For the second time in my ministry this Sunday, I am going to be able to preach at a Confirmation. And this service will be on the holiest of days in the Christian Calendar: Easter Day. There will be baptism first and then confirmation of those who are being baptized and others who have been baptized but have waited until this moment to come forward to be confirmed. Such things cause me to reflect on my own journey. I remember kneeling down in front of the then Bishop of Caledonia Diocese. I remember his hands going on my head and the heat that was coming from his hands. I remember that he prayed for me in the following manner: “Defend O Lord, this your servant, with your heavenly grace; that he may continue yours forever and daily increase in your Holy Spirit more and more until he comes to your heavenly kingdom.” But what does this have to do with Easter and the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead? It has everything to do with it!
The Bishop asked God to defend me. That is no small request. He asked God to shield me from the attacks and the dangers I was going to face in my life. This does not mean that I am not going to have troubles or faces challenges. It means that all those things that are in the world that could overcome me, kill and destroy me are kept at bay. The Bishop asked also that God would maintain and support me in the face of trial and hostile criticism for my faith. The Bishop asked that God would through the ministry of the Holy Spirit prove of the fruit of the Christian life within me and enables me to defend my faith. And lastly, the Bishop asked God to help me with the race and receive the goal of my faith in his Son: life. God himself offers the “prize”, the crown of eternal life with God and all who have run the race.
Why would God do all this? Simply, because God loves us through and in his Son. God is here and he is with us through his risen Son. This is what God does for his children what every father ought to do for his children. Fathers need to protect, guide, shield, guard, and safeguard the children. And how should we as his children respond? By trusting what it is that he has done for us in and through Jesus Christ our Lord and our Saviour. We need to learn to trust him and put our lives on the line for him. We need even in the moment to recognize that Jesus Christ is Lord! Yes, the grave is empty and the cross is left behind, but Easter is more than the empty grave and the useless nails. It is the presence of the living Christ. We need to learn to trust him and to follow him as we move back to the Galilee with the risen Jesus and a whole new way of looking that the same old world.
Everything is going to change because of what was learned: not just at the cross nor at the tomb when Jesus was laid to rest on that Friday evening as the Sabbath was beginning. Those sights are all too familiar and we know what that is about. We need to learn to walk and to become the people that God is making us to be, in and through the power of the risen Christ. And what we will learn is to turn our church communities not just upside down, but (please God) we will learn to turn them inside out. We will seek out the least the last and the lost of this generation in this city and draw them to the heavenly City. We will do this so that we in turn can defend the people around us and draw them into the grace we live in and please God, into the life that is so freely offered to those who will receive it and truly live.