Who We Are What We Believe
Sermon by Rev. Steven McClelland for Pentecost Sunday. Focus: On Paul’s letter to Timothy and my letter to our 2014 Confirmation class.
To our young Christians, Michelle, Michael, Christine & Jessica, and to the church of Jesus Christ in Hackensack. Well today is your last official class lesson. And it couldn’t come on a more appropriate day than Pentecost – the birthday of the church, because prior to this day the church didn’t exist and the disciples upon whom the church was built were locked behind doors of grief and fear.
But on Pentecost that all changed. On this day they were filled with God’s Holy Spirit and they moved out from under a spirit of timidity into a spirit that embolden them to begin what we, what you continue to this day as you join this body that is called the body of Christ.
Let no one make light of the answers that you are about to give to the questions that you are about to address, because of your youth. It is not flesh and blood that calls you into discipleship. It is God. The call to discipleship is not an easy path to follow, as you all know. Paul told his student Timothy as I am telling you that we are to set an example for the world by what we say, by what we do, by the love we are called to give and so on this your last class I want to tell you about who we are and what we believe.
We are church who is in love with God and learning how to love one another. We are a church that will worship God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, time and finances. We are a church that will avoid the complacency of lukewarm commitments and status quo religion. We are a church that will pursue a deeper relationship with God through prayer, study, mission and worship.
We are and will be a church that loves. We will embrace the up and out and the down and out. God is raising a church that has compassion on the suffering, sighing, crying lost souls who need what we have to offer – faith, hope and love. We will be a church that fights the prejudice and apathy that is rampant in our society. We will love our neighbor as ourselves, love our families as Christ loved the church, and we will reach out beyond these walls with the good news of Christ’s gospel.
We will grow together as a church family and even though we have come from many places and many cultures we will be one in Christ’s Spirit. We will grow together as a church family in the unity of that Spirit. And we will be united in our diversity. We will not be divided over differences of race, gender, social status or scriptural interpretation.
We will be a church that grows. We have been placed in the county seat of Bergen County at a time when the harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few. We have been embued with power from on high for this very purpose and we will succeed at bringing lost souls to the one who can heal the sin sick heart. We will be a voice of hope in uncertain times, peace during global conflict, joy in sorrow, faith in the midst of doubt, and forgiveness in the midst of sin and sorrow.
Our church will fulfill the mandate Paul gave to Timothy as he passed the mantle of leadership – “And the things that you have heard of me among many witnesses, the same kind of commitment you shall bring and teach to many others.” We will be faithful to the task of the Great Commission – “Go therefore, and teach all the nations, everything I have commanded you.” We will make new disciples each year and we will not abandon our commitment to those we baptize. We will nurture them with loving kindness, feed them with the milk of God’s Word and bring them to a time and place, like this, where they shall make their profession of faith in front of such a great and wonderful throng of witnesses as this.
And we commit ourselves to this vision this morning. We commit to the God that granted this vision. We trust in His power to complete that great work that He has begun. And we acknowledge our complete and continual dependence upon Him to guide us, empower us, and refresh us as we move forward.
Michelle, Michael, Christine & Jessica do not neglect the gifts that you have been given. There will never be another one like you again on the face of the earth. Take heed to be true to yourself and to your gifts. Hold on to that, for by doing so you will save yourselves and you will save others.
The gifts of righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness, the ability to do justly, to love mercy and to speak with truth and integrity are God’s gifts to each one of you in what ever endeavors you undertake in life.
Michelle, Michael, Christine & Jessica take hold of the eternal life to which you have been called, when you make the good confession in the presence of these many witnesses this morning. Hold on to that which is eternal – things such as faith, hope and love.
The call to discipleship is not an easy path to follow, and in the final analysis that’s why we really need one another. That is why we need to be part of the body of Christ – the church. It is impossible to live a life of discipleship without the support of one another.
And when it’s all said and done my hope for you is that you can look back over your life and say with the Apostle Paul, “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.” Amen.