by Rev. Deborah Hannay Sunoo
Rather than a separate sermon this morning, since they’ve already shared so much wisdom in their own words, I simply want to offer a brief charge to our newest members. So Natalie, Brayden, Caleb, Mimi – this is for you. (Though the rest of you are welcome to listen in.)
I wanted you to know, first of all, that I have talked all spring, to anyone who would listen, about what a gift it has been to lead your confirmation class with Pastor Justin. You are a remarkable group. Having been here for a number of the growing up years we saw in the slideshow already made this particular confirmation class a treat. Even better? The opportunity to get to know you now as young adults, and the happy news that you are interested in continuing our high school class next year. I can’t wait to keep discussing your fantastic, sometimes really challenging questions. As you keep growing in your faith, you’re helping Justin and me to grow in ours too!
You’ll see in the bulletin that I’ve titled this charge “Fearless,” and you’ve already shown yourselves to be quite brave in what you’ve done here this morning. The courage it takes for a teenager to stand up in front of a room full of people and make promises before God and everyone about who he or she wants to be in their Christian life? That’s a hugestep. And we are all really proud of you today.
Knowing as I do what you’ll be sharing in our prayers later on, I also know youknow fearlessness will be required of you in other situations too. Because in many ways it’s a strange and scary world these days. But here’s the thing - it’s still God’s world. And God has made us some really important promises in today’s Scripture readings. First, in Isaiah: “Do not fear, for I am with you. Be not afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” And then in Romans. “I am convinced that nothing… will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Don’t be afraid, God says, for I’m with you no matter what. And I love you no matter what. It’s like the singer was saying to God in the slide show sound track: “You’ll never stop loving us, no matter how far we run. You’ll never give up on us.”
Or as I once heard someone put it, “God loves you and there isn’t a thing you can do about it!” You’re stuck with God’s love your whole lives long and even beyond. As we said in our call to worship today, “in life and in death we belong to God.”
That’s what allows us to be fearless.
Fearless in doing what’s right.
Fearless in speaking the truth.
Fearless in asking hard questions.
Fearless in being kind, to everyone.
Fearless in including everyone.
Fearless in standing up to bullies, and in being brave allies for those who are bullied, whether that bullying happens in the hallways of our high schools or in the halls of power in our country.
Fearless even in standing up to our friends when necessary, if we find them leading us in directions we know we shouldn’t go.
As you read around in your new Bibles, you’ll find God’s messengers telling us quite often not to be afraid. They say it a lot because we need to hear it a lot. Fear not. Be not afraid. In other words, be fearless.
Now as I see it, being fearless doesn’t mean we won’t be scared. It’s more about how we function when we face scary situations. We remember God’s promises – never to leave us, always to love us – and we keep going. In spite of all that’s wrong in the world, we forge ahead anyway. We do the kind thing, the loving thing, the just thing anyway. We find ourselves in tough situations, and we take our place on the right side of history anyway.
The need for this kind of courage, and the ability to demonstrate it, knows no age limit. I’ve seen 5-year-olds and 95-year-olds who are passionate about social justice, who are passionate about their faith in God, and who have shown themselves to be fearless in speaking and acting on what they believe. And there’s no question the four of you have that potential too.
In fact, it’s more than potential. Brayden, Caleb, Mimi, Natalie, I believe you already are fearless, in some of the best ways, and I know I speak for Pastor Justin and the whole congregation in saying: we can’t wait to see what God accomplishes through you. In fact, “all of heaven shouts – let the future begin!”
So look out Church. Look out, world. This fearless foursome is stepping up and making a difference. And as their church family, we’re privileged to witness it! Amen.