1 Corinthians 12:3b-13, Pentecost A, June 8, 2014
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.
People who tat often feel like they are alone in this world. Tatting is a dying art, so the few who do tat are spread across the world. A lady from North Carolina taught me how to tat, but for years, I have not been able to tat in person with anybody else. I have missed the companionship of those who do the same craft as I do. I have longed for the chance to ask questions, for others to show me how to do new techniques in person. Tatting, although a beautiful art, is also a lonely art.
Although we gather every week to worship together, sometimes the life of faith also seems like a lonely endeavor. Some of our deepest questions stay tucked inside, never coming out. Sometimes we carry our deepest burdens alone, unsure how to share them with others. We pray, yet how do we experience God? Sometimes God’s presence eludes us, no matter how hard we look. Christianity, although a powerful faith, can feel lonely.
Every week, we confess our faith by reciting a creed. Today, we will hear the confirmands say, “I believe in God, the Father…I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son…I believe in the Holy Spirit…” By the very nature of this Apostle’s Creed, by saying, “I believe,” we think that we each have to believe that each phrase of this creed is factually true. We think that if we say these statements without believing them, then we are committing some sort of sin or heresy, but this is not true.
We may live in an individualistic society, but we participate in a communal church. We are not alone in our faith, and we are not alone in our doubts. When we confess the creed, we as individuals do not need to believe every statement. Instead, we as a community believe all of this to be true. When we as individuals have our doubts, we lean upon this community of faith to lift us up. Those sitting next to you will believe for you until you are ready to hold your own. Then you will hold the faith until others are firm in the faith.
Tatters don’t have this. There are online communities for those who tat, on Facebook, Pinterest, and blogs. At these places online, crafters can share patterns, ideas, and techniques. We can encourage others online, but we don’t have the sort of connection to hold each other up in our worries and our fears.
Recently, there were some discussions on copyright issues on the Tatting Facebook group, but some people felt bullied and attacked. So, they left. They were not supported by this online community, so they chose to leave. Tatting communities do not have the same connection as churches do. Christians, on the other hand, do have the Holy Spirit.
When we keep the faith for each other, we do not do it of our own will. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit.” (12:3b) We cannot believe or confess our faith without the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works through us to give us faith. Without the Holy Spirit working in and around us, we would not have a church.
Confirmands, think back to last year. We learned that Martin Luther said this as well. In the Small Catechism, he wrote,
“I believe that by my own understanding or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, and makes holy the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith… This is most certainly true.”
(Third Article of the Creed explanation) Here, Luther says that we cannot believe in God without the help of the Holy Spirit.
Recently, I had the opportunity to meet some people in Chicago who tat. They each had at least an hour’s drive. Some came from Southern Wisconsin, others from Central Illinois, and some from Chicagoland. I drove the longest distance to get there. These ladies are all wonderful people, and I had a great time. For three hours, we gathered around a table at the Hinsdale Oasis. These ladies have been tatting much longer than I have, and they have connected in exciting ways. Because of our shared craft, we all had something to talk about. Our friendship begins with our tatting, and it grows from there.
These friendships that we form inside and outside the church are important. In these communities, we have opportunities to lift up those who are hurting and rejoice with those who are well. Yet our most important relationship is with God. Our creeds explain who God is (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and what God does for us (creates, saves, and sustains).
There is another dimension of faith that is so deep and compelling that it is faith in God. This is the relationship that we have with God. This is also a gift of the Holy Spirit, enabling us to trust God with our deepest concerns. Whenever you are troubled, whatever ails you, you can bring it to God.
This relationship with God also is not personal but is communal. We form our relationship with God here, in this church, through worship, study, and service. In the Word and Sacrament, God comes to us, loving us, forgiving us, and healing us. This church, where we uplift each other in faith by the Holy Spirit, is a gift from God. We could not do this alone. We could not interpret scripture, share the sacraments, nor be the body of Christ in the world without each other.
When we are most aware that we are not alone is when we receive communion. So, confirmands, after you four confess your faith and claim your role as children of God, we will share communion with each other. We will kneel before the altar and receive the body and blood of Christ. In the act of communion, we together form the body of Christ and claim our unity in faith. We join the great cloud of witnesses who also have shared Holy Communion. We can do all of this because of the Holy Spirit working in and through our lives. Thanks be to God! Amen.