Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost Proper 23 October 11, 2015 Preachers Julian & Iona Murray-Brown
This weeks sermon is from two of St. John’s young adults speaking about their recent confirmation and what it means to them.
The whole experience was really four fold for us, our journey up to the actual day , with our family, friends, friends that are more like family and of course our church community along with us throughout the entire process. Then there was the service itself , which actually had a much greater significance than just our confirmation, it was the last service being held in the almost 2 century old church. Next there was what being confirmed meant to my siblings and I, this one really differed between all three of us, with it meaning a coming of age and a chance to understand what church really meant to my sister. (and she’ll talk a little about that). While it was a new chapter for my brother, allowing him to start thinking about a future lead by some of the teaching learned through Jay, and serving as a chance to connect his everyday life to god. For me confirmation served as a chance to see how closely knit our community is, community being within the church, my family’s friend group, and really the diocese as a whole. The final stage of this 4 stage saga was the hours after the service . It’s actually a little funny that one of the big takeaways from the day was the meal after, but sharing a meal with 20 of our closest family and friends, of all different religions, and beliefs was actually so amazing, and really made the day perfect.
A good place to start the Murray-Brown confirmation tale is with the confirmation classes with Jay dipremia. It was through these classes that we were able to look at God, and God’s teachings in a much bigger picture, and were actually able to relate some of His teachings to our lives. With Jay’s help all three of us were really able to wrap our minds around what confirmation was all about. We learned that confirmation is really about accepting God into our lives, a decision that is not made once on the day of confirmation, but a decision we must reconfirm every day, especially on that day that seems harder, and longer than the rest, days like this are when this acceptance of god are key. These lessons were taught to us by Jay, and to him I personally thank for helping all three of us. But Jay was not alone, behind him stood an entire church of some of the kindest, most edicated people my family has had the pleasure of letting into our lives, and to all of you, my family and I thank you, for putting up with us as the
squawking baby to the half asleep teenager.
With the build up just about summarized let me tell you about the day itself. It had a pretty expected start. We get to the church, and with the other 40 kids about to get confirmed we all congregated in the basement of the church, when we were asked to take out seats every seat immediately filled except for a random seat here and there, and of course three seats right in the front row. This was expected, something like this always happens…so all three of us file past rows of people and take our seats in the front. Then the bishop Alan Gates entered the room and after introducing himself started talking to us about confirmation, and what the whole experience meant. I would recite some of his quotes, but I had not been awake long enough to retain anything he really said. The part where my attention did snap to was when he started asking questions and calling on random people in the audience. This is where the fact that we were sitting in the front comes in…it was inevitable, three kids sitting in the front clearly related and all going through the process as a family, if I were a bishop I would have called us out as well. The question he asked was “What were some of the takeaways from your teachings leading up to the confirmation” he then deliberately scanned the room with the obvious intention of landing his eyes on us, and when he nodded down at us and said “how about you three” the high school student in me came out and I quickly thought of an answer that sounded right. I said something along the lines of the experience being very eye opening and really clearing up some of the bible’s teachings, I may have even mentioned the sermon on the mountain and tied that into my answer…he seemed satisfied and he continued with more questions. After he was satisfied with the amount of public humiliation he left to get robed up and we made our way upstairs….Again, the seats assigned to “St John’s Gloucester” were the very first pew. This was exactly what we needed…this time we actually had responsibilities, like when to go up to communion. Seb actually asked me when we were supposed to go up, not knowing I asked the kid behind me when he thought we were supposed to go up to communion, he shrugged and said “I thought you knew” I laughed, turned around and told Seb we would figure it out as we go. The deacon then went up to the podium and told us about the significance of this service, (part 2 of four). He began by thanking everybody for being there on such a special day, that service would be the final full service held in St John the Evangelist, on Boden street. The church had seen 184 years of service, and had now been sold to pay for the Cathedral’s renovations. At the time of the sell the church only had an average of 15 people each Sunday. The church has been sold to a real estate agent who is going to turn the church’s large basement into a condo for family members, and he will use the parish itself as cubical space. The silver lining to this is that the church is a historical landmark which means he cannot change the church’s exterior, or interior in any permanent way. So this guy will have one of the most impressive real estate offices. The deacon continued to talk about the church and what the process of selling the church had been like, clearly he was sad that the church was closing it’s doors, but on the other side, excited for a new beginning, and a fresh start. Then, after a few hymns and every church presenting their kids for confirmation we began to file up to the communion rail to actually be confirmed by Bishop Gates.
