Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Day of Pentecost

They Day of Pentecost (C)
The Confirmation of Joscelin Comisky, Tyler Ihle, and Emma Scott

May 19, 2013
Text: Acts 2:1-21; John 14:23-31

            Jesus says, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (John 14:23; ESV).  That is what the rite of Confirmation is all about.  It gives our confirmands, who have undertaken two years of intense instruction at the feet of the Lord Jesus as He opens His Word to them, a chance to confess that they believe what they have been taught in the Holy Scriptures and in the Small Catechism.  And then to promise before God and this congregation that they will keep that Word of their Lord, believe it, confess it, hold it sacred, even unto death.  Because they love Jesus.  And they love Jesus because He first loved them and gave Himself up for them unto the death of the cross, for the forgiveness of their sins.
            What does it mean to keep Jesus’ Word?  The Greek word translated here as “keep” (τηρέω) can also mean to “keep watch over,” “guard,” “hold,” “preserve,” keep “unharmed and undisturbed,” and especially in this context to “observe,” “fulfill,” and “pay attention to.”[1]  All of these shades of meaning are included in what our Lord here says.  We Christians should keep watch over the Word, guard it against harm and perversion, hold it sacred in our hearts and minds, preserve it against pernicious false doctrine.  And of course, we should observe it very carefully.  We should believe it, do what it says, and pay careful attention to every detail as we study it and meditate upon it.  After all, this Word is from the Lord Jesus Himself personally to us, each one.  This Word is precious.  It is true.  It is powerful unto salvation.  Of course, we sinners don’t keep the Word of the Lord as we should.  We don’t like everything the Bible says.  So instead of keeping it, we change it in our hearts.  We pretend it says something other than what it says.  Some parts we simply don’t listen to or pay attention.  We close our ears and our hearts.  Yet there is the Lord Jesus, compassionately calling to each one of us, “If you love me, you will keep my Word.”  Beloved, repent.  This is why it is so important what Jesus says a few verses later in our text: “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (v. 26).  The Holy Spirit is active in His Word to turn your heart from hostility to the Word to a living faith in the Word so that you love the Lord Jesus and keep what He says.
            And that is what the Holy Spirit has been doing for our confirmands since their Baptism into Christ and for the last two years of catechetical instruction in His Word.  He has been working in them so that they believe in Jesus Christ, their Savior, love Him, and keep His Word.  Listen to some of the things they will promise and confess today.  They will remember and confess their Baptism in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  They will renounce the devil and all of his works and ways.  They will confess the Creed, the faith of the Holy Christian Church.  They will confess the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the inspired Word of God.  They will confess the doctrine they’ve learned from Scripture and Dr. Luther’s Small Catechism to be faithful and true.  They will promise to hear the Word of God and receive His gifts in the Sacrament and live according to the Word of God until the day they die.  And (and this is the biggy!) they will promise to remain steadfast in this confession they have just made come hell or high water, to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it.  Amazing.  They can only do this… say these things, promise these things, confess these things… and mean it!... because the Holy Spirit called them to do so.  By grace.  He called them in their Baptism.  He continues to call them by His Word.  Today He calls them to the Supper of Jesus’ Body and Blood for their forgiveness.  He calls them, calls you and me, by the Gospel, enlightens us with His gifts, and sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith of Jesus Christ so that we can make this good confession.  It’s all His work, all His gift to us.
            And in this way, the same miracle happens to each one of us that happened at the first Pentecost.  Okay, maybe without the mighty rushing wind and the tongues of fire and the speaking of languages we’ve never learned before.  But the real miracle of Pentecost that happened to the disciples has also happened to each one of us.  That is the clarity of the Gospel, of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for our salvation, the faith to believe it and trust it, and the ability to confess it.  St. Peter was just a bumbling, impetuous, ignorant fisherman before Pentecost.  Then the Holy Spirit blows through and Peter immediately gets up and preaches the sermon we heard in our second reading this morning (Acts 2:1-21).  Our confirmands were just helpless infants when their parents brought them to the font.  Then the Holy Spirit came and hovered over the water with His Word and in three splashes they were Christians.  You, beloved, were dead in your trespasses and sins, but God, by His Spirit, has made you alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:1-4).  The miracle of Pentecost reverberates through time and in every place as the Holy Spirit comes in His Word to make Christians out of sinners.  And sinners who have been shown such great mercy in Christ Jesus, love Him and keep His Word.
            But let’s be honest, it isn’t easy to keep the Word of the Lord, and I think we need to be especially honest with you three who are about to make your good confession in the rite of Confirmation.  The devil hates what you’re about to do.  He hates it with all the fury of hell.  And so you should just be aware that he’s going to throw his whole arsenal at you, his fiery arrows, his seductive temptations, his bitter accusations.  When he does, you call him a liar and tell him where he can go.  And then cling to the precious promises of Christ.  Your sins are forgiven.  Christ is your Lord.  You belong to Him.  Then there’s the world.  The world hates what you’re about to do, too.  They think you are, at best, a fool, at worst, a hater, an intolerant extremist.  They will mock you, and perhaps they will even persecute you (that’s where the “faithful unto death” part of promise you’re about to make comes in).  But in spite of this, and even because of it, you are to have nothing but compassion for them.  You are to love them.  You are to pray for them.  You are to turn the other cheek to them, suffer it, and let them have their day, praying that somehow, some way, the Holy Spirit would break through in His Word to turn their hearts to Himself.  And then there is your sinful flesh, that which was drowned in Holy Baptism, but which needs to be crucified again and again through daily repentance.  We talked about how easy it is for your flesh to give up the keeping of Jesus’ Word, especially in the wake of all the devil and the world will throw at you.  But remember this: You who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death.  That’s what St. Paul writes, words that you’ve learned by heart: “We were buried 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” (Rom. 6:4).  The answer to your sinful flesh is the death and resurrection of Jesus which is yours in Baptism.  Remember, you belong to Him now.  You’re His.  So when you recognize the rebellion of your flesh, repent.  Die to it.  And believe the Good News: All your sins are forgiven in Jesus Christ your Savior.
            The truth of the matter is, with your three main enemies, the devil, the world, and your sinful flesh, constantly assaulting you, no matter how much you love Jesus, it’s utterly impossible for you to keep His Word, unless His Word keeps you.  And that’s precisely what it does.  We don’t sing in the hymn, “Lord, I am keeping Your Word steadfastly.”  We sing, “Lord, keep us steadfast in Your Word” (LSB 655:1).  Because we know that apart from the Lord’s keeping of us we cannot begin to keep His Word.  But in His keeping, by His Spirit, we hold His Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it, believe it, guard it, observe it, and put it into practice.  It is all His work in us.  By grace.  And it’s what we’re seeing and hearing in action in our confirmands this morning. 
            Joscelin, Tyler, and Emma, will make these promises this morning, not believing or trusting in their own power to keep them, but trusting in the Word, trusting in the Lord Jesus whom they’ve come to know ever since their Baptism, the Lord who shed His blood for them and for all people, trusting in their dear Father and in the Holy Spirit whom He has sent through Jesus to teach them all things (John 14:26).  What is true for them is true for you, beloved.  He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thess. 5:24).  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.              


[1] Walter Bauer et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979) pp. 814-15.

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