these students are not the only ones to have the opportunity to learn. All of us are put in situations where we can learn from God and from one another.
There is the potential for growth and development for each and every one of us. When we are in church we need to be open to God entering our lives and showing us how we each can improve, become something more today than yesterday. It is a day that we can wish the confirmands God’s grace and peace and hope they will continue to learn and grow as members of this church and as children of God. But scripture shows us ample examples of where growth and transformation for a number of people. Whether it is Jeremiah responding to God’s call, the story of the birth of the church on the day of Pentecost, or the lawyer learning from Jesus, these people were faced with newness, and the possibility of growth. And may we the rest of the people who are gathered here also allow ourselves to continue to be changed and developed as we go on our respective journeys of faith. Blessings on this church community, and blessings on all of God’s children. Thanks be to God and may the people of God say together. Amen.