Sermon for May 23, 2010

Acts 2:1-4 (Pentecost/Confirmation Sunday—Series C)

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

May 23, 2010 (10:30 a.m.)

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Our text is from Acts 2:

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

On this holy Day of Pentecost, it is so very appropriate that we celebrate the Rite of Confirmation.  Pentecost is the birthday of the Church, the day our Lord Jesus poured out the promised Holy Spirit on the chosen disciples.  It is good, right, and salutary that on this festival day we rejoice in the day the Holy Spirit was poured into your heart and also celebrate your Spirit-filled confession of faith in Jesus Christ. 

            So what is Confirmation all about anyway?  To begin with, it is not a Sacrament.  Nowhere in Scripture does our Lord Jesus command us to have Confirmation.  Nowhere in Scripture does it say that Confirmation offers, gives, and seals the forgiveness of sins.  Nowhere in Scripture does it give us a visible element by which the Lord combines His Word to grant us forgiveness in Confirmation.  You need all of these “parts” in order to be Sacrament.  Confirmation doesn’t meet that standard.  So what is Confirmation?  It is a public rite or ceremony of the church preceded by a period of instruction designed to help baptized Christians identify with the life and mission of the Christian community.  The Rite of Confirmation provides an opportunity for the individual Christian, relying on God’s promise given in Holy Baptism, to make a personal public confession of the faith and a lifelong pledge of faithfulness to Christ.  So your Confirmation Day is really a celebration of your Baptism and the gift of faith in Jesus given to you by the Holy Spirit through that precious Sacrament.  Baptism is where our life of faith in Jesus Christ begins. 

            The Christian life of trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism.  The Christian life lived in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life begins with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Baptism.  On the Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled the chosen disciples, coming from heaven with a sound like a mighty rushing wind.  The Holy Spirit appeared to them as divided tongues of fire and rested on them.  They began to speak in other languages as the Holy Spirit gave them speech.  That was how God the Holy Spirit chose to fill His first disciples.  But His promised way of coming to us is through the Means of Grace that the Lord has set up—through the Gospel Word and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. 

            It is in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism that the Holy Spirit fills our hearts with His own presence and creates in our hearts saving trust and faith in Jesus Christ.  The day of your Baptism is really your “Pentecost.”  In the Small Catechism Luther asks, “How can water do such great things?”  The answer: “Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things [works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation] along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water.  For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism.  But with the Word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. . . .” 

            In Baptism, the Holy Spirit fills us and gives us the ability to do the humanly impossible—believe in Jesus Christ and confess Him as Savior and Lord.  The disciples had never learned the languages they spoke on the Day of Pentecost.  They had never gone through a Rosetta Stone language learning class to speak the language of the Parthians and Medes and Elamites.  But through the work of the Holy Spirit, they did the humanly impossible and spoke about Jesus Christ in languages never learned.  When the Holy Spirit fills us in Baptism, He creates saving faith in our hearts to believe in and confess Christ.  The Bible tells us, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit. (1Corinthians 12:3)  Because we are by nature spiritually blind, dead, and enemies of God (as the Bible teaches), we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit “has called me by the Gospel.”  Through the water and Gospel Word in Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit has invited and drawn you by the Gospel to partake of the spiritual blessings that are yours in Jesus Christ—faith, sins forgiven, and everlasting life. 

In Baptism, the Holy Spirit has given you the saving knowledge of Jesus so that you trust, rejoice, and find comfort in Him who forgives all your sins by dying on the cross for you.  By grace, through faith in Jesus, having been cleansed from you sins by His blood, the Spirit makes you a child of God.  You are no longer God’s enemy.  You are at peace with Him, reconciled, redeemed, and forgiven as you confess, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. 

So, Austen, your Christian life began on your Baptism day, December 1, 1996.  To remember and celebrate that holy day, during the Rite of Confirmation we will light your baptismal candle, the very candle that was first lit with fire on the day the Holy Spirit kindled in your heart the fire of Christ’s love through water and the Word in your Baptism. 

But as you might have noticed, your life of faith in Jesus Christ started at Baptism but has also continued!  The gift of faith is a gift that needs to be nurtured and taken care of and supported through the hearing of God’s Word.  Through God’s Word in the Gospel, the Holy Spirit continues to make you holy and keep you in the one true faith.  And who is it that has seen to it that the Word of God has been read and heard by you?  First of all, mom and dad: Thank you.  Thank you for nurturing Austen’s baptismal faith with the Word of God in your home and in your Christian living.  We praise God for you both today.  Who else brought God’s Word to you?  Grandparents.  Godparents—these wonderful Christian Godmothers who have traveled to be with you today, who first spoke on your behalf at your Baptism and now get to witness you acknowledge the gifts God the Holy Spirit gave you then.  Who else?  Your Sunday School teachers over the years.  What a joy they have had giving you God’s Word week after week. 

And then I guess there’s me.  I have had the unique joy as your pastor to share the Word of God with you these past two years on Monday evenings.  And I will miss that.  I have been blessed to watch you grow and mature in your faith these past two years.  Whether we were being serious or laughing, getting down to business or goofing around, what a joy it is to call you a brother in Christ, yes even my son in the Faith.  You are a blessing to me, to this church, and to your family.  Today we also celebrate the gift of God’s Word given to you.  How special it is that you, in response to God’s love in Christ, should give the gift of God’s Word in these Bibles to help other children grow in their faith! 

Austen, as the baptized child of God that you are, in the power of the Holy Spirit, very soon you will have the blessed opportunity to confess the Christian faith with your mouth, the faith that you believe in your heart.  On that first Pentecost, the Holy Spirit appeared as tongues of fire and gave the disciples the ability to speak in other languages as He gave them utterance, the statements.  Today He empowers and enables you to do the same—before God’s people here and to the world.  The Holy Spirit has blessed you with forgiveness and saving faith in Jesus so that you can tell others about your Savior.  Remember in our unit on Martin Luther and the Reformation how Luther stood before the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V (or Chucky 5, as we called him), at the Diet of Worms and gave his confession, “Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason—for  I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God.  Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one’s conscience is neither safe nor sound.  Here I stand.  God help me. Amen.” 

Wherever you are called to speak up for the name of Jesus Christ, know that the Holy Spirit will give you the words, the language, and the readiness to speak for your Lord.  Know that as you now come to the Lord’s Supper the Holy Spirit will feed you with the true Body and Blood of Christ your Savior, giving you forgiveness, life, salvation, and a faith strengthened and ready to proclaim with your words and actions, “Jesus Christ is Lord.”  In the power of the Holy Spirit, continue to live out your Baptismal faith.  Continue to grow in your understanding of God’s Word and serve the Lord with gladness!  Amen.

“Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24) Amen.