Sunday’s Sermon

Third Sunday of Easter – May 1 (Rev. Stan Temme)

Fourth Sunday of Easter – May 8 (Rev. Stan Temme)

Fifth Sunday of Easter – May 15 (Rev. Stan Temme)

Sixth Sunday of Easter – May 22 (Rev. Stan Temme)

Confirmed in the Faith

            Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  God’s grace especially to you Chase and Joe on this your confirmation day.  Our text is from the Gospel reading.  Jesus said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  Here ends our text.

            It was Jesus’ first confirmation class.  For three years now Jesus had been teaching and catechizing his twelve disciples.  Jesus had handpicked these men, not from the educated religious clergy, but from the common laity.  Our Gospel reading today marks the end of the disciples’ three years of catechesis.  It was the night of Jesus’ betrayal, and the day before His death.  Jesus was giving His final instructions to His confirmands.

            During these three years, the disciples had gotten to know Jesus pretty well.  And by getting to know God’s Son, they’d gotten to know God.  There were many times when the disciples didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching.  Sometimes Jesus spoke in parables, and they had to come and ask him, “What is the meaning of the parable?”  Sometimes Jesus spoke in riddles.  “You must be born again.  The first will be last and the last first.  Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”  Sometimes Jesus spoke in metaphors, “I am the bread of life.  I am the light of the world.  If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.”  The disciples had to ask, “What did you mean by that?”  Several times Jesus spoke of His suffering, death, and resurrection, and the disciples scratched their heads and asked, “What does this mean?”  Jesus often spoke in figures of speech, but He answered all His disciples’ questions by giving His explanation.  Jesus would say, “Amen, Amen.  Truly, truly, I say to you.”

            On this night Jesus concluded His three years of teaching, but the disciples would never be done learning.  Jesus told them, “I have said these things to you in figures of speech.  The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.”  And then Jesus spoke plainly to them.  “The Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.  I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world.”  Jesus spoke plainly to them about God the Father’s love for them because of their belief in His Son Jesus Christ, how He had come from the Father and was now returning to Him.  The disciples replied, “Ah, now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative speech!  Now we know that you know all things and do not need anyone to question you; this is why we believe that you came from God.”  The disciples believed at last!  At the end of their confirmation instruction, they confessed that Jesus’ teaching was most certainly true.  That same evening, they made their vow to remain faithful to Jesus.  Peter promised, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.”  And all the other disciples said the same.  They made their vow unto death.

            Now today marks the end of our confirmands’ three years of confirmation instruction here at Trinity Darmstadt.  They’ve spent three years studying the Bible, getting to know God by getting to know Jesus and His Word.  They’ve asked questions and received answers in our catechism and its explanation.  Many of you here today remember your years of confirmation instruction from your pastor and teachers and parents in the days of your youth.  You memorized the Six Chief Parts of our catechism and learned by asking questions.  Our German forefathers were trained to ask, “Was ist das?” meaning, “What is that?”  You were trained to ask in English, “What does this mean?”  You also recited the answers to: What are the Ten Commandments?  What is Baptism?  What is Confession?  What is the Office of the Keys?  What is the Sacrament of the Altar?  And finally, you confessed the Triune God in the Creed, the simple and clear explanation of who God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit truly is.  You completed your confession of faith with the resounding words, “This is most certainly true.”  And then on your confirmation day, you made your vow to God before the congregation.  “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?  I do, by the grace of God.  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?  I do, by the grace of God.  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.”  You made your vow unto death.

            But unfortunately, we don’t always keep our vow and neither did the disciples.  On the same night that the disciples made their vow to remain faithful unto death, Jesus said to them, “Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone.”  Sadly, Jesus’ words came true.  The shepherd was struck and under the duress of the world, the devil, and their sinful flesh, the sheep were scattered.  The disciples couldn’t stay awake to pray with Jesus in the garden because even though the spirit was willing, their sinful flesh was weak.  Satan entered into Judas who betrayed Jesus.  The disciples feared the world and fled from the temple guard.  Peter even denied Jesus when threatened by a little servant girl.  In times of testing, they all forsook Jesus and left him alone.  They lost faith.  At this point, Jesus’ first confirmation class didn’t look too good.

