I sat in the second row this morning as my son, my first-born, my strength, was confirmed in the Lutheran tradition. I had mixed feelings about the whole thing, not that there was anything wrong with it, but that I didn't know how it fit in our lives and as such, how it might fit in his. You see, we're spiritual mutts. I grew up Southern Baptist and my girlfriend grew up Catholic. We married and I was a Southern Baptist pastor for over ten years, a decade into which our three children graced this earth. Then we moved to Colorado as part of a non-denominational church, a painful experience lasting a year to the day, after which we were strangely comforted by an Anglican church a decent commute away and I was shortly thereafter confirmed as an Anglican (nobody else in the family, just me). Then, in an attempt to be 'local' in all things, especially when our kids began middle school years, we joined a Lutheran church in our town and have been found there for over two years now, years in which our son and oldest daughter began the confirmation journey. Our thinking was when in Luth do as the Lutherans.
Maybe you can see why I was slightly conflicted. I didn't want to overstate this day - we're not dyed-in-the-tuna-hot-dish Lutherans, so being confirmed wasn't this epic life-stage where all the folks from Wobegon drove in...at the same time, I didn't want to underplay the importance of faith steps my beloved son is taking in his one wild and precious life. I've also been conflicted because of shame, my own...I am a rover in the faith, a gypsy heart chasing the God of dusk...but I've so wanted to be constant, steadfast like my beautiful father, but the truth is I am not. I have and continue to pray that my prone-to-wander-ways will not be held against the son and daughters I cherish, but sometimes I get scared they'll one day resent being mutts...or maybe being my mutt.
Alright, hang on. Jesus spoke to me this morning while I was eating GrapeNut flakes and drinking coffee. He hijacked the first part of a verse I memorized as a boy - 'Do not be ashamed of the gospel.' That's all he said...and like grace always is, that was sufficient. Now I'm well-acquainted with the gospel of Christ, the power of God unto salvation, no problem...but the breakfast epiphany prompted questions like what about my gospel, the gospel of John, the story of my life and my vagabondish days as ordered by an infinitely tender hand? Jesus answered 'don't be ashamed of your life, John.' He who hath ears let him hear.
So I sat in the second row this morning a man with his nose rubbed once again in the grapenuts of grace. And I trembled when my grown-tall-boy knelt at the altar surrounded by parents and priests and his life was further sewn one-thread deeper into the fabric of God, that vast blanket in which I too am hemmed, as is my father. I had planned to pray many things over him in that spot of time, but there was only this: 'Please God, may he not be ashamed of his life. He is my only son, and I love him so.'
And so we mutt on...confirmed but not crushed, roving but not unto despair...debtors to a grace unashamed.