With Hearts Wide Open: A sermon from confirmation Sunday

Streamers and Training Wheels

My father and I had a big disagreement when I was a child. I wanted to learn to ride a bike with training wheels and he refused to put them on the bike, thinking I would be able to learn to ride a bike without that particular crutch, just as every other member of my family before me.

So one day, my dad took me and tried to teach me how to ride a bike. I remember getting on the bike and trying to ride. Before I could even blink my eyes, I had fallen off my bike and skinned my knee. It was enough to prove to me that my dad was being unfair by not purchasing a set of training wheels.

I swore that I would never get back on a bike again unless I had a set off training wheels and I never did. In retrospect, it demonstrated the worst in me, a stubborn pride; and as a result I never got back on a bike until recently and my life was the poorer for it.

As I ponder more and more about what happened when I was a child, the more I have realized that at the bottom the whole sorry saga was that emotion that haunts every one of us; the paralyzing emotion of fear.

For me it was the fear of falling off the bike and getting hurt that kept me from experiencing the thrill of the ride, the wind in my hair and the freedom of more independence as a child.

For you, it will be some other fear that paralyzes you from living life abundantly, something that keeps you from experience that comes from living life without fear, living life with hearts wide open.

So just what fear paralyzes you?

Is it the fear of making a mistake? Is it the fear of what others think? Perhaps it’s the fear of being vulnerable?

Each of us is haunted by fear in some way. It drives us without even really understanding what is going on. We can have confidence in our heads that whatever comes our way, we can face it but that fear in our bodies keeps us acting in ways from experiencing the fullness of the life that is available for the people of faith through Christ Jesus.

Jesus has come to free us from the fear that keeps us from opening up to the possibilities. Paul talks about that freedom in his letter to the Corinthians, “we are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown and yet are well known, as dying and see-we are alive; as punished and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing and yet possessing everything.” [1]

Yet we still have a hard time living the truth of our faith.

We are like the disciples who accuse Jesus of not caring rather than asking him to help them out.

We have a hard time being bold in our faith because we recognize that no matter what faces us, we have the Son of God in the boat with us, in whom we can depend.

I have to say, I think we miss the point of the story because we’ve heard it so many times. So we tend to look down on the disciples in this story, thinking, doh, of course you will be ok, you have Jesus, the Son of the God in the boat with you…but the reality is that sometimes, we in the church don’t even get in the boat with Jesus in the middle of the night, going where he calls us to go because we are paralyzed with fear.

Too often we stay on the shoreline.

Too often we wonder why others don’t come to the shoreline where we’ve built a comfort zone instead of following Jesus into the wilds of the sea.

Too often we get discouraged that other’s don’t live their faith as we expect and show it through judgement instead of finding ways to support them in their life of faith wherever they find themselves in that moment in time.

We are too busy building our holy buildings; polishing our holy artefacts; making and keeping our rules of conduct. We worry too much about where the pastor’s chair sits or whether we kneel or stand properly that we forget the thing that matters, that of following Christ.

The irony is palpable and we don’t even see it.

We think people should come back to shoreline to find out the joy that is found in the One who gives us freedom when we don’t even have the confidence in Christ to face the world where Christ actually lives. We are so busy with keeping control of the artefacts of faith life that we ignore Jesus call to a full and abundant faith life by following him into the stormy seas of living our faith in the world.

Today in our parish, we are celebrating the affirmation of baptism where one of our own is committing herself to the promises that were made in baptism.

The promises aren’t easy.

We who gather here have all made them.

We have said yes “to living among God’s faithful people, to hearing the word of God and sharing in the Lord’s supper, to proclaiming the good news of God in Christ through word and deed, to serving all people, following the example of Jesus, and to striving for justice and peace in all the earth.”[2]

And too often when others in her place have said yes to those promises of faith, they have been ridiculed for not coming back to the shoreline instead of being given the support they need to follow Christ into the world.

And I think we do it because we fear.

Last summer, with the incredible love and support of my family, we purchased a set of adult stability wheels, aka, adult training wheels, for me to be able to ride a bike.

The first time I got on the bike I was scared. It moved me beyond my comfort zone for several reasons. Making sure I rode that bike at 5:00 am in the morning, I made my way through the streets surrounding my home and as I got better at it, the sheer exhilaration from the wind in my hair and the reality of being able to ride a bike made me feel alive in a way that I had missed up until that point.

We do not need to fear. The resurrection of Christ means even torture and death can no longer have its way with us.

We do not need to fear and stay on the shoreline because Jesus Christ goes with us as we sail the wild seas of sharing the love of God in the world.

We do not need to fear because even the winds and the sea listen to the voice of Jesus.

Stop. Listen. Hear the voice of Jesus speak to the things that threaten to overwhelm us we follow him into the storm. And you will hear a calm voice say, Peace, be still!

Thanks be to God.

[1] 2 Corinthians 7b-10.

[2] Affirmation of Baptism Service, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pp. 234 ff.

Photograph taken from Flickr’s Creative Commons found at https://flic.kr/p/9ZE4Ur.

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