What You Find in the Deeper Waters
When Jesus had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "put out into the deep water."
– Luke 5:4
Last Sunday we had 13 young people confirmed and one baby baptized in our church. It theological terms it was a gobsmackingly awesome day!
In our tradition, baptism is the time we remember that God loves us and confirmation is when we profess how we love God and God's world. On Sunday we talked about baptism as being immersed in the waters of God's grace and confirmation as moving out into the deeper waters of faith.
I gave the sermon for those young people who are 13 to 15 years old (one of whom is my own son Ian.) In truth, 47 year-old Brent was partly giving this sermon to 14 year-old confused/scared/desperately wanting to fit in Brent. When I was putting the sermon together I was wondering what I would say to my younger 14 year-old self now that I have it all figured out at the wise age of 47 (insert roll of the eyes.)
I am also wondering what our other NorthPark bloggers this month would like to say to the 14 year-old version of themselves looking back now.
With many, many thanks to the great Anne Lamott and her wisdom, here is some of what I said to those being confirmed on Sunday.
And what does that look like, the deeper waters of faith? The answer is... I'm not exactly sure... for you anyway. The deeper waters of faith will look different for each person. I and others are in the boat with you to support and nurture and care. And so are the stories of Simon and James and John and other disciples from journeys gone by.
But this is your unique journey with Jesus. Each person's faith journey and faith statement are different.
You have different questions experiences, different hardships, different accomplishments and God is making you into your own unique person. Your parents can't give you a faith journey. You do not get graded for it. The holiest church in the world can't give you a relationship with God.
What I do know is that if you are going to move into the deeper waters you are going to have to think about how you are going to spend this one odd and precious life you have been issued by God. If you are going to spend it trying to look good and create the illusion that you have power over people and circumstances you are taking no faith journey at all.
But if you are willing to reflect upon it, follow Jesus in it and hear the truth about why you are here, then you are moving into the deeper waters.
As Anne Lamott put it "We're here to know God, to love and serve God, and to be blown away by the beauty and miracle of nature. You just have to get rid of the baggage to be light enough to dance, to sing, to play. You don't have time to carry grudges; you don't have time to cling to the need to be right."
Now, there is a secret to living life in these deeper waters of faith.
The secret is to remember that baptism and the deeper waters of faith and life are part of the same cosmic ocean. They are always connected. I know you have heard this before, but don't forget your baptism. Because the secret to moving into the deeper waters is remembering the gift of baptism and therefore remembering who and Whose you are.
The love given by God and expressed in baptism is the same love you seek and share in the deeper waters. And you can't buy, lease, rent, date, apply for, or Google it. The best job in the world can't give it to you. Neither can success, or fame, or social media or financial security – besides which, there is no such thing.
J.D. Rockefeller was once asked, "How much money is enough?" and he said, "Just a little bit more."
Sometimes I move into the deeper waters of faith when I am not doing much, when I am in nature, when I am very quiet or even listening to music.
I know you can feel it and hear it in the music you love, in the bass line, in the harmonies, in the silence between notes; in our NorthPark choir and in Imagine Dragons, Macklemore, Johnny Cash, Bach, Beethoven... whoever. You can close your eyes and feel the spirit of God concentrated in that moment of music.
So things like rest and laughter and listening to music may be some of the deepest waters we can travel in when the world that is obsessively busy, deadly serious, and distracted from distraction by distraction.
We follow Jesus into the deeper waters of faith when we ask questions about faith. I absolutely love your confirmation banner because I have found God to be as much in the asking of the question as in the answer I might find. And it is okay to doubt.
Just don't forget to doubt your doubts.
We follow Jesus into deeper waters when we are kind to each other, especially when it's a really busy person, taking care of a needy annoying person. Or even if it's terribly important you, stopping to connect with pitiful, pathetic you. That's a place of deep conflict and deep growth.
It is sometimes hard to follow Jesus when the waters get choppy and we are far from land, and there no markers. Then we mostly define how we are doing by seeing through the world's eyes, or our family's, or – worst of all – our own, and then in the eyes of people who are doing better than us – much better than us – and then worse than us. The ways you can compare yourself are endless.
But you are not your aptitude for sports, or your grades, or your bank account, or your weight. You're not even the cold clay lump with a big belly you leave behind when you die. You're not a collection of walking personality disorders although it may feel like it at times. Remember your baptism. You are love.
So how do you put out into the deeper waters? Well you don't have to go far to go deep. There are people right here who are poor in spirit; worried, depressed, swimming as fast as they can, whose friends are sick, or who get bullied in life on a regular basis, that's both teenagers and adults. People who are just trying to keep their ahead above water.
There is great loneliness among us, life-threatening loneliness. There are people in your life who have given up on hope and peace, given up on people in general. So you do what you can, what good people have always done following Jesus in the deep waters: You share your food, you bring water to the thirsty, you try to help the homeless find shelter, you stand up for the underdog.
And then know that you are love. That you are capable of lives of great joy and meaning. It's what you are made of. And it's what you're here for. It's what you find in the deeper waters.