Sunday, August 07, 2011

Sermon: Trinity 7 and Confirmation Sunday – 2011

7 August 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Mark 8:1-9 (Gen 2:7-17, Rom 6:19-23)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today is a monumental day in the life of our congregation and in the lives of these four young people who are being confirmed. And it isn’t so much because of Confirmation itself – which is not a sacrament or a rite commanded in the Bible (and in fact, was abolished by Martin Luther), but rather because these four children of God – Addison, Gavin, Kristen, and Raegan – will partake of the Lord’s body and blood for the first time today.

On this holy day in this holy place, these four sinners made holy by God’s Holy Word in Holy Baptism, will join us – the one Holy Church throughout the world in partaking of Holy Communion.

Of course, we Lutherans ultimately rejected Luther’s rejection of Confirmation, and it is a tradition that we uphold. For it is a good and fitting thing that God’s children of every age understand and confess the truths of God’s Word.

That truth is expressed in full in the readings of the Holy Word today.

We know that we are descended from Adam, who was made from the earth. We know that we lived in paradise and that “the tree of life was in the midst of the garden” – as well as a forbidden “tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” We know that the Lord had great plans for us, an eternal destiny of everlasting life, perfect harmony with nature, and unbroken communion with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And we also know, again from that same Holy Word of God, that “the Lord God commanded the man… ‘of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

And you shall surely die, dear brothers and sisters – from the oldest to the youngest, from the frailest to the most vigorous – even you Addison, Gavin, Kristen, and Raegan. You shall surely die.

And though we were not to know about good and evil, we have crossed that line. And so we must deal with good and evil, study the catechism, learn the Ten Commandments, and confess that we are poor miserable sinners, deserving of God’s wrath and punishment, because we, like Adam, have not kept the holy commandments.

And regarding that fruit for which we lusted, to which we were not entitled, by which we are all corrupted and mortal, St. Paul asks us: “But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you were now ashamed? For the end of those things is death.” Indeed, God’s Word is true. This theme that we are sinners, that we are mortal, that we are at war against each other and at enmity against God Himself runs throughout Holy Scripture. We know it. We confess it. We live in that reality. And we can’t fix it.

“For the wages of sin is death,” says the holy apostle, and this is also God’s Word.

Dear confirmands and dear Christian children of every age: we know this. We cannot wiggle out of it. We can’t make excuses. We can’t lie our way out of it. It is the sad reality of our fallen human condition. And we know this for many reasons – the most obvious one being that we must attend funerals.

But, dear friends, St. Paul speaks of a way to become “slaves to righteousness” instead of to “impurity and to lawlessness.” He speaks of a way “leading to sanctification.” He has good news for us that although “the wages of sin is death” as we all know, there is a way out: “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Again, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

For “In Christ” we overcome the death we deserve – even as He overcame the death He did not deserve, on the cross, by rising from the grave. And we receive this life that conquers death as a “free gift.” It is not for sale, it can’t be earned, and it cannot be promised in return for anything. It falls into our laps from above, just as fruits grow on a tree and are available for the eating.

Our Lord designed us to eat. He put us in a lush garden, a place where food literally appears from sunlight and water and the nutrient-bearing soil of the ground. Of course, in our fallen state, our food is not necessarily very good. It may bear blemishes. It rots. And we have to work to earn it. But nevertheless, the Lord still provides for us through the fruits of the earth and sea, and giving us the opportunity to work and earn a living – now that we no longer live in a garden of grace.

But, dear friends, we have a destiny to return to that garden of grace, to redeem our existence of death and replace it with everlasting life. Our tree of life is Christ’s cross, and the fruit of that tree is given to us week in and week out in the cup. The Lord’s body is our food and the Lord’s blood is our drink. He invites us to join in His undoing of sin and death and decay and to be rejuvenated with His righteousness and life and glory.

And that, dear confirmands, is why today is so important in your life.

Today is not a graduation, but the first day of your life of communing in the Lord’s body and blood – for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your faith. This is not the last time you are to come here, but it is the first time for you to partake in the eternal feast. The Lord’s invitation is not for you to wear a robe once and have a few pictures only never to return, but rather for you to wear your baptismal robe of righteousness every day of your lives and feast continually on the Word and the Sacrament.

The Lord takes away our hunger for things that we need – both in this world and in eternity – by feeding us. And notice why the Lord feeds His people: “I have compassion on the crowd.” Our Lord knows what hunger is like, to be in poverty and want. He knows that we need not only bread for the stomach but also nourishment for the soul.

And notice what He does: “having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples to set before the people… And they ate and were satisfied.”

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to the disciples and said: “Take eat; this is My body, which is given for you.”

And they ate and were satisfied. Satisfied and filled with righteousness and life, filled with peace with men and unity with God. And they shared this satisfaction with a world starving for divine grace and mercy.

And the very same blood that was required of Adam – that was spilled by the New Adam, our Lord Jesus, at the cross – that blood was put into a “cup after supper,” and “when He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying: “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in My blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

This is a pure gift from the Father who created us, a pure sacrifice of the Son who redeemed us, a pure communion from the Holy Spirit who sanctifies us. This blood comes from the same side of the same crucified Jesus whose pierced heart also issued water – unitedwith the baptismal invocation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

And it is this baptism you confess today, dear confirmands!

And hear the Word of the Lord, as we will again, and as we do every time we gather around this altar in Holy Communion: “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Your invitation to this altar is not for one time only. Nor is it limited to your lifetime according to the flesh. This invitation never ends. It transcends death. It is the bringer of life. It is your continual food and drink as children of God and reborn people to be refashioned in God’s perfect image through the Word.

Eat and drink! Hear the Word of the Lord! Receive this gift of righteousness! And live forever! That new life of communion and feeding on the Lord’s body for all eternity begins today, continues tomorrow, and the “free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” – a life that never ends.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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