We, being the first to go up we had no idea what to expect. Kneeling there, surrounded by our family and friends, Bishop gates placed his hand on our heads, blessed us, told us to rise and congratulated us. Filing back to our seats this is when the whole meaning of confirmation sunk in. Standing back at our pew I noticed kids turning around crying and hugging their parents who were also crying, after seeing this I began to understand how important this really was. Kids were walking up there one way, and walking back, changed, or matured, or at least with a greater understanding of something. For my brother, he now could relate god to his everyday life. He had learned through Jay what to look for, and how to receive it, and now walking back you could tell he was ready to apply what he had learned. As well as starting a new chapter in the church, he has just started freshman year at hamilton wenham, so letting god into his life is probably a good idea..he’ll need his help. Then there is what the experience meant to me.
Confirmation served as a chance for me to see how close our really community is. So many people came to give my family and I their blessings, prayers, and congratulations. My brother’s godfather was there from South Carolina, my grandparents were there, as well as Jay, Bret, and 15 other very close friends. These are people my family has grown to love and treat as family, and confirmation really showed me how important these people are to my life. But of course as importantly if not more so was our church community. The weeks leading up to the big day, and the few days after really showed how close this community is. You guys were there for all of us, supporting us, encouraging us, answering our questions through every step of the way. All of this was so important to me and meant the a lot, confirmation served as a perfect example of a community at its best, and this community right here is one of the best. My sister wrote a piece about what it meant to her, so i’ll turn it over to her for a sec.
So I think that she will agree with me when I say that the meal after was one of the best lunches we have had in awhile, and was up there with the best parts of the day. After the service my family and the entire troop of people we brought along with us took over a restaurant a few blocks away from the church. This meal was more than just a meal among friends though. This lunch reunited an already strong group, of different religions, and beliefs. A few of our friends there were Jewish, a couple atheist, but nevertheless this day of religion brought us all together. Notice I used “religion” there. Yeah, sort of a weird word choice, but here is why it’s more than appropriate. Bishop Gate’s sermon was all about this word, religion. He broke this three syllable word into its three components. Then focusing on the middle syllable of “lig” he explained its greater significance. “lig” means to bind, or to bring together, such as ligament. So the use of religion bringing together our friend group, our church community and the diocese all in this one day of confirmation and celebration sums up the day perfectly. Thank you all again for everything you have done for us, and for being there for my family and I.
What confirmation meant to me is the understanding how some of the stories can relate and show up in our lives. In our schools, our faiths can be shown and we can learn from each other. How we act according to what we practice, learn and believe. Also going through the process has shown me how lucky I am to have the people that are in my life.-in my life. Through the support of my family and friends, my life and understanding have become clearer. The things we learned about and stories we read give us characters we can idolize and people we can believe in and follow. Even though some of the things can be difficult to grasp, understand or succeed, the things we learned have given me depth and understanding of the things I interact with all throughout my day and life. The experience has made my point of views change and things more clear. When you ask “what I learned?”– to sum it all up, is that I am lucky to have the people in my life there to support and comfort me and that the knowledge that I have and points of views I have will grow and change no matter where I am or who I am with, but the experience started me on a long ride that will never stop. Being the youngest there at the confirmation service and being sandwiched between my brothers showed me how I am lucky to not have brothers who ignore me or think of me as “one of the guys” but sitting there I knew that I will always have my brothers and family in my life and will always be supported by them. No matter what I am doing, I will always have the two most wonderful people in my life.