Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

He Is Risen - April 11, 2021 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: John 20:19-31

What’s up with Thomas? Have you ever wondered about Thomas? But the same could be said for all the disciples. What is their deal? They had been raised in the Jewish faith. They knew the promises of the Old Testament. They had spent the last three years of their lives with Jesus. They had listened to Him preach. They had watch the sign, the wonders, the miracles He performed. They had “special” sessions with Him where He explained everything to them. Why were they afraid? Why did they not “get it?” Of course, we are looking back with twenty-twenty hindsight. We can see clearly all the events and their significance. What we might rather ask is why do we so often act like Thomas and the disciples? Why do we hide in fear and why do we doubt? Let us look at the account and see how it very much reflects our own lives.

   Last week we came and celebrated the resurrection of Jesus and the events of that first Easter morning. By the time we get to our text for today, Jesus has already shown Himself to be alive to many people. For others, for those who have not yet seen Jesus, rumors were going around concerning His “possible” resurrection. The beginning of our text brings us to that evening, that first Easter evening. Our text last week told us specifically that Jesus had risen from the dead, those events of last week happened already early on this day. So, our text for this morning is a continuation of the day of Easter. Now it was evening and in our text for today we are told that the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jews. The disciples were afraid because they thought that what happened to Jesus, His crucifixion, could happen to them and since the body of Jesus was missing they knew they would be the first suspects, so they gathered together behind locked doors. Well, I guess being all together and being behind a locked door is not such a bad idea, we all know that there is safety in numbers. Again, by this time they had certainly heard rumors of Jesus’ resurrection and some of them had already witnessed the empty tomb. Maybe the good news was just too much to believe.

How often do we find ourselves like these disciples? We come here to this building once a week and we gather. We gather, not necessarily behind locked doors, but we do gather because we know that in here there is some safety in numbers. In here it is okay to admit that we are Christians. In here it is okay to talk about God, at least to some extent it is okay to talk about God. During Bible class we have a little more freedom to discuss the Word of God as well as the events of the world and how these two things collide and mesh and yet, very often, we are much like the disciples, unsure of how all these things fit together.

The disciples were all gathered together and then, Jesus appears to them. He comes to them and He puts His peace on them. Jesus’ peace is peace beyond all understanding. His peace is a complete peace, a peace of forgiveness of sins and eternal life. For His disciples, His peace was so wonderful that their fears were immediately calmed and they were overjoyed at His presence. Jesus brings peace and He also brings a blessing. He comes to bless them and to send them out with a mission, “I am sending you,” He says. But there is more to this sending than just words. Along with His sending is His authority. He is giving them the authority to forgive and retain sins. What an awesome authority, an awesome privilege, and an awesome responsibility.

And here again, is this not what happens to us each and every Sunday? We come to the Lord’s house for worship. We come here. We confess our sins. We hear God’s Word of absolution which is His Word of forgiveness and His Word of peace on us. We hear His Word read and expounded. Our fears are calmed. We might even think in our minds as the Psalmist, “it is good, Lord, to be here,” in Your house of worship. We are strengthened through His Word and through His body and blood in His Holy Sacrament. We are given His authority and we are sent out. We are sent from this place to live as witnesses of the faith that is in our hearts. We are sent out into our various vocations to live offering our lives as living sacrifices as priests in the priesthood of all believers. Even the sign in our parking lot reminds us that as we leave this place we are going out into the mission field. We are sent out with an awesome authority, an awesome privilege, and an awesome responsibility.

But what about Thomas? Thomas was absent. He was not there the first time the disciple saw Jesus. Certainly when Thomas returned his fellow disciples were excited to tell him that they, too, had seen Jesus. Certainly they could not contain their own enthusiasm in sharing this good news with him and they expected that he would believe and return their excitement. But, Thomas would not believe. Thomas could not believe. Thomas wanted evidence. He wanted proof. Thomas demanded, “Unless I see in his hands the marks of the nail, and place my finger into the marks of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” It is no wonder Thomas has been affectionately called “Doubting Thomas.”

