It’s Confirmation … NOT Graduation!

It’s Confirmation … NOT Graduation!

The following post was adapted from a message that Ryan Knipping, sophomore at Eagan High School and member of Easter shared at confirmation at Easter by the Lake in October. Ryan is involved with the youth summer mission trip program as well as TIM team and Yowies (Youth on Wednesday) high school youth group. Ryan is also involved in the boy’s swim team and other school acitivites.

Confirmation Class Selfie

Confirmation Class Selfie

So first off, I love microphones, so this should be fun. Hey, I’m Ryan Knipping, my story with this church goes back pretty far, I was baptized here, and grew up here. I always grew up going to Sunday school, and it wasn’t until the summer going into my 7th grade year that i truly started to get involved. It all started by signing up for a crazy thing called vacation bible school. Picture your biggest fear…spiders, heights, plane falling from the sky, just put that picture in your head. Now my definition of fear at that time was a huge group of elementary school children that are extraordinarily energetic, and just want to run and have fun. It was not my definition of fun, yet for some crazy reason I went back and did it next summer.

That same summer going into 7th grade, I went on my first mission trip to Milwaukee Wisconsin, despite it being in Wisconsin, it was the best week of my life. On that trip, it was the first time I found God. I say it’s when I found God because it’s when I realized that he’s always there.

Now skip to last summer, by last summer I had been on 5 mission trips to Milwaukee, Duluth, Cairo IL, West Virginia, and finally one of my favorite memories was my trip this summer to Alabama. This is where I was faced with that same agonizing fear that I have…large groups of elementary schoolers that just want to have fun and be kids!

I don’t know how many of you have been to Alabama in the middle of the summer, but let’s just say you never hear the words “I’m cold.” So we were at this community center that had “AC” that tried so hard to keep the heat out, somewhat unsuccessfully. It was in the gym of that community center that I met a little boy named Titus.

Titus was about as tall as my waist, so you can imagine the reaction I had when he ran up to me and gave me a bear hug, just wrapped his arms around me and shoved his head right where it hurts. Him and I soon got very close, and within 30 minutes we were sitting down listening to a story from the Bible about God’s love, shocker I know, story in the Bible about God’s love. He was sitting in my lap and he turns to me and says “I love you” and before I even knew what had happened, I had been kissed by a four-year-old on the lips.

I realized at that time that he might not have anyone to go home to after this and show love to, at the time and still today it almost brings tears to my eyes, all he wanted was to be loved, and to show his love for others.

Many of you know how involved I have become in the community of Easter Lutheran, I have been able to grow as a person and in my faith. The biggest thing that I have realized though this over 1000 day journey of confirmation is that it’s not a Sunday thing, we’re called to live it out each and every day.

Confirmation Friends

Confirmation Friends, Ryan is in the upper right corner of this photo!

The thing I hope that everyone realizes today is that this is not a graduation from the church, it’s not that we never have to come back. This is us confirming our faith, this is not the end of the book, but simply a new chapter. As cliche as it sounds, because it is, I’d like to say thank you to everyone that has brought me to where I am today, all of which are way too long to name, but trust me. You can’t begin to know the impact you have had on me. Lastly remember how much I love microphones, and how fun this experience has been, thanks.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy… Or Not

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.
John 16:22

This Sunday Intern Pastor Brandon Newton preached on the story of Paul and Silas’ first arrest (See Acts 16:16-40). The men were falsely accused, stripped naked, beaten with wooden rods and then imprisoned. The underground dungeon that served as a Roman prison would have been dark and dirty. I can only imagine the stench, the fear, the pain and the indignation. Wounded and chained in the dark it would be understandable if they had given in to fear and hopelessness. And maybe even anger.

All this and they were innocent. All this for a God who had seemingly abandoned them. All this pain and misery to save people who were ungrateful and cruel.

I would have been very angry indeed.

And yet, Paul and Silas spent their time in jail praying and singing hymns. They chose to praise God even in the midst of a situation far worse than most of us can imagine. At first it’s easy to think that Paul was exceptional. That God endowed him with some sort of super human ability to seek joy in even the most appalling situations.

But the truth is that we all have this ability to choose joy, to make a conscious decision to be joyful even in the midst of tragedy. Joy is not happiness. Happiness is an emotion that is, by its very nature, fleeting. We get a promotion, we go on a vacation, we get engaged, we have a baby and we are happy. Everything seems right in the world; life is smooth sailing for the time being.

