Today is this magnificent celebration of the gifts that each one of you brings to your friends, your school, your family, this church community of Redeemer, and to your God.
Sometimes we preachers forget to tell our congregations when we are proud of them.
There is an old preaching statement that it is the job of the preacher to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.
But, you Rite 13ers don't fit neatly into one of those categories.
You are standing in a unique place.
That unique place is that you have acknowledged that growing up in this world is something you can't--and shouldn't--do alone.
Rite 13 is something this congregation has seen and witnessed for a few years now. However, it is important that we are clear what is happening today.
This liturgy recognizes that you all are coming of age.
This liturgy recognizes that manhood and womanhood are gifts of God that just are—your bodies change, your brains change, your thoughts change, and you now have the ability to create human life.
However, what we recognize as the church is that anyone can be a man or a woman, but we here strive to create young people who are prepared and ready to enter early adulthood.
You have talked with your Rite 13 leaders about how adulthood is something we grow into as people of faith.
Anyone can be a man or a woman because it happens to us, but adulthood well lived is a process of becoming.
That process involves seeing gifts in yourselves, seeing gifts in others, and seeing how you want to live as you become an adult.
Way back when you were baptized, your godparents and parents made many promises on your behalf.
One question posed to them was: "Will you continue in the apostles' fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers?"
Perhaps, you have never thought about what that question means; it simply means will you raise your kids to come to church, to feast on the gifts of bread and wine, and will you pray with them, for them, and with others?
Your parents responded, on your behalf, with the statement: I will, with God's help.
Did you notice they didn't say, "You bet, you know it, Absolutely. Unequivocally...No, your parents said, "I will...with God's help."
This is the true essence of today.
Today we mark the fact that as Christians we aren't supposed to go at life alone.
Jesus sent out the disciples in pairs.
Jesus traveled with a small band of friends.
The Holy Trinity is God in three person's for goodness sake.
Baptism is no longer a private event, but a public affair.
And, when we come forward we partake of Holy Communion--it is holy because the gifts are blessed but it's also holy because we become one in communion with each other. Today we celebrate that your faith, and therefore your growth into adults, is not a solitary affair.
That is not to say that you won't feel loneliness, or unsure, or disappointments in this process.
Because you will, or most of you already have.
But, what you should know as you leave this place today is that in this community we are the people who care about your whole life as you live it and offer it to God.
Another thing I want to note is your bravery--not just for standing before a whole group of people and reciting Psalm 139..
But, your bravery to be committed to something beyond your self.
I'm sure you hear all the time about how self-centered adolescents are.
Well, that is often true.
But, all of us, by the nature of sin are incredibly self-centered.
First, that's a survival mechanism.
If we weren't self-centered, we would never have enough food or the basics such as shelter.
So, God gave us the gift of self for a reason.
But, when God created Adam and Eve God created the need for community.
Christianity keeps us grounded in each other.
I know that when you come together as a Rite 13 group you hear about prayer requests. You know of your friends' joys and challenges.
And you are asked to pray for them.
A very simple prayer for another is a way of being pulled out of self-absorption.
Our Christian faith is constantly keeping us attuned not only to others, but, ultimately, to the one to whom we all look for life--Jesus Christ.
By being present here on Sunday mornings, the liturgical life becomes like the flesh on your bones.
And, when you get caught in a rough place you might even hear your self praying those prayers from our liturgy that you prayed so comfortably without books –in the dark--during the Eucharist at the lock-in.
Let’s compliment your parents for a moment.
When you were around 2 years old your parents gave you choices like these:
Would you like goldfish or Ritz crackers?
They kept your choices simple and they only gave you choices of things they were comfortable giving you.
As you have gotten older, they have allowed you to choose sports or hobbies that you love.
But, they have always kept church as an important family commitment.
They didn’t make church a choice, amongst many, for you.
To do so, while it might have been easy for them, would have given you too much responsibility.
While you guys want to have more responsibility, I don’t imagine that you truly want the spiritual growth and life of your family, resting on you shoulders.
So, thank your parents for keeping you here even when they got pushback from you. Your parents are brave, like you.
I’ll finish with a story.
A while back I was listening to a radio interview with Stephen Carter. He is an African-American law professor at Yale.
He is also a devout Episcopalian.
He had just finished writing a book called the Culture of Disbelief.
In that book, he argues for the good of religious discourse in the public sphere.
A caller called in and blasted him for bringing up his children as Christians.
The caller scolded him for not giving his children the "freedom" to choose their own religion.
Carter blithely asked him what he should have done instead?
The caller said that you shouldn't talk about God at all with your kids,
Then at about age 13, you should sit them down with a whole bunch of books, describe the religions of the world, and let the kids choose.
Could you imagine instead of being here today starting from zero and knowing nothing of God or Jesus?
Carter quickly asked him, Do you let your kids choose whether or not they want to go to school?
Do you delay taking them to a doctor until they are 13?
Do you let them decide where your family will go on vacation?
Carter made his point.
Our Christian faith is not just one more choice among others.
It is not just a cerebral process of picking and choosing.
It is a way of life.
Our faith involves our bodies, our minds, and our Spirits.
And, parents have a great and grave trust to see their children raised in the faith.
So, give your parents a pat on the back for the good work they have done--and the good work they continue to do.
You are doing amazing things as you share your presence with us.
You witness that even in typical adolescence, that you see that life is not all about you. The second thing you witness to is that you understand that your faith is not just one more consumer choice.
You know you faith involves the development of Christian habits.
Those habits are best lived in the context of your family,
your greater community, and grounded in your church--which happens to be the Redeemer.
And, yes, even Redeemer will fail you at some point as an institution.
But as people of maturity you can take those disappointments offer them to God, work on healing them, forgiving others, whether it’s your clergy or your friends, and move on in the same community knowing that this is where God has called you to be.
We are so glad that Isabel, Emma, Graham, Morgan, Julia and Lily will stand here making a public commitment to their continued growth in this church.
We, the people of Redeemer, will promise to support you as you grow into adulthood.
Remind us of these promises by continuing your presence with us.
Your selves, your souls, and bodies are the tangible reminders that we, your church, have a job to do.
May God, the good shepherd, be your comforter and guide. AMEN.