Yet, before we “beat up” on Thomas too much let me first remind you that this is the same Thomas who was ready to go to Jerusalem to die with Jesus. And, before we “beat up” on Thomas, maybe we need to examine our own lives. How often are we like Thomas? Oh, maybe not here at church. We know that this is a pretty safe place. It is okay to show ourselves to be a Christian here at church, but what about in the rest of our lives? Do our neighbors know we are Christians? Do our co-workers know we are Christians? Does our family know we are Christians? Do the people with whom we work, shop, eat, play, and so forth know that we are Christians? Does our life show forth the faith that is in our heart? Do our thoughts, our words, and our actions show forth the faith that is in our hearts? Being a Christian is not a one or two hour a week obligation. Being a Christian is a lifestyle. It is a way of life. When being a Christian becomes anything less than a way of life, a complete way of life, not just one compartment of my life, then what we are saying is that we doubt that He is so important in our lives, and like Thomas, we thus doubt His death and resurrection for us, for you and for me.

In the case of Thomas, Jesus accommodates Thomas. But let us be careful, just because He accommodates Thomas does not mean that He will accommodate us, nor does He have to. Our text continues by taking us to the following week, eight days later, which is how the Jews counted days, starting with the day they were on, thus eight days later was the next Sunday. Eight days later when the disciples were in the house again, and this time Thomas was with them, Jesus showed Himself again. And He showed Himself especially to Thomas. Certainly that would have been a sight to see. The disciples continuing to try to convince Thomas, “yes it did happen.” And Thomas continuing to doubt, “I just cannot believe it unless I see or unless I feel something (which sounds a lot like people of today).” And as Thomas continues to express his doubt Jesus comes up behind him and calls his name, “Thomas.” And Thomas speaking as he turns says, “now don’t you try to start with me,” and seeing Jesus his mouth drops open and he is speechless. At which point, Jesus shows Thomas the evidence for which he has asked. “Put your finger here, and see my hands; put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” I do not believe that Thomas needed that evidence anymore as we hear his confession, “My Lord and my God!”

Every morning we have the privilege of remembering our Baptism. Every morning we have the privilege of remembering our Baptism. Everyday we have the privilege of reading God’s Word. Every week we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s House, confessing our sins and hearing His most beautiful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” Every Sunday we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s Table to partake of the Holy Sacrament of His body and blood. Whether we take advantage of the fact that we can do this or not, we do have the privilege and we still have the freedom to do this. As the doubts of life build each day to the end of the week we have the privilege of coming to the Lord’s house to have those doubts squelched. The old cliche is true, seven days without the Lord does make one weak, that is “w-e-a-k.” On the first day of the week, on Sunday we have the opportunity to come to the Lord’s house and to see our Lord, to taste Him, to hear Him and to confess as Thomas, “My Lord and my God!” Every Sunday we have the opportunity to come and be strengthened in our faith so that we might be able to face the struggles, the trials and tribulations that will face us the rest of the week.

We might imagine Thomas as our hero of sorts. It was because of his doubt that brought Jesus to show Himself specifically to Thomas. Thomas had convincing proof of Jesus’ resurrection which for us means we have convincing proof as well. Jesus’ words to Thomas are His words to us, especially in our time of doubt. Jesus’ words to Thomas are words about us as well, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” that is us. We have not seen Jesus with our physical eyes, but we continue to see Him with our hearts. We see Him in His Word. We see Him in Holy Baptism. We hear Him in Holy Absolution. We see Him and taste Him as we partake of His body and blood in His Holy Supper. We are blessed.

I believe the last two verses of our text are definitely a part of this Thomas story. John reminds us that Jesus did even more than what was recorded in the Bible. At the end of his Gospel John tells us that “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Thomas wanted proof. Too often we and others in our world want proof. We have the truth of Jesus Himself and the proof of the witness of His Holy Word.

As John finally tells us in our text for today, the reason we have the Bible is so “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” We have God’s Word, we have opportunity to read His Word on our own, to come to divine service and Bible Class to hear His Word and to hear His Word expounded so that we might be brought to faith, so that we might be strengthened in our faith, and so that we might be kept in our faith until Christ comes again to take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven for eternity.

