St. Stephen,

On Sunday, May 23, seven young leaders of this congregation will affirm their baptism, and we, in turn, will affirm them.

Zac, Sara, Makayla, Kristen, Kaitlin, Chad, and Brian have been in confirmation together for two years.  Once a month, they gathered to eat and learn together.  Twice they went to Long Beach Island for “Among the Wolves,” the New Jersey Synod junior high gathering.  They also went to camp last summer.  Along the way, they worshiped, taking notes on “Worship Worksheets.”  They also served in worship.  Not only has each one been acolyte countless times, but also, as a group, they helped invite us into a creative and energetic way of praying and praising God at two Family Easter Vigil worship services.  They led the way for the rest of us also as a living bridge, linking St. Peter and St. Stephen long before St. Peter’s ministry ended.  They are witnesses, helping us imagine what wonders in Christ are possible.

And this is to say nothing of all the ways Zac, Sara, Makayla, Kristen, Kaitlin, Chad, and Brian have lived, served, loved, and lead beyond this congregation.  At home and school.  In their day-to-day lives.  They carry the very breath of God, holy fruits and gifts of the Holy Spirit, into so many hungering and thirsting corners of God’s creation.

They are and do all of this in and through God’s waters of grace.  At their baptism, they died with Christ, so with Christ they might live.  At their baptism, each received unique and varied gifts of the Holy Spirit for the sake of the common good.  God chose them through water.

And on Sunday, May 23, they affirm this baptism publicly.  Publicly, they commit to living for themselves the promises their parents made for them at their baptism.  These are the same promises we ourselves  claimed.  In response to God’s unearnable love, we promised to

+ live among God’s faithful people,

+ hear God’s Word and share God’s Meal,

+ proclaim the good news of God in Christ Jesus in word and deed,

+ serve all people following Christ’s example,

+ and strive for justice and peace in all the earth.

On Sunday, May 23, Zac, Sara, Makayla, Kristen, Kaitlin, Chad, and Brian will claim these five promises as the shape of the rest of their lives.  Until, at the day of their deaths, God completes the work of their baptism and raises them to live in God and in the communion of the saints.  What a day that will be.  What a day this will be, this May 23, this Day of Pentecost, a day of wind and fire and the most Holy Spirit.

On that day, we will add our affirmation to theirs.  We, the gathered people of God.  We will affirm these young leaders as God’s young leaders.  We will celebrate God’s wonderful  gifts in them.  We will say, “Yes, you belong to us, because we belong to you, because we belong to God together.”  To affirm is to say, “Yes!”  Joyfully we will say it.

And our most joyful affirmation for the sake of these seven young people will be our affirmation that they are more than the boxes  the world puts them in, more than the labels they wear, more than they themselves.  We will commit to loving them past all that divides them from us, from each other, and from any others of God’s children.  For what matters most about these young people—or any of us—is not whether we love Spiderman or Batman, whether we live in North Plainfield or South Plainfield, not how old we are or whether we are women or men, rich or poor, right or wrong.  What matters is that we are wet with the promises of God, wet in the waters of baptism, wet with God’s unwinnable life of abundance.   Zac, Sara, Makayla, Kristen, Kaitlin, Chad, and Brian are baptized and that makes all the difference.

For if they have been baptized with Christ in a death like his, surely they will be raised with Christ in a life like his.  Who can tire of affirming this?  We say “Yes!” to each other, because together all our dying and living are in Christ.

Thanks be to God.

Pastor Clark Olson-Smith