            And despite our vow of faithfulness, we’ve often been the same.  At our confirmation reunion after church today, we’ll all receive a booklet of the last 90 years of confirmation classes at Trinity Darmstadt and other churches.  You may see your parents, yourself, or your children in those pictures.  Some of those saints have passed on to glory.  Some have moved and transferred to other churches.  Some are here today.  But there are many, your peers or your children or grandchildren who are no longer with us in the faith.  They were choked by the fears or pleasures of the world.  They found other gods and neglected the Sabbath Day.  The devil tempted them and then accused them of their sin.  They felt too guilty to come worship.  Their own sinful flesh was weak.  They couldn’t stay awake at night for prayer and devotions or roll out bed on Sunday morning.  Sometimes it’s our fault.  It’s our sinful flesh.  God says, “I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sins of the fathers, to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.”  Our own neglect of not teaching the faith as the head of our household has left our children vulnerable.  For whatever reason, some of those who were confirmed in the faith lost the faith and broke their vow.  Which begs the question.  “My life isn’t over yet.  I’m still attacked by the world, the devil, and my own sinful flesh.  Will I remain faithful unto death, or will I break the vow that I made at this altar?  Jesus has left the world and returned to the Father.  Just what are my chances of staying in the faith for the rest of my life?”

            But in response to our doubts, Jesus says, “Take heart.”  Jesus encourages his twelve disciples back then and his disciples here today to take heart.  Why?  Because our Triune God overcomes the world, the devil, and our sinful flesh.

            Before closing with His high priestly prayer for them, Jesus finished His confirmation instruction to His disciples with these words.  “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation.  But take heart; I have overcome the world.”  How has Jesus overcome the kingdom of the world for you?  By his suffering, death, and resurrection.  Christ “has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom.  Just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.  This is most certainly true”

            God says, “Take heart, for I have overcome the devil.”  How has our Lord God overcome the devil for you?  God the Father “defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil.”  God the Son overcame the devil’s temptations in the wilderness, took the punishment for you on the cross, and gives you His righteousness so the devil can no longer accuse you of sin.  Five times during His final catechesis to His disciples, Jesus promised them the Holy Spirit.  At your baptism, the devil was cast out so that the Holy Spirit might enter in.  “The Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.  On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ.  This is most certainly true.” 

            God says, “Take heart, for I have overcome your sinful flesh.”  How does our Lord God overcome your sinful flesh?  By His Word and Sacraments which He gives through His Church.  First by baptism which “indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”  Second by God’s Word of Law and Gospel pronounced to you in the Office of the Keys which “is that special authority which Christ has given to His church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners but withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.”  And third, by the strengthening of your faith through Sacrament of the Altar which “is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins . . . for where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.”  This is most certainly true.

Finally, our Triune God overcomes the world, the devil, and our sinful flesh when we ask Him to in prayer.  Jesus said in our Gospel reading today, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.  Ask in my name, and you will receive.”  “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.”  And when you pray, you pray in Jesus name that God’s will be done.  When is God’s will done?  “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature . . . and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”  If it depended on us, we’d break our confirmation vow to remain faithful unto death.  But the Triune God is the one who overcomes the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, strengthens us, and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.  By God’s grace and His work, you will remain faithful unto death.

Jesus’ first confirmation class – the twelve, minus Judas, plus Matthias – actually turned out very well.  Their confession of the Triune God, their preaching as apostles, and their suffering all, even death, for the sake of Christ, brought the kingdom of God to all nations on earth and ensured them life everlasting in heaven.  And for you confirmands, young and old, who are here today to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully, will you continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?  You will by the grace of God.  “Our Father in heaven will rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation, and finally, when our last hour comes, give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.”  This is most certainly true.  Amen.

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