For us, Thomas’ doubting was good. What happened to Thomas reminds us that we are not alone. And just as Jesus came to Thomas to encourage Him, so He comes to us to strengthen and encourage us. So that ultimately we might stand together before the heavenly throne and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness - Easter Sunrise - April 4, 2021 - Text, Sermon Hymn, #467 - Awake, My Heart, with Gladness; Scripture Readings: Col. 2:15; Rom. 8:35-39; Gen. 3:15; Rom. 6:4

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Our text for this morning as has been during the season of Lent is the appointed Hymn of the day, the sermon hymn that we just sang. The first thing we might notice in this hymn is the fact that while Luther’s influence in Reformation hymnody taught universal and objective salvation using terms as “we” and “us”, Paul Gerhardt’s hymns were more personal using the pronouns “I” and “me.”

Stanza one, “Awake, my heart, with gladness, See what today is done; Now, after gloom and sadness, Comes forth the glorious sun. My Savior there was laid Where our bed must be made When to the realms of light Our spirit wings its flight.” Last Friday we gathered and remembered Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross. We left as we were reminded of Jesus’ burial and the closing of the tomb. How fitting that our hymn begins with stanza one, obviously, which takes us to the tomb where our hearts are gladdened at the sight of Jesus’ resurrection.

In this stanza, Gerhardt reminds us that the tomb was our grave. It was because of the sin of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden that death entered into our world. The price for sin was set at death, physical death and eternal death and hell. The price for our sins is death and more specifically human death for human sin. We should have been the ones on the cross and in the tomb. We are the ones who are conceived and born in sin. The wages of our sin is our own death. But Jesus took our sin. He took our place. He suffered and died for us, in our place. Yet, how we now awake with gladness as we come to the tomb and find it empty because Jesus rose from the dead.

Stanza two, “The foe in triumph shouted When Christ lay in the tomb; But lo, he now is routed, His boast is turned to gloom. For Christ again is free; In glorious victory He who is strong to save Has triumphed o’er the grave.” Stanza two reminds us that when Jesus died and was buried the devil thought he had won the victory so the devil shouted when Jesus was placed in the tomb, but now he has been routed, he has lost the battle and his boast has turned to gloom. We sing with gladness because Christ is victorious. He has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has risen from the dead. Christ is free.

Stanza three, “This is a sight that gladdens—What peace it doth impart! Now nothing ever saddens The joy within my heart. No gloom shall ever shake, No foe shall ever take The hope which God’s own Son In love for me has won.” This stanza takes us to the tomb where we are gladdened by what we see, an empty tomb. To witness Jesus’ resurrection brings eternal joy. Knowing that Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil nothing can sadden us, no gloom can shake us.

Yes, while we live on in this world we will still face trials and tribulations, we still have times of struggle, the devil will still tempt and harass us, but the devil can never discourage us because Jesus has won the victory for us because of His love for us. Greater love can no one have than this that one will lay down His life for us and that is exactly what Jesus did. He laid down His life for us and then raised it up again.

Stanza four, “Now hell, its prince, the devil, Of all their pow’r are shorn; Now I am safe from evil, And sin I laugh to scorn. Grim death with all its might Cannot my soul affright; It is a pow’rless form, Howe’er it rave and storm.” Here in stanza four we confess and rejoice that the prince of hell, the devil himself has been stripped of all his power. Indeed, death, hell and the devil have no more power over us. We are saved from the evil of the devil. No, that does not mean we are free from temptation and sin, but we know that the devil has been defeated and we have Jesus on our side to help us in times of need. Our greatest enemy, death has been defeated and can harm us no more. Death is powerless no matter how it might rave and storm. By faith in Jesus our souls need not fear.

Stanza five, “The world against me rages, Its fury I disdain; Though bitter war it wages, Its work is all in vain. My heart from care is free, No trouble troubles me. Misfortune now is play, And night is bright as day.” Here again in stanza five we admit that the world may continue to be against us, we may continue to suffer trials and tribulations, struggles and temptation, but we can do so with out fear. The world rages against us. The devil, the world and our own sinful flesh tempt us. And yet, their work is in vain. Our hearts are free from care. No trouble troubles me. Nothing in the world can harm us.

