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Pentecost Homily, Confirmation Statements of Faith

Rev. John Leedy, 2016 Confirmands

May 15, 2016
Acts 2:1-11

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—in our own languages we hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power

It seems fitting that we should celebrate the Confirmation of these 10 bright and gifted young people on Pentecost Sunday. Pentecost after all, is a day when the Holy Spirit gave birth to the church, inspiring and empowering the disciples to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ out into the world for all to hear.  We read in the dramatic story of Pentecost of the rush of violent wind and tongues of flame that filled the house where the disciples were gathered, filling them with the Holy Spirit. It is a story we know well – a story that captivates our imaginations and fills us with wonder.

Yet as I was looking over this passage again, something new struck me. It wasn’t the fire that brought the crowds to the apostle’s door. It wasn’t the roaring sound or the rush of wind. The thing that brought the amazed and bewildered crowd together was hearing words spoken in their own languages. The scripture tells us that devout Jews from every nation under heaven were living in Jerusalem and at the sound of the disciples speaking in their native languages, the crowd gathered. It is easy for the church of today to get caught up in the fire and rush of the latest fad or next great idea, the latest in a series of shiny things that promises to bring in new members and bolster the finances. But on that first Pentecost day, it wasn’t the fire that endured, nor the wind. The thing that endured, the thing that captured the attention of the crowds, the thing that gave birth to the greatest movement of faith in the history of the world was the proclamation of the Word of God. Today, these 10 young men and women will stand before you and profess their faith in their own words, in their native tongue. This is a profound moment for us, a moment that reminds us that the words spoken by those first apostles, those first professions of faith, are just as captivating, just as relevant, just as inspiring as they are for us today.  Perhaps the single greatest thing we as a church can offer our community is to be a confessing and a professing people – saying what we believe and then living lives that prove our words to be true. It takes a lot of courage for a young person, for any person, to stand up in front of a room of people and say what they believe. It takes even more courage to do so in your daily life. May we as the church of Jesus Christ be so bold, and may the Word of God endure forever.

And now, I invite you to hear anew the Word of God as the Confirmation Class of 2016 presents their Statements of Faith.

2016 confirmands and mentors

Caleb Jackson:
I, Caleb Jackson, as a confirmation attendee, would like to take this opportunity in my life to share my statement of faith in the church so that I can fulfill my role in this congregation.

As one of the main points in the church , I think about the Trinity as a treasure chest, or a chrysalis, holding a butterfly, to where the things inside of it are the things that we know and love as the church. If you think about it, what’s inside is our treasure, and if God is our treasure, then that makes sense. It has God–whom we worship and ask for forgiveness from, the Holy Spirit that acts as the person that watches over us and keeps us safe. But it’s not as creepy as Santa and watch us when we sleep or anything like that. It, in its own could be like the Force from Star Wars, where it moves around us and we know it’s there but we can’t see it, we can understand it, and we can use it to good effect. And finally, it has the Son Jesus Christ — again, just a title — which is the whole reason for the church. I mean, if Jesus had not been born, our history and world would’ve been shaped completely different from what we know it as today.

But, it’d be pointless to know all of these things without knowing what they mean in our lives. For instance, in my life, I see God in everyone I love, whether it be my friends and my family, or the church, especially the church. This church is the thing that keeps me going. I know that’s really cheesy, but don’t hate on it, because it’s true.

And the church. For me to be a part of the church would bean to be a part of the best community I could ask for and being a member of UPC would be to be a part of the actual church. What I mean by that is that I would vote and be a part of the outside church and not just when we gather in the sanctuary. I mean the whole she-bang with the helping Micah 6, UPLift, helping the youth, and the Deacons with their work, of everything outside the campus.

My wish is to be a helpful, fun, part of the church. I do believe that confirmation has given me that chance and more. A lot more. This congregation has given me that chance and I would like to thank you guys for giving me that opportunity.

Brooks Jeffers:
I believe in the Trinity, which consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit .

I believe God is my Father, and the creator of all things. In the period of 6 days, he created the world, and all things in it. He created the light, and the dark, I believe that God created the birds of the sky, along with the fish of the sea, I believe he created the water and the land. And from the dirt of which the land consists, God formed Man in his image. I believe that God sent himself as Jesus to die for our sins, and to restore the love everlasting, bringing peace between heaven and earth once more.

