Even though I don’t have my own yet, I have spent enough time with teenagers to know that the concept of fairness is pretty important to them. Who am I kidding? It isn’t because I spend time with teenagers that I know this; it’s because I was one. And it’s because even just thinking about my years as a middle schooler brings my desire for fairness flooding back to mind. I can remember the day of the huge algebra test that the fire alarm went off in third period. The kids who had algebra third period got to delay their test after they already started it and had seen all the questions. Only I had orchestra in third period not algebra. Those of us who had algebra at any other time in the day still had to take the test just like it was a normal day. It wasn’t far at all!!! Oh yeah, I remember that desire for fairness!
I also remember the typically adult answer the teacher gave. The same answer my mom used to give when my sister and I would bicker over who had more chores to do, the same answer I give now when something stirs up that desire for fairness in my own children – – “Life’s not fair.” Ugh. Even though we know it’s true, both when we hear that answer and when we give it, it is just a hard statement to swallow
Life’s not fair.
It’s not. We know that. We know it from our little experiences in daily life. We know it from a young age. We know it when we are struck with personal tragedy. We know it when tragedy strikes a whole nation. If we could let ourselves we would also see it when experience a windfall of good news, but not as many people say “Life’s not fair” when they win the lottery even though it’s true then, too. And while it is often treated as an annoyance these complaints about life not being fair they can also be seen as a leaning, a tugging, longing for the world to be made right, for justice, for God to show up and do something, for, as Paul says in this 8th chapter of Romans, redemption.
The whole first third or so of this morning’s reading was about this desire for what feels like it should be right, but isn’t yet. It’s all about these promises we have heard God is going to fulfill, both for us individually as children of God and more universally for the whole creation. It’s about living in this age, this very very long age, when we have heard what God has promised to do and really already is doing – – in the blessing of creation and calling it good, in the covenant never to destroy the earth again, in the act of saving Israel from Israel’s own self, in the person and resurrection of Jesus, in the gift of the Spirit that calls us and blesses – – this age of promise to free us from our own self-destruction, our own bondage to selfishness, but also this age when we don’t yet see the fruits of this work of the Spirit consistently. It’s about living with hope, hope that is so strong it even hurts, that someday, the fulfillment of these promises will be obvious everywhere we look.
But right now the view is murky. Things look unfair. Things just don’t make sense. I hope the congregation takes the time to look at the Faith Quest seekers’ faith statements. This is an element of our confirmation ministry that we added in a couple of years ago. The first year I gave the students a list of questions they might answer in forming their statement of faith. Things like “What do you believe about the Bible? Who do you think Jesus is and what is his importance? What do you believe about how the Holy Spirit acts?” The questions were all about the things the students could affirm and say with certainty. Being good students they answered the questions the way they were taught to answer them.
Last year, after I sat down one afternoon and tried to answer the original prompts myself, I changed up them up dramatically. Faith is rarely about the certainties. Faith is rarely about a long list of things I know without any doubt at all. Faith is rarely about my own faithfulness and trust at all even, it’s about the faithfulness of God. It’s about the Spirit who shows up in our weaknesses. It’s about how she translates our deep sighs into prayers of hope. It’s about God’s relentless pursuit of us, of our hearts, of our lives. So the faith statements this year’s Faith Quest seekers presented were as much about their questions, their observation of where life is unfair, where Scripture seems unbelievable, where the pieces don’t fit together as they are about what they can believe in because confirmation isn’t about what we do to step into God’s family; it’s about what God has already done to welcome us – with our faith and our doubts, with our understanding and our questions, with our cries of “This isn’t fair!” which are the first fruits of a mind oriented toward justice.
Confirmation is not a graduation. Confirmation is not the end of a process of becoming good enough, of learning enough information, of believing enough. Confirmation is an acknowledgement, a confirming of what God has already done and continues to do, which is to love us, pursue us, move toward us, chase after as in a world where, when we look around, it may seem like God is absent. But time and time again, in the lives of those we read about in Scripture, in the lives of the saints we know in person, the story of God’s grace is a story of God’s faithfulness to us, a story of God who will go to any lengths to stay in relationship with us, a story of God whose sovereignty, whose reign, whose compassion is so far-reaching that no matter where we go, no matter what happens, no matter what we do we can’t move beyond the grasp of God.
If you, Christopher, Dylan, and Mackenzie remember just one thing for the rest of your lives…
If you, First Presbyterian Church of Hudson, WI remember just one thing for the rest of your lives…
If you, all who are gathered in worship and praise of this God here today, remember just one thing for the rest of your lives…
…let it be this one thing:
Nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor long lives, nor short lives, nor cancer, nor depression, nor success, nor failure, nor dream jobs, nor horrible jobs, nor bad tests, nor bad friends, nor broken relationships, nor the end of a lifetime of singing, nor walking away from the church, nor coming back, nor harsh words spoken, nor loving words left unsaid, nor anything else in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Everything else we are and we are called to do flows from this one thing. Thanks be to God.
algebra photo credit: Grade 9th Math problem via photopin (license)
questions photo credit: Questions Scrabble via photopin (license)
Romans photo credit: Romans 8:39 (license)