Sunday, May 29, 2011

Homily for Easter 6a (Confirmation) - John 14:15-21

[With much thanks to Rev. Erik Rottmann for many of these thoughts.  The brackets are personal notes for changing my preaching from one congregation with confirmation, to the second congregation without it.]

Alleluia!  Christ is risen!       
He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

               Our text [for this confirmation Sunday] is the Gospel reading, especially where Christ says to you, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  And then He speaks this great promise to you, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (John 14:15-17).  This is our text.  You may be seated.
               Dearly beloved of God, [and especially you, Nathan,] grace, mercy and peace be yours from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
               [Quite the big week for you, eh Nathan?  You graduate from 8th Grade and finish Confirmation classes.  And just as leaving the 8th Grade does not mean you are done, but merely heading on to a harder school, likewise your confirmation means you head into the harder school of life. 
               The Lord for the first time today strengthens you with His Body and Blood – the same Body and Blood that Christ gave to save you from your sins, a salvation from sins that you take far more seriously now than before we discussed the Scriptures.  Truly a great blessing from God.  However, ] you need to understand that the enemies of your faith now will make your life harder.  Not only will the Devil (1 Peter 5:8) and the world (John 15:18) continually attack the faithful, but you yourself will be your own worst enemy.  Your sinful nature will tempt and torment you.  Your fallen body will aggravate you, not only when your aches and pains get in the way of you having fun doing what you want, but also when your body has its love affairs with destructive sins.  And you know how bad it goes when the human body falls for things like laziness, cursing, gossip, drunkenness, sexual unfaithfulness and so on. 
               [As you learned,] sin is not just what we do and say, but also corrupts our thoughts.  So our minds attack us not only with greed and lust and selfishness, but also tempt us to be bored with God’s holy things, to doubt His promises and to care less about “the living and abiding Word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
               Nothing is left untouched by sin.  Even our emotions turn against our life with Christ.  Our emotions fool us into judging God based on how we feel – which is not good for people who ride emotional roller coasters during the week.  So when life is good, we think God must be happy with us.  But when we are sad and lonely, then we are tempted to imagine God is far from us, or angry, or forgetting us.  And when we get mad at the world, we know how to blame God for failing at His job.
               Your Savior Jesus understands how hard it is for you to survive these ongoing attacks.  That is why He says to you today, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  And then Christ promises you, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.”
               [Now that you have been through Confirmation class,] when you hear the word “commandment”, you most likely think of the Ten, and how these not only teach you what is right, but also accuse and condemn you of sin.  You probably do not think that these commandments provide you with protection or defense.  Because of our guilty consciences, we know all too well that the Holy Law reveals God’s wrath and exposes our sin, as Romans says (4:15, 7:7).
               The good news for you is that God’s commandments do more for you than just condemn your sin.  They also help and support you.  And more than just in the way I explained in class, that with the Fifth Commandment, God says, “Hey world, this is my Nathan.  You shall not murder Nathan – he belongs to Me.”  Or, if God should bless you with a wedding day, “Hey world, this woman is Nathan’s wife.  Not one of you shall commit adultery with either one of them.  You shall not tear apart what I joined together.  Their marriage is precious to Me.”
               More than that, these Commandments also help to keep sin from destroying you with temptations.  For example, when you want to lash out physically or verbally against someone else, the Commandment provide the help you need.  You can insist against your sinful bodily desire that you must not commit the wickedness that God forbids.
               Or as another example, when your mind runs off to thoughts of greed, God’s command “You shall not covet” helps you to stand against being discontent.  It reminds you to be satisfied with the Lord, and to count the generous blessings He has given you.  We use this commandment as a weapon to take our temptations and “every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
               Unfortunately there is a limit to the help the Commandments can give us.  They can work to make our bodies and minds behave.  However, they fail miserably at taming our corrupted emotions.  It is pretty easy to spot the sinful words and deeds, and somewhat easy to identify the sinful thoughts.  But our sinful emotions are much more sneaky when they attack us.
               When we feel good, we want to think that whatever is making us feel good has to be a good thing (1 Corinthians 15:32).
               When we feel angry, we generally judge that we have a right to be mad (Matthew 5:22).
               Emotions have influenced the history of warfare [and I know that if I said that in class, Nathan would give me 5 minutes of examples of how wars went bad because the leader got caught up in emotions].  Emotions have divided families, and emotions have led people astray from the one true faith in Christ.
               Your Savior Jesus knows that your chaotic and shifting emotions get the better of you.  The Lord knows even His Holy Law is powerless to help you re-take control from them.  You might possibly get your body to submit to avoiding evil and doing good.  Perhaps some can even take their thoughts captive.  But who can master their inner storms of emotion?  You know how it  goes – you bury your hurt, sorrow, or rage deep inside and put on the mask of a happy face to pretend that nothing is wrong.
               We might fool some of the people some of the time, but we never fool Jesus.  He knows your struggle and failure, and He knows mine.  Therefore He went to the Cross after He never let His emotions get the best of Him.  He offered His perfect life to save us from all our sin – our unfaithfulness, our rage, our failures at temptation.  Not just in order to forgive us, but also so that He could make His promise to all of us in today’s Gospel:  “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth.”  Jesus takes control back from our emotions for us by this indwelling Holy Spirit.  By the miracle of faith worked by the Holy Spirit, we know that God is pleased with us.  Despite what our loneliness might say, and not because of what our happiness tries telling us.  Rather we know we are precious to God because
     Alleluia!  Christ is risen!  
He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!
The Risen and Ascended Jesus uses the Holy Spirit to silence the lies your emotions tell, so that you will “hold God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”  Sometimes you will feel better afterword you hear it, and sometimes you will not.  Sometimes you will feel different after you receive His Supper, sometimes not.  But by the power of the Holy Spirit, no matter what you feel, you will trust His Word and forgiveness are true.
               The Spirit came to you at the start of the service during the Invocation, reminding you with the sign of the Cross that you are the Baptized child of God, belonging to the household of Heaven forever.
               The Spirit spoke His great peace to you in the Absolution, telling you that all your sins of body, mind and emotion are fully forgiven “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
               The Spirit then uses the Scriptures and sermon to speak the demands and promises of God.  He teaches you and fills you with His living Word so that you may “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
               And today, for the first time, the Spirit will serve you the Body and Blood of your Lord Jesus.  In this way, you will receive into your mouth the same rich forgiveness of Christ that you have heard with your ears for years.
               You know the quote, I am sure, that “We have met the enemy and he is us.”  However, thanks be to God, your Jesus has asked His Father, and the Father gives to you the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit “dwells with you and will be in you” so that you will not be destroyed by your enemies.  Therefore not even your most powerful and sinful emotions now rule over you.  For
Alleluia!  Christ is risen!       
He is Risen indeed!  Alleluia!

No comments:

Post a Comment