Out of the Box
So Andrew, Joel—here we are at your confirmation Sunday!
It is a joy to share this day with you.
Andrew, you been such an important presence among us here at OSLC—Joel at Emanuel—
Both of you have contributed in your own places of worship your beautiful and heartfelt singing,
your thoughtful prayers, addressing the issues of our world,
your active engagement in discussing ideas of the children’s and adult sermons.
Since I have known you both since birth, I have a little more material on each of you than the usual confirmand.
For example, when Andrew was perhaps three years old,
I went to a planning meeting at his house.
The meeting was actually with Christine, his mom,
who met with me while she made meatloaf in the kitchen (ever efficient).
While I was taking notes, Andrew came up quietly beside me at the table,
and began driving his matchbox car--- not on the table, but up my arm!
And when Joel was four, he asked my husband one day, out of the blue,
“Daddy, what explosives are safe to use in the house?”
Over the years, I have learned a thing or two about Andrew and Joel.
You are kids with inquisitive minds, and quirky but original ideas.
Given an art project, you make things with complicated angles.
Given a writing prompt, you gravitate toward the technical or theoretical—
aeronautics, auto design, or architectural design.
You build virtual worlds in Minecraft and Dungeons and Dragons, and robots to do your bidding in LEGOS.
It all adds up to one thing: you are people who think outside the box.
‘Outside the box’ is a good Pentecost theme,too.
The story we have from the book of Acts tells of an annual festival that took an unexpected turn.
The festival was Shavuot, the harvest festival celebrating God giving the law to Moses.
Jews from all over the known world had gathered in Jerusalem for the festival.
Everything was going normally, people worshipping and feasting,
visiting with relatives and old friends, when suddenly strange things began to happen.
The disciples of Jesus were together in the house when they heard what sounded like rushing wind
Something like tongues of fire flew around their heads
Words upon words came tumbling out of out of their mouths, in languages too many to number.
It caused such a commotion, that a crowd gathered together on the street outside.
The disciples found themselves propelled out to the public square, where everyone could see them.
Their words continued, each speaking a different language, but giving the same message:
that Jesus, a man killed as a criminal, was Lord and Messiah.
And finally, the disciples understood what was happening:
It was the words of the prophet Joel come true:
In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
your sons and daughters shall prophesy,
your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams
Even on my slaves, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit.
It was a promise that the Spirit would not be contained forever
that one day it would jump the sides of the box and be poured out on all
so that God’s purposes in the world would be carried out.
The out of the box Spirit set off a chain reaction.
The disciples had been followers of Jesus, but now they were apostles, leaders—
they who were still absorbing the resurrection now were converting others!
3000 were baptized that day, creating an instant church.
The disciples needed to think outside the box in order to respond
to these rapidly changes circumstances.
And they did.
The book of Acts tells how they shared the Good News of Jesus and healed people
It tells about how they lived in community and cared for the poor
organized themselves with different duties.
It tells how they faced a world at times hungry and other times hostile to their message.
This same Pentecostal Spirit blows today in your lives, Andrew and Joel.
The cultural landscape of the modern world is changing quickly,
and Spirit is calling for some out of the box thinking.
You are part the Millenial generation
a cohort ranging from those born between 1980 through the early 2000s
The Spirit is working in this generation with a deep desire to make a difference in the world.
They are tech savvy and networked socially,
orchestrating social movements such as the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.
They have a sense of fun and are open to change.
But the Millenials are also the most unchurched generation of modern times.
The Pew Study that came out this month reported that
36% of Milennials between the ages of 18-24 are religiously unaffiliated,
compared with 17% of boomers and 23% of Gen Xers.
As more Millenials replace the Great Generation and Silent Generation,
who attended church in overwhelming numbers, overall church attendance declines.
We could wring our hands and say the church is going shrivel up like an Egyptian mummy,
fit only to be a museum visited by a few people who loves its dusty interior.
But I believe the Spirit is on the move again, as on the day of Pentecost
The Spirit is once again changing the religious landscape
challenging our pat answers of what church is about
and curing our hubris in thinking we have a corner on the Truth.
The Spirit is refashioning the church into something that better reflects the kingdom of God,
and Andrew and Joel, your out of the box thinking is part of it!
Your passion to make a difference is part of it!
Your growing relationship with God is part of it!
As modern day disciples, we need to think out of the box to respond to changing circumstances.
You will help us build the church of Jesus Christ for the next generation
and we need all your creativity and analysis and love to do it.
But I also want to speak to the people who are here today who are not millenials.
We aren’t going to keep on with business as usual and expect
that our millennial children and grandchildren will take our beloved institution as is and run it.
The Spirit is calling us to change, too.
We need to LISTEN to young people like Andrew and Joel who are in the church,
use their ideas, address their concerns.
We need to LISTEN to the people who AREN’T here, too.
This is a big task for us.
Not because people who don’t attend church are not hard to find—
we all have plenty in our own family.
It’s a challenge because we need to become comfortable in asking questions
and talking about our faith
we need to engage others not in a preachy way, but in an authentic way
to speak about what really matter to us.
In order to do this, we need to return to scripture and our rich tradition of faith.
we can’t expect that our spiritual life will fit in one hour a week church
when everything else in our world is 24-7.
It takes time to develop a mature faith
it requires studying the bible, connecting it with the issues of our day,
discussing it and praying about it with others
If we want to be compelling examples of faith to others, if we want to be church to the next generation We need to return to our Source, the Spirit, who provides everything we need.
On the day of Pentecost long ago, the Spirit took over a religious festival
and turned it for the God’s new purposes
The Spirit continues to work in our day and age
taking over our long held traditions and opening them into something new.
Long ago the Spirit burst open the little boxes that kept people separate from one another
the same is happening among us today.
God wants to use us to receive new visions and dream new dreams.
This prayer is for Joel and Andrew, for us gathered today, and for all Christians:
May the Spirit that blew through Jerusalem and set the disciples aflame
set us on fire with Jesus’ love
and may the Spirit guide as we think outside the box
and into God’s future.