31 Maple Street
Bristol, Connecticut USA
April 30, 2023
1 Timothy 4:13-15, 2 Timothy 1:5-7
Rev. Kristen J. Kleiman
The “laying on of hands”. It sounds strange; however it is a tradition, an important tradition, that goes back to the very beginning of the Christian Church. When the twelve apostles felt called by God to expand the leadership of the church to include those who would care for the community, Acts of the Apostles says the church community “presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.” (Acts 6:6)
And the Bible tells us that Paul, when he experienced the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus and was called to change his whole life, Paul also experienced prayer and the laying on of hands.
As did Timothy, who was one of Paul’s partners in ministry. In one of the passages Julia read so well today, we hear Paul telling Timothy to not neglect the gift that was given to him through the laying on of hands.
At baptisms, ordinations, and confirmations, we continue the Christian tradition of the laying on of hands. We don’t do it just because it has always been done this way, just because it is tradition. We continue to include physical connection with blessing and prayer because when you are an arm’s length or less from someone, when your hand is on their head, their shoulder, their arm, when you are that close to someone, there can be no doubt that the blessing, the prayer is for them.
When we shake hands or hug, make direct eye contact with someone during the passing of the peace, they know we are speaking directly to them. We are blessing them with Christ’s peace. We are praying for God’s peace in their lives.
And so it is with baptism and confirmation. There is no confusion about who we are calling God’s beloved child. There is no mistake about who we are blessing with the Holy Spirit. There is no misunderstanding about who Jesus is calling to walk with him and partner with him in making our world a better place for all. It is you.
It is you who has been made in God’s divine image. It is you who has been created with unique and extraordinary gifts. It is you, amazing you, who is being asked to share your blessings and gifts with the world.
Prayer is powerful. Prayer has the ability to ground us in God, and prayer enables us to soar on the wings of the Spirit. Prayer helps us endure the unendurable, and prayer creates miracles in our lives and in the world.
And prayer blesses. Prayer blesses people with the power and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Prayer is so powerful that people don’t even have to know you are praying for them for prayer to bless them; however prayer is even more powerful when we are connected.
A month or so ago, I was doing a prayer exercise with three other people. The book assignment was to sit in quiet for two minutes and ask God to reveal a prayer you needed for yourself. After the time was up, you were to share that prayer request with the others and pray for one another.
I’ve done this exercise before however the Spirit moved differently in that moment. We went around the circle and shared our prayer needs for ourselves, and then I prayed for the person to my left. My inclination in praying one on one or in a small group is to hold hands or touch their arm, so I followed the Spirit’s leading. That person then prayed for the next person who prayed for the next person until we came full circle to praying for me, and by then, we were huddled all together, our hands clasped or placed on each other’s arms or shoulders. The power of the Holy Spirit, the power of blessing, moved through that time of prayer in a way I have not often felt before.
Prayer is powerful. Being connected, being physically, emotionally, spiritually connected in prayer is even more powerful.
Today, on behalf of the entire Christian Church gathered throughout the world and throughout time, we will lay hands in blessing and prayer upon these four confirmands. We will engage in this important tradition; we will participate in this powerful act of prayer; we will plainly and clearly acknowledge each of these confirmands as unconditionally loved by God, blessed by the Holy Spirit, and called to be Christ’s follower in the world, sharing their unique and specials gifts with all.
And as we do, I hope that each one of them will feel the power of prayer, the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of blessing. I hope they will feel grounded in God’s unconditional love for them and I hope they will feel the breathe of the Holy Spirit, inspiring them to do things we cannot do alone.
That is also my hope for all of you, that you will pray and connect with God, that you will connect in prayer with others, that you will know without a doubt that God loves you; that God is with you; that God is speaking to you and guiding you; that you are valuable; you are talented; you are a blessing. You are God’s blessing to the world.