Leaping Into the Sea of Light
Today is a day of boldness and bravery.
Today is a day when we step off the edge of a cliff, on purpose and with our eyes open.
We are stepping off a cliff because we are telling the world, as our lesson from Romans says, that we hope for what we do not see.
We are proclaiming our faith in the Holy Trinity, the unflawed source of grace, and our love and commitment to the Holy Church, a flawed but very dear vessel of grace.
We are placing ourselves in a position of vulnerability, opening the most secret places of our hearts and minds for the world to see by publicly proclaiming our faith, because it matters.
When we go through the process of confirmation or reception, we take a journey that ends in a place of trust.
Today we stand up and say that we are going to serve and follow Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior because we have come to trust him.
It is a trust that can often be intermingled with doubt and fear, but that is not only acceptable but necessary.
A faith that never questions is both blind and shallow.
Today we proclaim the bedrock truths on which we stake our lives.
Those truths are in fact what gives us the strength and creativity to continue to question and explore our faith, which is the journey of a lifetime.
What causes us to stand up and proclaim that we base our hope on things unseen?
It is what we read in scripture, the promises that undergird us and the challenges that call us forward.
The promises in scripture are scattered throughout the text like jewels, beautiful and multi-faceted, reflecting and bouncing the light of God in a rainbow of colors, just waiting for us to find them and pick them up if we will only take the time to go on the treasure hunt of immersing ourselves in the Word of God.
Today, in our three short texts, we are promised to be given a mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit, to be called ministers of God, to experience everlasting joy in everlasting covenant with God, and to have all people acknowledge that we are a people blessed by God.
We are promised that glory will be revealed to us, that we will experience the first fruits of the Spirit, that our souls and bodies are redeemed and adopted, and that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, the saints.
In our Gospel, we are promised that the Holy Spirit will be with us forever, that Jesus will not leave us orphaned, that even though the world can no longer see him, we will see him, and that Jesus will love us and reveal himself to us.
In just those three short texts, we have a richness of spiritual wealth that could nourish us the rest of our days.
Today is the day that we stand up and claim those promises, claim our identity as beloved children of God, for whom God scatters the riches of grace across the scriptures and across our lives with reckless abandon.
God has been calling us, coaxing us, pleading and demanding and longing for us to give God our hearts and minds and souls and strength.
God loves us with a wild and passionate love, an unsafe love, a love that sacrifices all for the sake of the beloved and spends everything with no thought for the cost because we, the beloved, are worth it all.
And today is the day that we say, “Yes, God, come and overwhelm me with your love and grace. Take me on this adventure.”
Seduced by God’s promises, promises we see coming true all around us in the beauty and pain of our lives, we are taking these steps of proclamation today for more than just ourselves.
We are responding also to the challenges given us in scripture, and those challenges speak directly to the need of the world.
As our lesson from Romans tells us today, “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God…in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.”
We are called not to hoard the grace given us, not to hide away the riches of body, mind and spirit with which we have been blessed, but to give them away freely to a world in desperate need of them.
Because along with the richness of the spiritual life, there is a corresponding poverty, and both are equally valuable.
We must enter into our faith commitment today not just acknowledging that we will have times when we feel very lonely and isolated from God and from one another, but embracing that truth.
The spiritual value of the wilderness is profound.
Time and time again in the Bible, from Moses all the way to Jesus, people either seek out or are driven out into the wilderness to attain new spiritual knowledge.
The great saints of the church, from Teresa of Avila down to Mother Theresa of Calcutta, spent vast stretches of their lives feeling alienated from God, and it brought them unparalleled spiritual depth.
It may not be much fun, but as Jeremiah 29 tells us, build your house and plant your garden in exile.
The dark and lonely times of our lives, the pain and grief and anger that we must struggle through, feed our souls in a unique and important way as much as the times of joy and fulfillment.
They force us to plumb the depths of ourselves, and know what it is like to recklessly bet our whole lives on a God who, in that moment, seems so remote and silent as to not even exist.
These are the moments when we go, sometimes bravely and willingly, sometimes kicking and screaming and whining, to the foot of the Cross.
And as we know, the road to resurrection leads straight through the Cross. It is a pattern we will experience over and over.
And again, our spiritual wilderness is not just for our own benefit any more than our spiritual richness.
The world cries out with pain and anger and abandonment, and we are often more able to minister to another out of our poverty than we are out of our wealth.
When someone who is hurting sees you able to admit and acknowledge that life with God is always intense but not always happy, that opens a door of trust between the two of you based on honesty, a more powerful evangelistic witness than any happy-clappy hypocritical promises that the life of faith is a bed of roses all the time.
Remember that the things that you try to hide, the places of shame and failure and weakness that you hope no one sees, are not just the most likely places to see grace working in your own life, but the places that make you real enough to truly be present with someone else in their weakness and pain, perhaps opening them to explore the journey of faith themselves.
We are leaping off the cliff today because we know that we are leaping into the love of God, and we long to experience that love in greater and greater depth.
Paul tells us today that the Spirit intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.
Although we use words to proclaim our faith today, much of what we’re talking about is too deep for words.
We are talking about movements of the spirit, both the Holy Spirit and our own spirits, that bring truth and mystery into one united sea of light that we sink deeper and deeper into with each passing day, breathing more freely the deeper we dive.
In the end, it all comes down to what Jesus tells us in our gospel today: “Because I live, you also will live.”
We already know that we will die, in fact we experience death in a thousand small ways every day.
We’ve experienced the death of loved ones, the death of our faith in the church, the death of our faith in others, the death of our faith in ourselves, the death of our patience and our hope and our capacity to love.
But as Bishop Cate tells us, it is only dead things that can be resurrected.
Painful as those deaths were, they bring us to a place where faith and hope and love can now be resurrected in us, where in Christ we can be a new creation.
Because he lives, we also will live.
That is why we take the risk we take today.
That is why we jump off the cliff into the unknown adventure of faith.
We risk it all on God because God first risked it all on us.
And so today we stand together, ready to leap into the love and the risk, and we say, “Yes!” and we say “Thank you,” and we say “Alleluia!”