Of course, no one can be happy all the time. The car breaks down, work get stressful, we lose a loved one, someone gets sick and we are no longer happy. We are stressed, frustrated, sad, mad, hurt and confused. And that’s okay. The command was never to be happy all the time. Paul and Silas were not happy. They were joyful, and that is something altogether different.

Joy is a choice. It is not about getting rid of all our problems so that we can have a perfect life. It is about trusting God in spite of the fact that we live in a fallen world and things are decidedly imperfect. Joy is the knowledge that even in the midst of hardship, God is with us always and that the things we endure can and will be used for a divine purpose, even if we don’t understand how, or why. Joy is deep in the soul and cannot be shaken by the circumstances of our lives.

Of course, this kind of deep, abiding joy comes only when we are walking closely with God, when we are willing to trust Him implicitly in all things. It is an adventure, a leap of faith… a promise. Will you choose joy today?

Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

Today’s post is from spiritual director Sam Rahberg

After I finish a good read and before I tuck it away on the shelf, I like to spend some time summarizing what was most important to me. I use the author’s own words, varied only slightly, and follow the themes that speak most strongly to me at this time. The example below remains a summary and serves only as my own interpretation, so I take responsibility for any deviation from the author’s original intent. Even so, may it be a helpful reflection for others and an encouragement to read a fine book in its entirety.

 

Abba’s Child

The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging

(a book by Brennan Manning, an interpretive synopsis by Sam Rahberg)

 

Book cover--Abba's ChildJesus’ relentless tenderness
invades the citadel
of your self.
Pause to reclaim your core
identity as Abba’s child.
Inner Imposter must be called
out of hiding, accepted, embraced.
God’s choice of you
constitutes your worth.
Dignity as Abba’s child—
your most coherent sense of self.
The denial, displacement, and
repression of feelings
thwarts self-intimacy.
Daily we are being
reshaped into the image of Christ.
Recovery of passion—
recovery of your true
self as beloved.
Become inner-directed
rather than outer-determined.
Let the Great Rabbi hold you
silently against his heart.

 

Manning, Brennan. Abba’s Child: The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002.

 

Sam Rahberg is the Director of the Benedictine Center and a spiritual director. Sam has experience in parish education and administration and holds a master’s degree in theology from Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. 

 

Belonging, Sanctifying, and Sending: Jesus Prays for His Disciples in John 17

Just before his arrest, trial, and execution on the cross, Jesus prayed for all his followers. Today’s devotion is from guest writer, Sam Rahberg, reflecting on this prayer:

 

Easter Church--Hill focal pointFather, the hour has come. . . . 
I have made your name known
to those whom you gave me from the world.
They were yours, and you gave them to me,
and they have kept your word. . . .
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
As you have sent me into the world,
so I have sent them into the world.
And for their sakes I sanctify myself,
so that they also may be sanctified in truth. 
(From John 17: 1,6,17-19,  NRSV)

 

This day’s prayer began like any other for me as I settled in under a heavy blanket and quiet darkness. I had chosen to wake early and to reach out to God, yet again determined to pray for others and to make known the frustrations and wonderings of my heart. The Gospel of John stopped short my one-way pattern.

I had long been asking God to help me learn the wisdom and strength of conviction that I was finding in Jesus’ signs and teaching, but that prayer was reversed when I encountered Jesus praying for his disciples in John 17. It is a prayer of belonging, sanctifying, and sending.

Jesus begins his prayer to the Father, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word” (17:6). If we listen closely, we overhear Jesus claiming us as his own. He describes fulfilling his calling to share the truth and commends us to the Father for receiving and believing that truth (17:8). “All mine are yours,” Jesus prays, “and yours are mine.” We belong.

As he prays, he does not ask that we be relieved of danger or discomfort (17:15), but that we be protected and that we grow as disciples: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (17:17). We are sanctified.

The prayer is not over without reminding us of our calling. Jesus prays, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world (17:18). We are sent.

There may well be times to pray actively and intentionally, speaking out the desires of our hearts toward God. Yet, as John 17 invites us to see, there is also a time to claim our place beside the disciples, simply resting in the presence and ministry of Christ to us. The next time you pray, settle in and ask how Christ is praying for you. Relax and receive God’s belonging, sanctifying, and sending.

 

About the writer: Sam Rahberg is the director of the Benedictine Retreat Center in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He is also a trained spiritual director and member of Christ Lutheran on Capitol Hill (St. Paul). Read more about Sam on Easter Lutheran’s  website under spiritual direction .