I believe in Jesus Christ our Lord, who walked among us as God in the flesh, healing  the sick, and oppressed; restoring sight to those once blind, and showing the light of God to those who turned away. I believe that on the night before he was crucified, Jesus sat before 12 men, and to them he gave his body in the form of bread, along with the cup of salvation, sealed with his blood. I believe that though he was shown hate and betrayed by the people he loved, Jesus died for us, so our sins could be washed from us, allowing the kingdom of heaven to be opened to all who believe. I believe that on the third day, Jesus escaped from hell, rose from death, and from there he ascended into heaven, where he would sit at the right hand of God.

I believe in The Holy Spirit, the omnipresent one who is in all places at all time, be it in the past, the present, or the future. I believe that God is within all things. From the the largest animal in the world, to the smallest grain of sand, I believe that the miracle that can catch you when you fall, or save you from the Devil, is none other than the Lord.

I believe that God blesses us with all gifts, everyday of our lives. I believe every morning, when I go outside into nature, that all of this was made for us. That the world is one big gift that God gives to us saying “Take, and enjoy! I have given you all this, so that you may live life, and let it be good!” There is beauty within each and every thing that lives on this planet, and even outside of our planet. Though it may be hard to see, and hard to be grateful sometimes… if you look at life through the eyes of God, you can always see the beauty within it.

I believe that God saves us in every way. No matter what we do in this lifetime, God will care for us with unconditional love. And whenever we do wrong, which we will, we can turn to him and ask for forgiveness, and with that, God will make us clean once more. I believe that He saves us from Satan by giving himself to us, like a shield that offers protection from harm. And though the Devil may tempt us, we can always turn to God with anything that we need. He is always with us.

Being a Christian is the most amazing gift in life. To know that you live for something greater than yourself is truly a very humbling thing to understand. When you learn more deeply about God and all the things that he did, you learn that we are chosen people sought out to be disciples of the Lord. Knowing that we can do great things in the world to help others, and working to be more like Jesus every day, makes me feel very special. It’s the setting apart from others, yearning to answer the call to do what’s right. Even doing simple things such as smiling at someone who needs it, is enough to make God rejoice. In my mind that’s what being a Christian is all about: showing God’s mercy and love to all. And to share peace with everyone we meet.

Being a member at UPC is just the icing on the biblical cake… UPC has been almost like a second home for me for the last 10 years. Here, you can feel God’s presence. In UPC, you always feel safe. Every room is comforting and offers a safe feeling within its walls. However the church is not just a building… it’s the people… the congregation, that are the real church. And I am so blessed to be a member of such an amazing group of people: our pastors, who lead us in worship every Sunday; the Sunday School program, which I attended for many years; the Youth and confirmation program led by John.; the Sound of Angels, the Choir, and so much more. I’m so lucky to have this as a part of my life. UPC has truly been a gateway to the Lord, and I’m truly blessed to say that I belong to a church as great as this one.

Jessica Chavez
Thank you all for giving me this opportunity of sharing my statement of faith with you.

I believe in the Holy Trinity, that God is three in one; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Although to most it means God is all, and they all move up to God, to me it means something a little different. I grew up with an abusive, alcoholic father, and an emotionally (possible mentally) unstable, abusive mother. There were plenty of times I lost faith in God. There were times that through tears of blind pain and anger, I accused God of not loving me, sometimes of not existing. Why would someone who made you, let you go through so much pain? Was this a punishment? If so, for what?

With the help of my adopted family, confirmation family, and especially my family here at UPC, I’ve learned differently. Much like a father who lets their baby cry themselves to sleep, God let me go through so much pain so I could realize my own power and ability, my power to live and my ability to catch what God throws at me. And much like a father, he said enough is enough and finally picked up the crying baby. He picked me up when I was 14 and placed me here, in comfort, in love, in faith. I would go on to explain Son, and Holy Spirit, but, well, they’re 3 in 1.

Ellen Fox:
We’ve all heard the story of Noah’s ark. God flooded the land and told Noah, the only man left, to take two of every animal on the ark. After 40 days and 40 nights of rain, the dove found land again, and a rainbow was shown as a promise, a covenant, that God would never do that again. In this story, this tragedy, people died. But the point is, the world isn’t a bad place. God saves us from ourselves and our sins. If we had continued to go like that, we would not have been allowed to ascend into heaven. I believe that he is almighty, all powerful, and immortal. But he’s also forgiving, kind, merciful, and loving. He was Jesus Christ, the Son, and came down to earth and experienced all that there is to experience. He sacrificed himself for all the people that would ever live. He’s also the Holy Spirit. and becomes those experiences. He is what is making you happy or sad, and we must believe that it will always end up well and always be for a reason. I believe that to be a part of this faith, this community, is to be cared for and loved by an almighty power, another mortal who understand you, no matter what you’re going through, and pure emotion and experience. And that is something that I want.