Stanza six, “Now I will cling forever To Christ, my Savior true; My Lord will leave me never, Whate’er He passes through. He rends death’s iron chain; He breaks through sin and pain; He shatters hell’s grim thrall; I follow Him through all.” Because of God’s great love for us, because Jesus lived for us, took our sins, suffered and died for us, because Jesus rose for us our response of faith is to pledge that our faithfulness to Christ will never end. We will cling to Christ our Savior for ever and know that He our Lord will never leave us. Jesus breaks the chains of hell and gives us victory. He breaks through sin and pain shattering the torments of hell. His love for us moves in us to guide us and to follow Him through all.

Stanza seven, “He brings me to the portal That leads to bliss untold, Whereon this rhyme immortal Is found in script of gold: ‘Who there My cross has shared Finds here a crown prepared; Who there with Me has died Shall here be glorified.’” Stanza seven brings us to our earthly life’s end. He brings us to the portal. Jesus brings us to the door of heaven. The door to heaven is a door to untold bliss, pure peace and happiness, more precious than gold. And He gives us the crown prepared for each one of us. This same Jesus who gave up the glory that was His in heaven in order to take on human flesh and blood, in order to live for us, take our sins, suffer and die for us. This same Jesus who rose from the dead ascended to the place from which He descended, so that He might regain His glory, this same Jesus we will meet and see Him in heaven in all His glory.

Last Friday, Good Friday we witnessed once again that the price for sin was death. We witnessed what God promised in Genesis, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel”  (Genesis 3:15). We watched as our God died and was buried. Today we are reminded of Paul’s words in Romans, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). And this morning we come and see that death and the tomb, the grave had no power over Him because we are witnesses of the empty tomb and His resurrection.

Again, Paul’s words in Romans comes to mind, “35Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36As it is written, ‘For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.’ 37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).

Awake, my heart, with gladness. Jesus has risen from the dead. He has defeated sin, death and the devil. He has paid the full price for our sins, your sins and mine. We have forgiveness and with forgiveness we know we have life and salvation. What a great God we have, what a loving God we have. What else can we do except rejoice and say, to Him be the glory. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

O Lord, We Praise Thee - Maundy Thursday - April 1, 2021 - Text, Sermon Hymn, #617 - O Lord, We Praise Thee; Scripture Readings: 1 Cor. 11:23-26; Matt. 26:26-28; 1 Peter 2:24

Although the author of this hymn is unknown, Martin Luther rewrote Stanza 1 and wrote Stanzas 2 and 3. Luther encouraged the singing of this hymn in the Formula Missae (1523) and in his Deutsche Messe (1526). Luther argued from stanza 1, which had been sung in the churches for at least a century, that the practice of Communion in both kinds had been practiced in the church long before the Roman practice of withholding the cup from the laity.

This hymn reflects Luther’s Trinitarian understanding of the Lord’s Supper both in its three stanza structure and in its content, the grace of God (God the Father), the body and blood of Christ (God the Son) and the gift of the Holy Spirit (God the Holy Spirit).

Stanza one, “O Lord, we praise Thee, bless Thee, and adore Thee, In thanksgiving bow before Thee. Thou with Thy body and Thy blood didst nourish Our weak souls that they may flourish: O Lord, have mercy! May Thy body, Lord, born of Mary, That our sins and sorrows did carry, And Thy blood for us plead In all trial, fear, and need: O Lord, have mercy!” In this first verse we begin by praising God, adoring Him and in thanksgiving bowing before Him. Why this praising, adoring and bowing in thanksgiving? We praise, adore, bow in thanksgiving to God for His body and blood that nourish our weak souls. Today is Maundy Thursday and the night in which our Lord gave us His Holy Supper, His body and blood for to nourish our weak souls.

Even more we thank God for Jesus, true God, born of Mary, true man, who bore our sins and sorrows. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden at death, physical death and apart from faith in Jesus it would be eternal death in hell. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were never intended to pay the price for human sin as the price for human sin was human death. However, the animal sacrifices were a reminder that the price for sin was death and that blood had to be shed, but even more they always pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of a human to pay the price for human sin. Here we confess that this same body of Jesus that was carried in Mary’s womb, this same body on the cross is the body we eat and the blood we drink, given and shed for us as we plead, in all trial, fear and need.

