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A Sermon for Confirmation - 4/26/2015

Written by Paul Warneke. Posted in PastorPage

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

The texts for our meditation this morning are the 8 confirmation verses of our confirmands.
            There was a day when confirmation verses were chosen for the student by the pastor, and given to them at their confirmation. For example, when I was confirmed, I didn’t know what my verse was going to be until I knelt before the pastor and he said these words: “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.” Matthew 21:22.

            It's been custom, as of late, at least at this church, to let the students choose their own verses, something that they’ve come across during their catechesis that holds some significance for them.

 

           And so as I do a little expounding on each of these verses, I went to start with Olivia's… Psalm 84:10 - For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a door keeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents the wicked.

            Olivia asked me last fall if she could have that as her verse. And my answer was “absolutely!”  For two reasons. First of all, for the content. It’s an awesome verse and we’ll talk about that later.

            Second, for the reason that she knows that verse. And the reason is because it is part of our liturgy, the Service of Prayer and Preaching, which we use once a month here in church, but probably more often in our school’s Wednesday morning chapel  services.

            What a great example of how our worship life can impact  us. The words we use for worship don't just sound nice. These are the very words of Scripture. As we commit our liturgy to memory, we commit Scripture to memory.

            And what about this particular verse? What makes it so awesome? Well, the psalmist is expressing his desire for God and His Word to be front and center in his  life. Much like the writer of Psalm 23 desires to dwell in the house of the Lord forever, so does this psalmist desire to be in the house of God.

            In fact, being a doorkeeper there, being a servant in God's house, would be better than being anywhere else. What a great verse to go along with the vows these young people will be making in a little while, to  remain true to God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, even to death. To continue steadfast in this confession and church, and to suffer all even  death, rather than fall away.

            Those are some serious vows, aren't they? But when we realize what takes place in this church, what happens in the house of my God, it really starts to make sense that these eight,  and all of us who have made these vows, would make such
 vows.

            And what takes place here? I think Turner can help us out with that. His verse is Acts 3:19, which was part of our first reading from last week’s worship service. “Repent, therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”

            That's what happens here. That's why this place exists, so that your sins may be blotted it out. You have sins, don't you? Of course you do! We all do! That's our lot in life as far as our sinful nature is concerned. And those sins stand in the way of our relationship with God. They stand in the way of our salvation. So what's the answer? The answer is to those sins blotted out.

            That’s a kind of old-fashioned way of putting it. Most people today probably aren’t familiar with “blotting” something out. How about if we used a more modern analogy, like saying our sins are “whited out”? Or maybe more accurately, to say that our sins are deleted. Highlight… and delete. Thse sins are gone in the sight of God.

            And what is the basis for this deleting of our sin? I'm going to let Jacob’s verse help us out here, Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.

            The “him” of course is Christ Jesus, who, according to an earlier portion of Philippians, had humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

            That's the basis for God, in our worship services, coming to us and blotting out our sins; deleting our sins. It's because Jesus took those sins upon himself, taking them with him to the cross, where he suffered and died the death that we deserve, instead of us.

            So with his death, our sins died too. And as we repent of our sins and turn back, God blots out those sins for the sake of Christ. He deletes those sins for Christ’s sake.

            And now, you want to talk about strength? I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. All things like what?

            Well, how about fighting? Fighting the good fight of faith as Paul tells Timothy to do in Baileys Bible verse, 1 Timothy 6:12. You think being a Christian is about being a wimp? No, it’s not. It’s about fighting. It's about being convicted about what is right and doing everything within your power to accomplish that.

            Trouble is that in and of myself, I really don't  have much power. I really am a wimp! Except for Christ who strengthens me… for that good fight of the faith.

 

            But let's keep in mind what that good fight of faith is about. It's about defeating those enemies of ours that want to cut us off from God, who want our sins to remain on us, so we won't be able to enjoy eternity in heaven with God forever.

