The following is Pastor Ross' sermon from Confirmation Sunday. While it is specifically address to the Confirmands, it applies to us all.
Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today you young people make a solemn but joyous announcement. Today you claim the faith you were baptized in as your own. On the day of your baptism your parents, your godparents, and this or another congregation vocalized the words of faith for you. But, today you stand and say, “I believe” in front of the whole church. You have been instructed in the faith. You promise to continue in it. May God help you do so.
Our faith springs from the proclamation of God’s word. In other words, our faith comes from hearing, because somebody has told us the Truth. And the Truth leaves no room for falsehood. The Truth desires to share nothing with lies. But, lies desire to subvert and twist the Truth to their own measures. Lies want to diminish if not outright extinguish what is true.
The world will hate you for what you are about to do. Yes, I mean that, it will hate it. Not dislike, despise, loathe, or detest, but hate. The devil, who has waged war against you since your baptism will ramp up his efforts like you have never seen or experienced before. You will hear how your faith is wrong, backwards, and even evil from almost every place. These places might include school, friends, neighbors, even family. In Satan’s eyes you have been bumped to the top of the target list.
The results of these attacks can be seen as early as two weeks from today. Statistically speaking, 80% of all confirmands will not be in church the Sunday after Easter. This is amazing to me because you just spent two years being here almost every Sunday! There is an old joke. A Baptism minister, Catholic priest, and Lutheran pastor were having lunch one day together. The Baptism minister started to complain about all the mice that kept coming into the church building. The trustees had put out traps, but is was like the mice knew exactly what to do and were taking the cheese and escaping the trap. The only effect the traps were having was to make the mice fatter. The priest pipes up that he knows what the minister means. They have been putting out poison but it only seems to make the mice stronger! He is amazed and at wits end. The Lutheran pastor has been quietly smiling the whole time. He decides to let the other two in on his secret. “We had a mouse problem, too, but we figured out how to get rid of them.” “How?!” the others demand. “Well, I just spent a few Sundays catechizing them, then confirmed them in a big ceremony and we’ve never seen them again!”
The world and the devil will do everything they can to wrest you away from this fellowship, to make you like a ship stranded in the ocean, alone and helpless. Soon you will be asked and will answer: Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? I do, by the grace of God, you will promise. But doesn’t sleep sound so much better the devil will whisper. Do you intend to live according to the Word of God…I do, by the grace of God. But, isn’t all this stuff just old fuddy-duddy stuff from long ago? Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? I do by the grace of God. But, what about when it is not convenient? What about when it might hurt your social standing? What about when the world asks you to do something that goes against your faith?
Attacks and derision are to be expected in our faith. Jesus promises us as much. And we need only to look at what the world did to Christ. Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. Here comes Jesus triumphantly into Jerusalem (John 12). All have heard of his miracle in Bethany where he raised Lazarus from the dead. The Pharisees have complained amongst themselves that the whole world is following Jesus. Here comes the grace of God into their very midst and all they see is an enemy who has won the battle, but not yet the war. For, by the end of the week they have rigged his execution. They have buried him in a tomb and sealed it. His thousands of followers have fallen away to barely a handful fearfully locked in a room, wondering when they will be next.
Jesus went uncomplaining forth, led like a lamb to the slaughter. Jesus was chosen to die so that a murderer might be set free. Jesus was scourged for being innocent. He was mocked for being right. He was crucified between two thieves. On the cross, a place of shame, was declared his title, “King of the Jews.” There, he was told that if he really was the Messiah to come down and save himself while in the middle of saving the whole world. The Pharisees watched until he had died, and declared victory. Victory over what? God’s plan to redeem them and us. Jesus, knowing full well what he was entering into, “was not rebellious, [he] turned not backward. [he] gave [his] back to those who strike, and [his] cheeks to those who pull out the beard; [he] hid not [his] face from disgrace and spitting.” (Isaiah 50).
Why?! Why would the Lord of the universe, why would the one who creation would declare the Son of David and cry out, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Save us! Save us!” if the people were silent; why would the one who had an army of angels at his beck and call, who defeated Satan over and over again submit to this?! He has done nothing wrong!
He did it for love. He did it for you. He did it for you, Kyle. And for you, Tony. For you, Kyilee. And you, Conner. And you, Kagan. And you, Kensleigh. And you, Bryson. He did this all for you for those all those around you. So that where the world sees foolishness you see the truth. So that you might have life to the full and life everlasting. He did it to pay for the removal of the wall of sin that separates you from God. He came simply because he loved you. More than you or I can ever possibly understand. He came and removed your guilt, your shame, your sin and replaced it simply with his sacrifice on the cross.
There are times in your life where you might find yourself like Peter on the night of Jesus trial. Where you will deny knowing Jesus. For some of you life may take twists and turns that you cannot imagine and you wonder if you can ever find your way back? There will be times you sin unintentionally. And there will be times where you sin intentionally. Some of these will be great sins. And you might feel forever disconnected with God.
But, know this, the door is always open. The forgiveness is always free. God's grace is always greater than the trespass. That all the sins of your past, all the sins of your present, all the sins of your future were crucified upon that cross along with Jesus. As long as you have faith the forgiveness of sins is there. And, even if you are to fall away, if you comeback, the forgiveness of sins is still there.
This is the faith that you are confessing today. This is the faith that many in these pews have confessed on their confirmation day. It is a faith that transcends our knowledge, our time, and our places. Today, you are not so much making promises to God as simply saying, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.”
May God grant it in Jesus name. Amen. And may the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.