Stanza two, “Thy holy body into death was given, Life to win for us in heaven. No greater love than this to Thee could bind us; May this feast thereof remind us! O Lord, have mercy! Lord, Thy kindness did so constrain Thee That Thy blood should bless and sustain me. All our debt Thou hast paid; Peace with God once more is made: O Lord, have mercy!” Stanza two reiterates our confession that Jesus gave His body into death to pay the price for sin and to earn our forgiveness and win heaven. Jesus tells us, no greater love can one have than to lay down their life for another as He did for us. As we partake of our Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper we are reminded of His great love for us, giving up the glory that was His in heaven, taking on human flesh and blood, living the perfect life demanded of us for us in our place, taking our sins upon Himself, suffering the punishment, the wage for our sins on the cross, that is  suffering eternal death in hell, the shedding of His blood, for us, to pay for our sins, for our forgiveness.

We pray that our partaking of the Lord’s Supper will remind us of our Lord’s kindness, His greater love as well praying that His body and blood to sustain us, that we may have peace with God. Indeed, true peace is the peace that only God can give. True peace in knowing our sins are forgiven.

Stanza three, “May God bestow on us His grace and favor That we follow Christ our Savior And live together here in love and union Nor despise this blest Communion! O Lord, have mercy! Let not Thy good Spirit forsake us; Grant that heav’nly-minded He make us; Give Thy Church, Lord, to see Days of peace and unity: O Lord, have mercy!” In stanza three we continue our prayer that God would continue to bestow on us His grace and favor so that we may continue to follow Christ. We also pray for a unity of the Church, that is a unity in faith and doctrine. Here we confess that true Christian unity flows out of our oneness of faith and our oneness of confession in Jesus as our Savior. It is this oneness, this heavenly minded oneness that brings us together and gives us peace and unity in His Holy Christian Church.

And ultimately then we pray for a blessed end in heaven. What is more peaceful and unifying than a peaceful, blessed end of our days of the earth than to live together in perfect unity and harmony with our Lord and with one another in heaven.

This hymn is a fitting Maundy Thursday, giving of the Lord’s Supper hymn. In this hymn we are reminded of the Biblical texts of this hymn; Paul’s words in first Corinthians, “23For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ 25In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ 26For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:23-26). Jesus’ words in Matthew, “26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, ‘Take, eat; this is my body.’ 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’” (Matthew 26:26-28). And Peter’s words in first Peter, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24).

On this Maundy Thursday evening, then, we are reminded that this was the night in which our Lord was betrayed by one of His own apostles, Judas Iscariot. We are reminded that Jesus, Jewish Jesus, was celebrating the annual Passover meal with His disciples. Jesus was celebrating the meal that was meant to remind the Children of Israel how God delivered them from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. And yet, even more for us, we are reminded that from this Passover meal Jesus gives us something better and greater. As the blood of the lamb was painted on the door post and lintel of the houses in Egypt and the lamb eaten so that the angel of death would pass over those houses and not kill the firstborn, so Jesus gives us His Holy Supper. In this Holy Supper, in this Lord’s Supper Jesus gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink, marking us so the angel of eternal death will pass over us and not condemn us to eternal death and hell. Perhaps it was this marking of the door post and lintel and the eating of the lamb were one of the reasons Luther was so adamant about the people partaking of the Lord’s Supper in both kinds, that is in the bread and the wine. As the Israelites ate the lamb it became a part of them. Today, as we partake of the body and blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, so He becomes a part of us, a physical part of us. Thus, His perfect life becomes our perfect life. His perfect obedience is counted as our perfect obedience. His perfect suffering and death becomes our perfect suffering and death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection.

As we come to the Lord’s Table, we eat His body and drink His blood, we are given forgiveness. We are strengthened in our faith. We are united in love and communion and we have peace, true peace, peace of sins forgiven. And we leave rejoicing and saying, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Dying - March 28, 2021 - Palm Sunday - Text: Mark 15:1-47

Today is a special day for two of our youth and for their parents, sponsors, God-parents, grandparents, for the whole family. Today these two young people will come forward to do what many of us have done in years past. No, today is not graduation. Let me say that again, today is not graduation. Today is the beginning of their adult church membership. Today is their confirmation day and we will talk some more about what that means in just a bit.