            So Paul tells Timothy to hold on, by faith, to the eternal life to which he was called, eternal life achieved for him by Christ and His suffering death and resurrection.  Eternal life applied to him in word and sacrament.

            And so Timothy stood in the presence of many witnesses and made the good confession that he believes in the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

            And in a little while all 8 of these confirmands are going to make that good confession in the presence of many  witnesses too.

            And Paul’s admonition to Timothy is my admonition to you: Hold on, by faith, to the eternal life to which you’ve been called. Hold on to it, by returning here often, to the very place God has promised to be found… the House of God, His courts, the church, where He is present for you in Word and Sacrament.

            Psalm 119 is a really long psalm. It’s 176 verses long. And in so many of those verses, the psalmist has a different word for the law.  Sometimes he says commandments. Sometimes he says precepts. Sometimes he says righteous decrees.

            But whatever word he uses, he seems to convey this idea that he loves the law of God so much he is going to keep the law, he's going to obey the commandments.

            Daniel’s verse is from Psalm 119.  Its verse 11 which says, “I have stored your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”.

            Well, good luck with that Daniel. Because if there's anything I have tried to teach you… all of you in the last two years of confirmation class, it's that you cannot keep the law. You cannot obey the commandments. You cannot not sin.

            But look at the first part of that verse again, “I have stored your word in my heart.” What is the “word” that the psalmist has stored in his heart?

            John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

            The word is Jesus. And with the word stored in his heart  the psalmist receives from God the forgiveness of his sins. It's as if he is obeying the commandments. Its as if he does love God with his heart soul and mind and strength. It’s as if he does love his neighbor as himself.

            Of course, according to Quinten's verse, 1 John 4:19, we love because He first loved us. So if there is going to be any loving… any loving of God, or any loving of our neighbor, it's going to come about only because God loved us first.

            And how did God show his love for us? Romans 5:8,  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

            Do I sound like a broken record, saying the same thing  over and over again? Well, that's the way it is around here. For we cannot say too many times that Christ died for us, that he loved us by laying down his life for us, that that love manifested itself, and continues to manifest itself, in the forgiveness of our sins.

             And as God loves us by forgiving us (daily and richly in this Christian Church) we reflect that love by loving our neighbor, doing for him or her things that they need done.

            That’s what disciples of our Lord Jesus do. They love God and their neighbor, as a reaction to the love of God bestows on them in Christ Jesus.

            And how were we made disciples? According to Taylor’s verse, we were made disciples through baptism. Jesus says in Matthew 28:19, Go therefore and make disciples of all  nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of  the Holy Spirit.

            We've kind of come full circle now. We began with Olivia’s verse about being a door keeper in the house of my God, and all the benefits associated with being in that house, being in those in courts.

            And now we see that baptism in the very entrance into those courts. But there's one more verse we need to talk about before we wind it all up.  And that’s Quincey's verse from John 6:36. Jesus is speaking here when he says, “All that the Father gives me will come to me and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.

            What a great statement of faith that is for Quincey, whose faith is just as strong as anyone in this class, as anyone in this building.  That's not a statement about his cognitive abilities.

            It’s a statement about the work of the Holy Spirit who works through His means of grace generating, sustaining, and strengthening faith in Him.  Whoever comes to me, Jesus says, I will never cast out.

            May God grant that we would continue to come to Him, that we would continue coming to the house of our God… not as a doorkeeper… not as a servant… but as a recipient of His means of grace.

            And may He grant that we would return to our baptisms daily in contrition and repentance, turning back to have our sins blotted out; storing up His Word in our hearts, holding on, by faith, to the eternal life to which we’ve been called.  

            And may He grant that we would recognize Jesus Christ as the source for everything we have that is good, the forgiveness of sins which he won for us in his suffering, death, and resurrection; and the ability to do all things, most specifically, to love our neighbor as ourselves. We can love, because He first loved us. Amen.

            And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.