I was watching the news a couple weeks ago where an item came up that in one way made me laugh but in another way made me sad. It spoke about a cyclist Luka Pibernik from Slovenia riding in the Giro D’Italia cycling race who threw his arms up in victory when he crossed the finishing line not realising he still had a lap to go in the race. He ended up finishing the race in 148th position. He celebrated victory too early.
As Christians we don’t have that worry about celebrating our victory too early because we aren’t the ones competing.
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ has won the victory for us already and we are simply waiting to receive the prize.
We believe that Jesus has ascended to heaven where he sits at the right hand of God ruling the world waiting for us to come and join him in heaven. The time of waiting however can be difficult at times. Christians, in general, have been waiting 2000 years for Jesus to return and bring about the victory when he promised to return and bring about the judgment of all people. As Christians the wait can cause us to become complacent and distracted like the cyclist thinking he’d won.
Erica, Joe and Daniel – you are young and have a whole life of experiences ahead of you. And sometimes things in life can distract us from what our Christian faith is about. As you grow up – go to University, get a job, perhaps get married and start a family – sometimes your Christian faith can slip away. Especially if your go to University and begin in the workplace, there may be people that make you question your Christian faith. In your confirmation lessons you learnt, hopefully, about how the Christian faith applies to your everyday life so when you get distracted by things that you can look back to what is really important and how the Christian faith is an important part of your life.
You learnt about the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments are not supposed to be ways that we limit your fun in life. “You can’t do this – you can’t do that – you must do this – you must do that”. That’s not what God intended by them.
The 10 Commandments were given to show us how we can enjoy life and get the most out of life. The 10 Commandments are about how to truly value life. They teach you about relationships – with God and one another. They help you to value what is really important in life. You’re going to be challenged and wonder what the right thing to do is. That’s when you go back to the commandments and ask – Am I loving God – am I loving my neighbour. You learnt about the Apostles’ Creed – which is also about relationships. It taught you that you were specially created by God the Father – the creator of heaven and earth. You learnt about God’s love for you that even though we mess our lives up that God still loves us so much that he sent his one and only Son into the world to die for us. You learnt that as you journey through life with all its challenges and uncertainties, that you are not alone – God is with you with the gift of his Holy Spirit. So as you go through life wondering at times how to get through things – you can remember – God is with me because of your Baptism. You learnt about Baptism where you began your new life as a child of God. You learnt that God loved you and promised to be with you till the end of time. You learnt that whoever believes and is baptised will be saved.
What an amazing promise God has made to you in a world that only values you by your possessions – that values you by your academic achievements – that values you by your employment. A world that is very quick to devalue you when you no longer are important. In Baptism you learn that God loves you as you are without needing to achieve or prove anything.
He loves you simply because you are his beloved child. You learnt about Holy Communion where you are invited to come and receive the most special gift anyone can give you – the gift of life. You don’t need to prove anything to be invited – God invites you as you are. You don’t need to be on the A list or be one of the popular kids. God invites you as you are.
And he gives you the gift of life. Eternal life – as you hear the invitation – take and eat – take and drink – this is my body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. So when you go through life and you feel like you are alone or nobody cares or understands here you are reminded that you’re never alone and that God cares and understands you and invites you to his very own supper to be with you.
You then learnt a very special prayer. A prayer we call The Lord’s Prayer. When Jesus disciples asked him to teach them to pray he actually gave them a prayer to pray. And that’s because we tend to find it difficult to pray. We don’t know what to pray. We don’t know when to pray. We don’t know how to pray. So Jesus gives us a prayer we can pray at any time and it covers everything thing we need. The more people I speak to the more I find people who find it difficult to pray.
But the same people will tell me how important prayer is. So Jesus gives us a prayer to help us. God wants you to speak to him. God wants to speak to you. One of the worst things you can do is to bottle things up. In prayer you can tell God all your problems. You can share with God your most intimate thoughts and feelings. And God won’t judge you. He understands you and what you’re going through and wants to listen to you.
And finally you learnt about a very precious gift God has given us: the forgiveness of sins. This was not about the forgiveness of sins we have but how we can use forgiveness towards others. This is so important and so needed today.
Knowing that God has forgiven you gives you the strength to forgive others. When someone hurts you rather than hurting them back God encourages you to forgive them. When you are in a relationship it is forgiveness that allows your relationship to heal and grow. Forgiveness is the sign by which Christians are known in the world. Non-Christians can forgive too but Christians are taught to be the ones who offer forgiveness even if the other person isn’t sorry. Even if the same person has hurt us time and again, forgiveness allows us to not let our anger take over and hurt them back.
Erica, Joe and Daniel, today is Thanksgiving Sunday and today the church is so thankful for your faith. People your age are sadly leaving the church. The church needs you, but I’m also going to say – you need the church. The church is your family. The world will offer you plenty but at the end of the day it doesn’t have your interests at heart. The church is different. The church is where God’s family comes together to support each other. The church is where you will find purpose and meaning and love and acceptance. The church will remind you that you are special without needing to prove anything. For around an hour a week you can come and hear a different message to the one you hear in the world. You’ll hear a message that it’s okay to be who you are because that’s how God made you. You’ll hear a message that God loves you even if you don’t love yourself. You’ll hear a message that God has forgiven you even if you cannot forgive yourself.
You’ll hear a message that it’s okay to come 148th in a race because Jesus has already won the only race that matters – the race to heaven where he is waiting to give you the crown of victory.
Erica, Joe and Daniel, you are about to confirm your faith publicly in the presence of your family and your church family.
This is not a small thing you are doing as you claim again for yourselves everything God has to give you. God holds nothing back. Whatever he has to give you he has already given you in your baptism and in the receiving of Christ’s body and blood. My prayer is that you use what God has given you as you go through life so you know that you’re not alone.
That God is with you; that the church is with you. And may you go and continue to grow in your faith as you live as children of God for which we are truly thankful on this Day of Thanksgiving.