According to our church year calendar, today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day the church traditionally celebrates Jesus’ triumphant ride into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. However, after listening to the text for this morning you might be asking, “What happened to Palm Sunday?” But on closer inspection you might have noticed that the Old Testament reading is a picture of Palm Sunday, “your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” So, we have not completely lost our Palm Sunday Celebration, it is just that is not our main emphasis this morning.

I would suppose that the difficulty in choosing a text for this Sunday comes from the fact that today is also the day we begin Holy Week. Today we begin the last week of Jesus time on this earth as we walk with Him through the moments of His anguish in the Garden, His arrest, His trials and His suffering and dying on the cross. Here I would point you to the page in your bulletin which outlines the Bible readings for each day of this week. Those readings are listed to help you follow along with Jesus during Holy Week.

And this morning we continue our schizophrenia of sorts with the fact that we add to today our celebration of Confirmation. What is a pastor to do? And why does he title his sermon, “Dying?” There really is so much to preach on and so little time. So, for your sake and for mine, I will concentrate on Confirmation, after all, as I said earlier, it is something most of us have been through and it is good to review what promises we made so many years ago.

First, I want to answer the question, “What is confirmation?” And I want to begin by answering that question in the negative, by answering what Confirmation is not. Confirmation is not a sacrament, at least not according to our definition of a sacrament. Remember, our definition of a sacrament is rather narrow. To be a sacrament all of the following criteria must be met: 1) it is a sacred act, and confirmation is a sacred act; 2) it must be instituted, or started by God, and God did not give us confirmation. Confirmation is a man made tradition; 3) it must have a visible element which is connected with God’s Word and 4) it must give forgiveness of sins; and confirmation, although we speak a Bible verse, it does not have a visible element connected with God’s Word and it does not offer forgiveness of sins. Thus, confirmation is not a sacrament.

So, “What is confirmation?” A second thought which is often mistakenly spoken of concerning confirmation is, and you do not have to raise your hand if you think this way, that confirmation is our confirming our baptismal vow. Let me assure you, it is not our confirming our baptismal vow. Think about it, what vow did we make at our baptism? We did not make any vow at baptism. Rather, at our Baptism it was God who did all the work. He made the vow. He put His name on us. He put faith in our hearts. He claimed us as His own.

Well, then, what is confirmation? Confirmation is our public profession of faith. I will state this now and later, “Confirmation is a public rite of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.” In other words, it is a public confession of faith, a time to say, “I am now responsible for my own Christian faith,” and a lifelong pledge of being faithful to Christ. And this is where we get our sermon title. Confirmation is a pledge to die for Christ, and that pledge is made in response to the fact that we believe that He died for us.

Now, what pledge and what promises did we and do we make at confirmation? If you do not remember, you may open your hymnal. These questions are listed in their completeness on page 272-274 in the front part of the hymnal. We will be asking these questions of the confirmands in just a few minutes, but for now I want to somewhat summarize them as we ask ourselves what pledge and promise we made at our own confirmation. And maybe we might ask ourselves again today, do we still make these promises?

First, we are asked about our faith, the faith into which we were baptized. In essence we are asked, “Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism? Do you renounce the devil? Do you renounce all his works? Do you renounce all his ways? Do you confess faith in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit?” These are not too difficult of questions. They are questions our sponsors and the congregation answered for us at our Baptism and so we are recognizing the faith and gifts God has given to us at our Baptism. Do we believe in God as He has revealed Himself to us in the Bible, or do we believe in some other god, even some god which we might have created in our own image? We might think that is a non-question, but too often we say we believe in the God of the Bible, the whole while believing in a god we have created in our own image.

Second, we are asked about the foundation of our faith. “Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God? Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?” In other words, do we believe the Bible is the Word of God, or that it merely contains the Word of God. The difference here is important. If the Bible merely contains the Word of God then we can believe the parts we want and throw out the parts we do not like. Sounds great does it not. How often we would like to throw out that part about lying or about coveting?! The problem, though, is this, once we throw out one part, we have to throw out the whole part. The other option is that we believe the Bible is the Word of God, which means we have to take all of it, even the parts we do not like. This belief is not as easy at it seems. How often do we find ourselves justifying what we do, because we know that without our bit of justification it might seem that we are disobeying God’s Word. We all do it. I know the Bible tells me to obey those in authority over me, but right now I have to speed to get where I am going. I know the Bible says that adultery is a sin, but what does it hurt to “window shop.” I know God wants me to give myself to Him first, that He wants me to be in Divine Service and Bible Class every Sunday, but how can He expect me to do that when there are so many things in life that I would miss if I actually did put Him first? This second question asks us what do we believe about the Bible?

