May 12, 2019 (The Fourth Sunday of Easter & Confirmation)
Indian Hill Church
Reverend Dr. Stephen Caine
10:22 At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered, “I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; 26 but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.” (John 10:22-30, NRSV)
Let us pray: God of comfort and compassion, through Jesus, your Son, you lead us to the water of life and to the table of your bounty. May we who have received the care and love of our Good Shepherd be strengthened by your grace to care for your flock. Amen.
If ever there was a perfect text for Confirmation Sunday, this just may be it. One of the great gifts of working with the Confirmation Class each year are their questions. We get all kinds of questions, serious, irreverent, sad, humorous, some I will be happy to share with you and some that are not safe for public consumption. What is so much fun is the fact that they are not afraid to ask. Anything, everything. How did the Holy Spirit have relations with Mary? Explain the Trinity? Why does God let bad things happen to his people? If Jesus is the only way to heaven then what about my friends who are Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Agnostic? See they ask great questions. Deep probing questions.
The crowd asked Jesus a question as he was walking outside of the Temple in the portico of Solomon. It’s a late December day in Jerusalem. As usual, he’s drawing a crowd. This time, the people gathered around him have come to celebrate the Feast of the Dedication (better known to us as Hanukkah), a festival honoring the rededication of the Temple. This is a Hanukah story that celebrates the successful Maccabean revolt against the Syrian ruler Antiochus Epiphanes, who contaminated the temple in Jerusalem by setting up a pagan idol. About 200 years before Jesus’ time, Judas Maccabeus had driven out the foreign oppressor and rededicated the temple; thus, the festival was both a commemoration of national independence, like our Fourth of July, and a religious holiday recalling the temple’s purification.
Some people in the crowd have come with a question. Maybe they heard Jesus teaching or preaching. Maybe they witnessed one of his miracles. Or maybe they want to trap him into saying something blasphemous. Whatever their motive, they ask, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”
Most parents are used to the questions from your children. You know the typical kid questions. “Why?” “What does that mean?” “How do you know?” Children are asserting their need to question the world and better understand the reality around them. For some that need to question authority and to test the limits of perceived reality never stops, many of us continue to question everything in life and especially in faith. This is a wonderful gift. Maybe, that is the point of theology/ church/ confirmation not to resolve the tensions that come in the life of faith, but rather to help us to ask better questions.
Jesus, like most every parent has learned avoids giving a direct answer and instead states, “The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me.”
This is what is happening in this story. Jesus has shown the people around him three years of examples of who he is. He has taught, preached, healed, cast out demons, calmed storms and… He has had others question his identity repeatedly. Questioning who he is and what he is about is quite normal. Prophets were often asked to give proof of their powers. But the question that Jesus is asked goes much deeper than simply giving proof. This goes to the heart of his identity. The crowd doubts that he is the messiah.
I am reminded that doubt is a constant companion to faith. It warmed my heart on Wednesday night to hear some of the Confirmation Class in their faith statements acknowledge that they had doubts, they had questions, they want to know more about God, faith and the Bible. Doubt and questioning are normal parts of our lives as people and as followers of Jesus. To live in the tension of faith and doubt, of questions and answers, gives us room to hear the words of promise that Jesus offers: “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand.”
If you learn nothing else this year from confirmation, please learn this: that God will not abandon you, that Jesus will hold on to you through all things, that God will never, ever let you go. There are so many times in life where we feel, inadequate, afraid, unsure, unworthy or unsafe, God will never ever let you go! No matter how crazy or difficulty or stressful or scary your life may seem, God chooses you, God loves you, God is with you, and God will hold onto you through all of life. Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. No one will snatch them out of my hand.”
So, keep asking questions. Keep searching. And know that God is big enough to take it, and God will be with you every step of the way.
Let us pray:
 David Lose
 David Lose