In nomine Jesu!

I’d like you to think about your own story — the story of Sion Iglesia Luterana -- and especially the story of Sion Iglesia Luterana over the past three years. I’m guessing that many of you never heard this story. I know some of you know that story but I also know many more of you don’t. It’s very much like the story Jesus tells in today’s Gospel. Let me help you to remember.

Just three years ago, Sion Iglesia Luterana was a very small congregation worshiping in a tiny, rented space owned by an even tinier Seventh Day Adventist Church on East 117th Street. Sion had only 20 or 30 people. It had no church building; Sion’s church building had collapsed about a year or so earlier. It was controlled by the synod. It had no money and it owed the synod a lot of money. There was no evidence that anything was about to change. Most people in Sion and around Sion were convinced it had no future and that they had no hope.

Look around at Sion Iglesia Luterana today! You are a community of several hundred people with children of all ages everywhere! You are growing! You have money — a lot of money — in the bank. You owe no one anything. Tomorrow
you’re going to start building a beautiful facility that will be completely and totally yours and, after that facility is completed you’ll still have money in the bank to support your mission! Today, 8 young people will have that faith confirmed, just like over 20 other young people had their faith confirmed last February and just like over 20 young sisters and brothers celebrated their first communion just last April. Three years ago you were a congregation of mostly Argentinians with a very few others sprinkled in. Today you are a congregation that includes Mexicans and Puerto Ricans; Salvadorans and Costa Ricans and people from Columbia, Ecuador, Peru and all over South and Central America. Last December, next December and in many Decembers yet to come, Sion became an important stop on the route of the great procession for Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe. Two weeks ago, your congregation won an award for children and youth ministry given by our Synod; your musicians played for over 500 people at the synod’s annual assembly mass and 12 of your children danced as a part of that mass. All of this happening in the last 1000 days, which is to say almost literally overnight! It has surprised and amazed nearly everyone! All kinds of people are incredulous! They are asking, “How is this possible?”
Today Jesus tells us. "The kingdom of God,” Jesus tells us, “is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

Jesus’ story is exactly your story. Of course, you can explain how a seed grows; you can talk about good soil and about watering and weeding and feeding the plants. Just like you can talk about Sion making your home here; about how wonderful your pastor is and about all the programs you offer; about the things we do together; you can even talk about your weekly email blasts! But here’s the thing and there’s no getting around it: Jesus has it right: we don’t know how this is happening. It’s a mystery! It’s a miracle! Instead of asking how, the only thing we should say today is “thanks!”

God makes the seed sprout! God makes the plants grow into the greatest of trees. God is even the one who draws the birds of the air to nest in its branches and God is the one who is
making Sion grow into what it is and what it is yet becoming. All we should say is thanks.

And be faithful. That’s what confirmation is about. Confirmation is about accepting all that God has done and is doing for you. It is about accepting all of God’s gifts – your family, your sisters and brother sin this congregation, your pastor, your friends and the regular, every-Sunday nourishment that is the Holy Spirit in, with and under Jesus’ own body and blood, this bread and wine and it is about always giving thanks.

Today neither your faith nor your congregation is small nor old nor in any kind of danger. Today and every day, because you are in Christ, you are God’s new creation. I give thanks — we give thanks — to God with you! We give thanks to God for you! Like Jesus’ mustard seed, like Jesus’ mustard tree, you are a living sign that God is at work in our world today. You are a sign of God’s continued work in our world tomorrow. Jesus’ parable is your story, people of Sion. And you are Jesus’ parable meant for all of us to understand and see so that together we can all give thanks to God and be signs of God’s kingdom together.
Amandus J. Derr
Saint Peter’s Church
in the City of New York