Third, although this question is not asked explicitly in our new order of confirmation, it is asked implicitly, that is we are asked about our desire to be a member of this church. “Do you desire to be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and of this congregation?” Do we want to be a Missouri Synod Lutheran or not? This question reminds us of something that is quite lacking in our society today, denominational loyalty. I have said this before and I will say it again. Too often people are shopping for a church and not necessarily for a church which teaches what the Bible says. Rather they are searching for a church that teaches what they want to believe about the Bible. I pray that you are a member of this church because you have been as the Bereans and that you will continue to be as the Bereans. Remember the Bereans, they checked out everything that Paul preached to make sure that it was according to the Word of God.

Fourth, we are asked if we promise to be active in our faith and faith life. “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death?” In this question we are asked if we promise to live active Christian lives. We promise to give ourselves first to the Lord. We promise to give of our first fruits, our time, and our talents in response to all the good gifts and blessings our Lord first gives to us. We are reminded that He gave His life, how are we going to respond?

Fifth, we are asked if we will give our life for our faith. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Now, many of us have made this promise, but do we live by it? I must admit, I do not know, if my life depended on it, if I would confess my faith or not. If someone said to me, if you admit you are a Christian I will kill you, now tell me, “are you a Christian?” I do not know what I would say. I do not believe any of us can say for certain. However, I do pray, that if and when the time would come, that I would be able to stand firm in my confession of faith. So, these are the questions we were asked and the questions we will ask our confirmands.

Today, then, we come to celebrate. We celebrate what God in Christ has done for us. We celebrate that it is not we who have chosen Jesus, but it is Jesus who has chosen us. We celebrate that because of His great love for us, Jesus gave His life in order to earn forgiveness of sins for us through His death on the cross. We celebrate that He has given us faith through His Word and through Holy Baptism. We celebrate that He continues to strengthen us in faith, and He continues to work to keep us in faith until Christ comes again to take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven. We celebrate that we cling to God’s promises and work, not our own fallible thoughts, trusting that as God is running the show in our lives we know we can depend on Him to get it right.

Today we come to rejoice. We rejoice in the public profession of faith of these two confirmands. We rejoice with them that by the power of the Holy Spirit working through them they have come to proclaim their faith in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. They have come to proclaim that they believe the Bible is the Word of God. They have come to proclaim that they desire to be a part of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and this congregation. They have come to proclaim that they intend, with God’s help, to lead faithful lives in the Christian faith and in this congregation. And they have come to proclaim that they will suffer all, even death, rather than deny their faith. And all this they confess with the help of the Holy Spirit.

Today we come to pray. We pray God’s blessings on these two young people, especially as they face the trials and temptations of this world. We must all admit, there are many young people from our own confirmation classes who have fallen away and are no longer a part of the body of Christ. And Satan’s temptations may even increase as they now make this their confession and profession of faith. Indeed, they will be tempted to put their trust in themselves and in human thoughts and reasoning instead of in God and His Word. They will be tempted with the business of the things of this world, with thoughts of power, fame and fortune, even tempted by family and friends as the devil, the father of lies, who hates all things of God will work tirelessly to lure them away from their faith. Thus, we pray that the Lord will strengthen these confirmands in their faith and resolve; that the Lord will help them to live according to their promises; so that finally, when their last hour has come they may stand before the Lord and He will say, “well done though good and faithful servant, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.”

My prayer for each one of you gathered here today, whether you are family or friend, whether you are Lutheran or not, whether you have kept your confirmation promises or not, is that the Lord will fill you with His Holy Spirit, so that you might know God’s love for you so much that He gave His life for you so that even if you have not been faithful, with Him there is forgiveness and the opportunity to return to faithfulness; and if you have been weak in your faith and life that He would work in you a renewed spirit so that ultimately you might stand with these young people and with all the saints before the throne of God and declare, to God be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.