Narrative Lectionary Text: Romans 6:1-14
listen to the sermon audio CLICK HERE.
What makes you come alive?
What is it that, when you do it, you feel this rush that makes you feel amazing?
I’m not talking about a quick buzz, like you feel when you ride a roller coaster or see an amazing movie.
I’m not talking about the quick fix that comes from taking drugs, having sex, or eating that tenth piece of chocolate. Those things can make you feel really good for a moment, but then they can leave you feeling even more empty.
I’m talking about that thing that, when you are doing it, you feel like it is exactly what you were created to do.
There are two things like that for me.
The first is teaching.
I love everything about teaching. I love the studying, the compiling ideas, figuring out how to present the ideas in a way that makes sense, and the interaction with students to guide them to self-discovery. There is no greater rush that when you see light bulbs going on for people that you’re teaching.
The second thing is art.
I love drawing and painting and animating.
When I get to combine art with teaching, the BOOM! It’s awesome, and I feel like I am truly doing what God created me to do.
We call that Vocation. It is knowing what God is calling you to be and do in the world.
What makes you come alive?
When you are 14 or 15 years old, you might not know what that is yet. That is a big part of what the next few years of your journey are all about.
Finding your vocation.
When I was a younger man, I came to a point in my life where I was really struggling with this question.
I was successful in my job, but it wasn’t really fulfilling. I kind of hated it. I began searching and asking God to show me what I was supposed to do.
I read a book called Wild at Heart by John Eldridge.
I remember this one day very clearly. I went out to the desert (I was living in Las Vegas) to Red Rock Canyon to read this book. I’m surrounded by this majestic landscape as I’m reading. Then this one passage jumped off the page and grabbed me. It was so powerful that I had to stop and write it in my journal.
Check this out:
Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do that. Because, what the world needs is more people who are truly alive.
That helped lead me to leave my current job and pursue a career where I could combine my art and teaching for a while.
What makes you come alive?
Our theme today is “Alive in Christ.”
As you come to this moment of Confirmation, where you stand publicly and affirm the baptism that your parents did for you, you are going to make claims about your life.
Let’s look back for a moment and trace how things have progressed.
15 years ago, your parents and sponsors gathered around a font like this. Words were spoken and water was poured. This was the symbolic moment of your birth into the family of God.
Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit, and marked with the sign of the cross, forever.
Then you went to SONday school and learned the stories.
Then you came to first communion.
Every time I watch Pastor Mark give first communion, I see him do something very special. After the kids have received the bread and wine, he gathers them together and says,
“Remember that God loves you. No matter what you do in your life, no matter how bad you think it might be, know that God will forgive you and you are always welcome at this table.”
That is awesome, and it is 100% true.
But, there is this cynical side of me that screams inside my head,
“Don’t tell them that. Are you crazy? You basically told them that they can say and do whatever they want because God has to forgive them. That’s like getting a get out of jail free card.”
Have you ever thought that way?
You might even be tempted to feel that way right now. Some of you might be thinking,
“I can’t wait to get this day over. Then I can check off my religious ‘to-do’ list and I don’t have to do that church thing ever again. I can get on with MY life.”
That is exactly what our text is about.
Look at Romans 6:1.
Paul has been arguing throughout Romans that we are no longer under the Law, but under Grace. God is all about love and forgiveness, not about Law and Judgment.
So, he poses the logical argument against this idea.
“What should we say, then? Should we keep on sinning so that Grace may abound?”
Sometimes we can get this idea in our head that, since God will always forgive me, then I can do whatever I want and get away with whatever I want. I don’t have to be involved in church or really think about my relationship with God, because I just know God loves me, and I’m good.
It’s like, the more I sin, the more opportunity God has to give grace. So, I’m really doing God a favor.
Look what Paul has to say about that.
That’s the spirit of what is translated, “May it never be!”
If that is what you think Grace is—about getting away with bad stuff because will always forgive you, or just taking it for granted—then you’ve completely missed the point.
“How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore, we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Let me walk through this with these pictures.
First of all, we have been buried with Christ in our baptism.
One of the most powerful symbols of baptism is not only birth into the family of God, but it is also death to the powers of Sin and Death.
Here’s the second picture.
There are two powers at work in the world. Paul explains this in other parts of Romans.
The first is the power of Sin.
Sin is not the little mistakes we make. The power of Sin is anything that is contrary to the ways of God; anything that causes you to fear, to hate, to hurt, to steal, to destroy.
Think about your friends right now. Can you think of anyone who is controlled by fear, or greed, or envy, or hopelessness? So much of the world seems to be enslaved to the power of Sin.
These things are destructive and they all lead to the same place, which is our ultimate fear. They lead to DEATH.
Here’s the GOOD NEWS. Here’s the Gospel.
God loves the world so much that God became human, in the person of Jesus, and defeated Sin and Death. When Jesus died on the cross, he took Sin and Death with him and they were buried there.
And you were buried there, too.
You are dead to the power of Sin and Death.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Jesus rose from the dead through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead is the Spirit that was present in your baptism.
Here is the truth about you, and you, and you, and you.
You are a beloved child of God.
You are not a slave to sin. You have died to Sin and Death, and you have been set free to LIVE.
You are ALIVE in CHRIST.
God has created, and is creating, each one of you to be a wonderfully unique contribution to the good of all creation.
Here’s the most important part of this.
Our baptism is not a one-time event. Our Confirmation is not a one-time event.
It is a WAY of LIFE.
Each day we must wake up and remember.
I am dead to Sin. I am alive in CHRIST. I have been set free to bring life to this world.
This is a very special moment.
You have been on this journey for 15 years, and today you will step across the line to be received into the adult congregation.
Now you will make the promises that were made over you those many years ago.
- to live among God’s faithful people,
- to hear the word of God and share in the Lord’s supper,
- to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed,
- to serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and
- to strive for justice and peace in the world.
This is why you have been set free.
We do not live for ourselves. We are all part of this community. We need each other. We need you.
I cannot wait to see what God is going to do in, with, and through you in the next few years, and how God is going to change US because YOU are here.
Together, we are ALIVE in CHRIST, and that’s really GOOD NEWS.