Anthony Collins:
God is one but three in one: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. In Christian doctrine, God the Father / Creator is the first person in the Trinity: Father, the creator of everything. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of humans. Like the doves flying in the sky, the Holy Spirit is the Helper of the humans. God saves us from evil. God saves us from the punishment of sin through faith. To be a Christian means that you are changed only inside of you, not the outside of you. What I mean is that your heart is present to God. It doesn’t mean that you have to go to church or give money or be good, but that you desire to do those things. To be a member of UPC means greating visitors with joy, sharing your experience of being a part of UPC. Thank you.

Xander Greenway:
The Trinity is one God, Mother and Father. God, the Creator, gave us the earth, our lives and other creatures’ lives. Jesus Christ died for us and was resurrected by his love for us. The Holy Spirit is but God’s presence all around us. Everyday, everywhere we go, God is there. God did something for us a long time ago. He let us have the power to make our own decisions, and He sometimes saves us from those decisions. To me, to be a Christian is to help all living things, the poor, and to believe in God fully, and UPC reflects that perfectly.

Luke Reynolds
I believe in God, our Father and Creator, the one who loves all he created, the one who is too infinite for human minds to comprehend.  He had one son, our savior, Jesus Christ. Jesus is pure love, for the people, the world, plants and animals, everything that is in his father’s creation. Despite this, he suffered a grisly death on the cross, and he forgives all our sins. I also believe in the Holy Spirit, one that is not a physical being. It could be a wind, a fire, or anything we could possibly imagine. But it is more than this, it’s more of an influence for Christianity, something that we allow to live in our heads so that we can become the church everyday. Together, these three things make up the cross, which despite these three entities are different, they combine as one.  The reason God helps us a Christians most is that he offers a place for us to be good for a little bit, which is what I mean by the church. Because anybody on the outside in the world could be a total psycho, but whenever they’re in church, it offers them a sanity check so they don’t go completely insane. They come to church and they’re good. For me, being a Christian doesn’t mean you just celebrate commercial holidays like  Christmas. Anybody can say that they’re Christian just because they celebrate Christmas and Easter, but never go to church. This used to be like me, before sixth grade when I just came once a year at Christmas. Now, I’m a member of the UPC youth and today, a full member of the church. Being a Christian to me is to love others as much as Jesus and God loves me and all of his creation. And it also means to be love just as I’m loved. This also applies to being a member of UPC: just like the community that is UPC, I love all that come to this church and I believe I am loved by all at this church. Thank you.

Sallie Phillips:
I believe that the father is God himself, and the creator. I believe that the Son is Jesus, and the one who came to earth. I believe that the Holy Spirit is in us, around us, and comes with us everywhere, every day.

I believe God the Father / Creator is the one who created the world, the universe, all the people and their personalities, and everything on the earth.

I believe that Jesus is the one who came to earth and shared love, Christianity, and showed love to everyone and everything, He was the walking God.

I believe that the Holy Spirit is in us, around us, and everywhere all the time.

God teaches us, guides us to be kind and loving, and forgives us. He saves us by hoping the best, helps us, and guides us through hard times. He is always there.

To be a Christian means that you believe that God is there, and you help guide people like Jesus did. To be a member of UPC means that I will have people around me that have the same beliefs as I do, and that I can worship with. They will help me. We will help others.

Lucy Phillips
I believe the Trinity is God the father, God the son, and God the Holy Spirit. God created the world. For example: nature, animals, and humans. Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose again. I think this is important because he died for us. The Holy Spirit is all around us at all times everywhere. God looks over us and sends us signs for what is right.

Ellie Phillips
I believe that God can be anything, everything, and anywhere. And that God saves and believes in us. What God the father/creator means to me is that God created us and the beautiful world, and that God can create anything. When I think of Jesus Christ, I think of Mary and the baby Jesus. I also think of how Jesus died on the cross for us and our sins and how much he loves us. God does so much for us and forgives us and God saves us. God saves us by forgiving our sins and putting us on this earth. So what it means to be a Christian is to believe and love God and to know that God loves you. What I think it means to be a member of this church is to love and be faithful to God and your friends and family.

Leader: This is the Word of the Lord.
All: Thanks be to God.