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Faith is not for everyone

May 24, 2015

Day of Pentecost- ConfirmationHoly Spirit

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.  Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.

“All this I have spoken while still with you.  But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

John 14:23-27

There can be no more appropriate words from Jesus for this confirmation service than the words that come to us today for the Sunday of Pentecost.
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. The only condition for the company, protection and love of God —what we, in short, call the blessing of God—, is to obey His word. If we say we love God, then we must prove it by obeying His word, that is, the Bible.

One of the first things you need to do to obey the Word of God is to believe in It. The confirmands today now also want to show their faith before God and the congregation by becoming active members and part of a congregation. That’s called faith. It is to prove that I believe in God and I want to believe in God. Why do I say I believe in God and say ‘I want to’ believe in God?
Faith is a gift from God. If we can believe, we have to thank God because that happens through the Holy Spirit of God. For most of us who are in church today, it is apparently not a problem to say I believe in God, even though our faith may not be so big. But do you know how many people there are out there who don’t believe? Do you know how many people do not have the slightest desire to believe in God? And perhaps many of them die without having believed in God. Therefore, we have to be thankful for believing in God. We must be thankful that we have been brought up in Christian families who, rightly or wrongly, have brought us to church and have given us the possibility of believing in Jesus Christ. In the case of those who have been confirmed, and even baptized, it then becomes our responsibility if our faith grows or falls.

Faith is like a seed or sapling. We must take care that the seedling of faith that has been planted grows and ripens as God would like.
In the beginning, when a tree is planted, it is just a seed, and then it becomes a small plant that requires a lot of care so that over time it can grow into a tree. It is the same with the baptized. We must take care of that plant. In the life of faith, at a young age we may have parents, godparents, or a Christian family that can help. But eventually every one of us must take responsibility to care for the plant of faith.
We must take care of that seedling of faith with fear and trembling; because if you don’t take care of it, then despite having been baptized and confirmed, that plant may wither and die. And if that happen in our life of faith, faith is extinguished and the person turns away from God with tragic consequences for their existence beyond their life.

Can you have faith and doubt about the existence of God? Sure, all those who have faith sometimes doubt. Especially when we are going through rough times and we ask and feel that God doesn’t answer us. And not only Christians doubt the existence of God. Those who don’t believe in God also doubt about the ‘non-existence’ of God at some point in their lives. Even atheists, at some point, doubt about their “conviction” and say, couldn’t it be that God maybe does exist?

Once I met a person who, perhaps jokingly, but it wasn’t joke, said: “How can you believe in God whom you haven’t seen? How can you believe in something you don’t see? Today I woke up and didn’t see God. I walk down the street and I didn’t see God. I was in the parking lot and didn’t see God. Show me that God exists! Then I said: “You cannot “not believe” in everything you don’t see. There are things that we believe that we cannot see. And I asked: “Do you believe in love?” “Yes, of course I believe.” “But how can you believe in love if you don’t see it? “Well, come to my place and I’ll show you my wife and you’ll see the love we have”. “Yes, but I don’t see love, how can you believe in something you don’t see? We don’t have to see everything that we believe in. Can we see hope? We have hope and don’t want to lose it; it is the same with God. There are other dimensions that go beyond the understanding of human beings. One is the spiritual dimension; we don’t see it, but we can believe it.

That is why we must feed our faith with the corresponding food for faith, which is spiritual food. This food includes prayer, daily communication with God, daily reading of the Bible and weekly participation in community in a church where we receive the Word and Sacrament, the food coming from the Holy Spirit of God. That is what it means to take care of that little plant; that is what it means to take care of our faith so that it will grow and grow, and become the great tree of faith that God wants for us. If our life doesn’t show off the blessings of God, it is possibly because we didn’t care for that plant or we haven’t allowed it to grow, or we are not taking care and feeding it with spiritual food. Even if we are old, we can start to feed the plant as God intended. It’s never late for our faith to become a huge tree. And even more so, when young people, as is now the case for the confirmands, take this advice and treasure it in their life in the way that God’s Word says: “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them”. That’s the best advice we can give to a confirmand. Do you want to see God’s fruits in your life? Do you want to see the palpable blessing of God? Start feeding the seedling of your faith by obeying God.

Once there was a non-believer, who was certainly very smart and he wanted to have all the explanations about the possible existence of God. And he asked questions of a pastor: Where is God, in the middle of poverty, hunger in the world, in the middle of those massacred and mutilated children used for prostitution or child labor? Why is there suffering, why are there diseases or wars? Can you explain where God was before all this? And so he asked one question after another. This pastor, said, ‘Well let me try to explain it. The man said: ‘No, you cannot explain anything, because you don’t have the answers, because God doesn’t exist, God is an invention, and no one can see God. “I can explain it,—keeps saying the minister— but first I want to ask a question”. “No, I don’t want any questions—said the man laughing—, answer ‘my’ question!” “But let me ask you just one question, may I?” “Well, okay, —finally consented the man—just a question”. “If I answer you clearly and satisfy your doubts about the existence of God right now, would you consider believe in God and become a Christian? And the man replied, “No, not at all!!!”

And the minister answered: Then lets go for a coffee, and don’t waste our times!

So my conclusion is that there are people in this world to which we can call voluntary non-believers. That is, they don’t want to believe, and do everything possible to not believe! But we are called to be the contrary: ‘voluntary believers’ And we Christians often doubt about our faith. It may happen that we have doubts about the existence of God and this can be normal and even be honest to admit it. But nevertheless, we move forward and we persist in our faith; we continue to feed our faith through prayer, Bible reading and weekly belonging to a community of faith, because we are determined to believe in God. And that’s the kind of faith that arise in those who love God, despite our doubts and human limitations; we give more credit to God than to all who want to convince us that God doesn’t exist. And that is the faith that perseveres in the end! That is the faith that, despite the problems that want to lower our mood and make us sad, lethargic, depressed or negative, says: No!, I have to change my face, I have to change my moods in order to believe, to be able to trust and to declare as in today’s psalm: “The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.” And to be overjoyed, happy and cheerful is part of the same experience of faith. We want to decide to feel good and change our feelings, to change our way of thinking that leads us to believe! He who is mentally ill cannot think well and those who cannot think well cannot believe. Those who cannot believe cannot love God, because they cannot believe that He exists. “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see … And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”(Heb 11: 1.6)

Faith, besides being a blessing from God, brings a lot of responsibility. It requires that we should keep that faith, otherwise this faith fades, and it dies and disappears. And the consequences of the loss of faith, is not only the stepping aside from God but also the exclusion of all those good things we look forward to in life: health, prosperity, love, hope, in a word, God’s blessing. There is the danger that faith can become fully extinguished with the loss of salvation that is offered by God beyond this life.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God’, I would positively rephrase this: Only faith can please God. The only way we can make God happy, the only way we can love God is through our faith in Him. The kind of faith that prevails and goes beyond any external circumstances: Trusting faith, faith that struggles, faith that overcomes, faith that says God exists and shows now and here in my life through His word, the Bible.
We pray that God may dwell in this church through the Holy Spirit. Also that God may hereafter dwell in the confirmands’ life and their families. But the only requirement is to love God by obeying His word and having faith; that is, keeping that faith through our faithful and stubborn communion with God himself. May God fill our lives and be present in this house, the Lord’s house.  Amen

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