Rite 13 Celebration

Preacher: Amy Norton
Date: June 2, 2019

Scripture: Luke 2:41-52


Last night, our Rite 13 class gathered with their parents for a celebratory dinner in our Parlor; we prayed and reflected together, parents offered words of advice, encouragement, love, and affirmation, and we prepared for today’s special ceremony. Rite 13, for anyone who’s wondering, is a special rite of passage that the Episcopal Church developed in the mid 1980s, inspired by the bar and bat mitzvah tradition in the Jewish faith. This rite of passage marks a child’s entrance into adolescence- grownups and teenagers in the audience- you remember that time. The uncertainty, the excitement, the awkwardness, the joy. Last week I quoted a sermon from Fred Rogers in which he writes about how Jesus experienced every stage in human development and growing up- including adolescence….including being scolded by his parents.

            In the Gospel reading you just heard (and witnessed), we see Jesus Christ, the anointed one, already beginning to dip his toes into the water of his ministry- teaching in the temple, reminding his earthly parents of his greater calling…we also see Jesus the teenager, a little self-centered, a little impulsive, apparently it never occurred to him to let his parents know where he was going. This is what adolescence is. As teenagers we hurdle toward adulthood and yet our inner child is still so present and so active in us. We fight with our parents, AND take loving care of our siblings. We excel and dazzle on the open athletic field AND shy away from any attention off the field. We show patience and compassion helping our parents learn a new skill, and are embarrassed by our parents' antics. We are so ready to try new things, learn new languages, make new friends, and yet the future is scary. Independence is scary. And that’s one of the reasons we celebrate Rite 13.  We who have been through adolescence, or who love someone who is going through adolescence, contribute to the United Parish Book of Wisdom, which increases in length with each Rite 13 cycle, expanding on the wisdom of all the years prior. Church communities are a lineage of love, going way back to anxious parents searching for their beautiful and exasperating teenager in the temple. As we celebrate our Rite 13 students, we show them that they already have a place in this lineage of love, this community that already loves and supports them before they even take their first breath. Before they were knit together in the womb.  They got to see just how early their place is set in this community when we baptized Emma just a few minutes ago- reminding her and her parents that we are her beloved community that will support them all their lives. One of the themes of the Rite 13 celebration is “nothing goes without saying”- We often think our children and youth know how much we care, how much we value their input, how important they are to us and how much we respect them. And yet, nothing goes without saying.

            Much like baptism is a ritual that affirms the identity of beloved child of God that was always already there…. our Rite 13 ceremony is a ritual that formally makes clear and visible all of the love, support, amazement, and respect we have for these youth. When they are feeling lost and alone they can look back on these moments to remind themselves who they are, and whose they are. Amalia, Gary, Geovanni, Elise, and Jessica, you are beloved children of God, you add so much to our community, and we love you so, so dearly. Amen.