Grace, mercy, and peace be
upon you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,
In Bible class this morning, the four confirmands gave a short
profession of their faith. I reminded you all that confirmation is not
a Lutheran invention. It’s been a part of the Christian Church since
the beginning where there would be a time set aside for whether youth
or adult to be trained up in the Word of God, to be given the truths
of Scripture so that their confession of faith would be at one with the congregation
of which they were a part, and it would last years.
And at each point in time, the
faithful pastors and teachers who taught that faith always had in the
back of their mind, I pray they remember what they were taught.
No different than you moms and dads as you have raised up your own children
not only with the things of this world that you hope they remember,
but first and foremost the things of God’s Word that you taught them.
That’s one of those things
where, “Remember what I say more than what I do.” That they
remember what they were taught. Because in four short years, they will
be gone. That time fleets by very quickly. Now for them, while they’re
going through that phase in their life, it seems like each day is 62
hours long and each week 14 days. And it takes forever to get through life
at home. But it goes so quickly. And you pray they remember what they were
This morning we celebrate the
ascension of our Lord where Jesus Christ visibly and bodily ascended
into heaven. And the apostles and the disciples were gathered around and
watched Him ascend into heaven. And the weight of responsibility grew upon
their shoulders because now, now they were on their own. A lot like y’all
in a few short years. A lot like you parents as you remember when you
stepped out of the womb of your household, the nest, as it were, and
kind of took it out on your own and made your own chances, made your
own decisions, consequences of some you wish you would never have made.
Others, you’re very proud that you have made.
Either way, what was always
the touchstone was what you were taught. When Christ left these apostles
and disciples to begin the Church, He did not give them or leave them
in a situation or an environment that was greatly appreciative of what
the Church brought. In fact, if anything, He left them in the midst
of the mouth of a wolf for the Roman Empire in which the Church began
despised the Christians. It was one more headache for them to govern.
And it was the problem between the Jews and the Christians because the Jews
still are waiting for the Messiah to come; the Christians said Jesus
was the Messiah. And then there was all this infighting among the region
So when Christ ascended into
heaven and left them, He left them in the mouth of the lion. And many of
you parents, you know that feeling having departed from your own children
and seeing them go out on their own too. Some of the decisions they
made made you greatly proud. Some of them reminded you of your own mistakes,
sadly. When Christ left His disciples, He summarized it with this statement:
“Remember what you were taught.” But He did not use those
exact words. Instead, He used these words when He said, “These
are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything
about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be
fulfilled.” And the text says, “He opened their minds to understand
Though the secular institutions
of our great state are fine institutions, the secular institutions of
this world and of this state do not…do not…affirm
Christianity as the way, the truth, and the life. They proclaim people
like you and me as having closed and myopic minds, of unenlightened
thoughts seeing the world through this narrow prism known as Christianity.
Well, they’re right on that account. That’s exactly how we see things.
But they’re wrong on the account as if what is being proclaimed in those
institutions of enlightenment is that we somehow are less than enlightened.
Brothers and sisters, when
Christ said those words that He opened their minds to the Scriptures,
He is making it very clear that their minds had been clouded by fears, by
anxieties, by doubts, by concerns, by things that cause them to be frozen
at times in their tracks, and at other times pushes them to lash out.
Either way, driven not by love and forgiveness, but by fear. As you
look at your and my life, think about how often we have either been
frozen in our tracks because of fear or anxiety or have lashed out because
of fear and anxiety. And either way, our minds were clouded and needed to
be opened by God’s Holy Spirit working through this Word.
As I said earlier, there is
only one place God has said He will reveal Himself, and only one. His
Holy Word and sacraments. He will not be in your emotions or feelings,
though that comes and that goes. He has bound Himself to His words so
you can find assurance and so you can find where He is found. You don’t
have to go searching every which way high and low to find Him. He desires
to be found by you there in that Holy Word and there in that Lord’s
Supper and there in that water.
He opened their minds to understand
the Scriptures about everything in this life that centers back upon
one thing…repentance and forgiveness. As was said earlier, in your
and my life personally, God has allowed (and does often times) Satan
to have his way with us, to ruffle our tail feathers, to unravel that
which we had wound up so beautifully from our perspective, to challenge
us and to crush us even. He allows that to happen. And we only know of
one reason why that Scripture declares, and that is to drive us to repentance,
which is not a once in a moment or once in a lifetime or once a year
kind of a thing. It is our daily life.
You and I are where we are
not because of our hard work and divine intervention withstanding because
of our disciplined life, but because of God’s grace. You wake up this
morning with your eyes able to be open and able to breathe and eat and
drink coffee not because you have this inherent thing within you that
says, “I can.” Because God allowed you to. He chose to give
you and continue to sustain your life. Why is it that you are allowed
to have the ability to perambulate to this place, to be fed by your
Lord? Because you desired it? Because He pulled you here again, and
He wants you back here often to be fed and nurtured.
Repentance and forgiveness
is what to be preached by the Church and has been to this day. But repentance
and forgiveness is not wrapped up into a moment in your life when you
were against the ropes and realized it finally, and God brought you
up out of that. Having brought you out of that, it is just kind of shoved
to the side, reserved for those really difficult situations. That’s
your flesh and Satan talking to you, not God’s Holy Spirit.
God’s Holy Spirit says, “Daily
we must repent, for daily we are wrestling with the same evil foe, the
flesh that beats within our bosom, Satan, which is calling to us each
and every moment, and this world which does not support your faith,
nor Christ being the only way, the truth, and the life.” There
are only two religions in this world. There is the religion that says,
“I must make God happy by my work in this world, by my efforts
in this life, by my lifestyle in this life in order to make Him happy
so that He says, ‘Yea and verily shall you come into heaven.'”
That will end you up in hell
quicker than a whistle because that’s the work of Satan. It is a religion
of works. No matter how good it looks, no matter how attractive it may
be, it is a religion of works, not mercy, because the only other religion
besides works is a religion of God’s grace and mercy that says God’s
wrath was appeased by Christ Jesus, that that blood covered you, that
that forgiveness is what you and I are succored by each and every day
as we live out our lives in repentance and forgiveness. This one religion
that is the only true religion promises eternal life, and it promises
it to you not because you’ve been a good boy or a good girl, but because
you were called to faith by Christ.
Remember what you were taught.
You were taught regularly and continuously that God has been made our
Friend and our Creator and our Redeemer and Father again by virtue of
Christ and Him alone. And you are continually called back to that as you
are this day. He has opened your mind to the Scriptures. He has given
you again that Good News. So having been given such things, as we read
in the Bible class this morning, what kind of people ought we to be then?
Fearful people? Anxious people? People upon whom everything depends
and not on God’s grace and mercy? Lazy people? Apathetic or indifferent
people? Worried people?
We are only to be a people
who rely upon repentance and forgiveness, God’s grace and mercy in Christ
Jesus. That is what we will close our eyes in upon our death. You, Christopher,
and you, Kyle, and Kelli and Joshua, and you moms and dads and grandparents
and brothers and sisters and those who have seen them born, baptized,
and raised…remember what you were taught. It is all that we have upon
which to live, for without which we shall die. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
The peace of God which passes
all understanding keep your hearts and your minds on Christ Jesus to
life everlasting, Amen.