Grace and peace to you, sisters and brothers in Christ.
The other day, I was outside with our three year old. We had just finished at the playground and were going for a walk, looking for birds and exploring all that was greening in response to the warmth.
We were going to be visiting her grandparents, and she was really, really excited. She spotted one bright dandelion and ran over to it. She carefully picked the bright flower, declaring that she would present it to her granny. She watched over it through our whole walk, making sure it was still with us, and we hadn’t dropped it. Then she set it down in the car, and forgot about it until the next day.
When we got into the car again, she frantically looked for her flower. She couldn’t find it. After crawling around and looking under seats, I did. But it wasn’t bright yellow anymore. It had curled up in on itself. It had dried out and wilted. L-didn’t understand; it didn’t look anything like the flower she had picked as her gift of love.
When we pick a flower, it’s cut off from its roots, its branches, everything that supports and nourishes it. It can’t sustain itself and it dies. The flower needs the whole system in which it lives.
This life-giving connectedness is what Jesus is talking about when he names himself the vine and calls us his branches. He invites us to abide in him. This means being so connected to Jesus that we receive our life from him. Everything we do, everything we are, grows out of our relationship with Jesus.
Jesus’ invitation is matched by his promise, “Abide in me as I abide in you.” (John 15:4a). Jesus is the one who has planted you in him. Jesus has formed and sustained the connection to you.
Today, six people affirm their faith. A-, D-, E-, K-, N-e, and N-, you’ve given extra time and effort into participating in the confirmation program. The whole church has nourished you as you’ve grown, explored, and developed relationships within this community. This program and this place have worked to pull away any strangling weeds and ensure that you have the light and water you need as Jesus continues to grow in you.
God attached you to Jesus the vine in your baptism. In this water and word, you were connected forever to the life-giving God. Jesus made you one with him. Since that day, you have shared in Jesus’ life. Today is a milestone to celebrate the shared identity you’ve had with Jesus and always will have. Jesus has made you a part of him, and you will never be cut off. Today isn’t the end, and it isn’t the beginning. It’s a marker of your growth. You’re transitioning from childhood into adulthood, exploring your beliefs, and beginning to make commitments and choices that will shape the rest of your lives.
As your church and as your family, we can be afraid that you’ll step away from church during this time in your life. We fear that you’ll end up like that shriveled dandelion if you cut yourself off from church, where faith is nourished. But Jesus is bigger than our fear. Jesus has attached himself to you more strongly than you can turn away.
To you, to all of you, Jesus has come. Jesus has come into our world, come into your lives, to abide: to live and to stay, to be- forever. Jesus sealed this promise by dying for you and entering death. In his own suffering, he proves that no amount of your turning away, no darkness of your current situation, no sin, would ever be so great as to make him abandon you. No matter what, Jesus is with you forever: the giver of life, constantly giving life to you, even after death. You have been brought into life, and sustained, by the Jesus who has claimed you forever.