Easter 3 & Rite of Confirmation – “Ransomed by God” (1 Peter 1:17-25)

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Epistle, which was read earlier.

Jesus’ resurrection changed everything. When you’ve been rescued from a lethal situation or restored to health, there’s a new sense of life. The psalmist writes, “I love the LORD, because he has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy.” The psalmist delights in the Lord because “when I was brought low, he saved me.” In today’s Epistle, Peter revels in the kindness of our Father. He rescued us from our dire predicament. Not only did He pour out His Son’s blood to ransom us, but He raised Him from the dead, changing everything for us. Peter proclaims to us that the resurrected Jesus makes you eternally free.

Peter says, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” From our forefathers, from our first parents, we inherited a disease, one that cannot be cured by conventional means. We inherited the curse of sin and there is nothing that you or I could do about it. Sadly, there are many that think they can do something to purge their sinfulness. They will use such things as silver or gold and they will find themselves unable to ultimately do anything for their sins.

But silver or gold or things of this world cannot and will not do anything to cure the curse of sin. Peter’s words here serve as part of Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article: “not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death….” Things such as silver and gold are here today and gone tomorrow. They are temporal things and will eventually wear out. But Jesus is forever. Jesus is eternal. Jesus’ death and resurrection are the only means of salvation, that through His blood shed upon Calvary’s cross, sin is defeated.

St. Peter is very specific with his words and with good reason. He speaks of God’s people being “ransomed.” It means they were redeemed and delivered from the punishment of sin. When we speak of terms of ransom, it usually means something is paid in order to redeem or buy back. And in the case of our sins, the price paid is none other than the life of Jesus Christ. His blood was shed, “like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” And so we sing that Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, doing so by His blood shed upon Calvary’s cross.

That would be great if everyone thought like that but they don’t. As we see at the time of Christ, salvation did not come through the Messiah but by man’s adherence to the Law of God. This would be fine if it were possible for us to keep God’s Law but we can’t. In order to keep the Law of God, one must be like God, meaning perfect and holy. But man is the furthest from being perfect and holy. Man is the complete opposite of who and what God is, therefore making any attempt by man of keeping the Law impossible. But that’s not what was taught by the religious leaders of the day. It was taught by the Pharisees that you could keep God’s Law, or rather, they could keep God’s Law perfectly.

That thinking is alive and well today. Many think that salvation is based on what they can do. But if that were the case, then Jesus would be pointless. Jesus is what brings about salvation, and if you can earn salvation yourself, then Jesus is nothing more than a figurehead. Luther dealt with that thinking. He was taught by the Church that salvation is achieved by Jesus and your own actions. The more he tried, the more he found that he was further away from salvation by his own works. And so Luther says, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.”

Apart from Christ, there is no hope. If Christ is not risen from the dead, then the world’s thinking make sense. It can be no other way. But our Epistle does not end there. It says, “All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” To put it another way: Christ is risen from the dead.

My dear confirmands, heed these words: the word of the Lord remains forever. And this word is the good news that was preached to you.” You have heard me preach the same thing for more than the last two years: You are a damned sinner, but Christ has come to forgive you your sins. That’s the basis of my sermons week in and week out. You might be tempted to think to yourself that you don’t need to hear that sermon anymore because you already know what will be preached. But I urge you to reconsider. Yes, the message is the same, but it is a message that you and I need to hear, not just every Sunday, but every day of our lives. We need to hear of our sin and what that means for us – death and the wrath of God. We need to hear of Christ and the lengths He goes to forgive us our sins and make restitution with God so that we may stand before Him as forgiven children.

Right now, you are wearing a robe. This robe marks that you have been covered in Christ’s righteousness and that you have been forgiven all of your sins. But for many, when you wear a robe, you think of one thing: graduation. You will wear a robe when you graduate high school. That robe signifies that you will be leaving high school and moving on to other things. When you graduate college, once again you will wear a robe, signifying that all of your hard work has led up to that day called graduation. But in the church, confirmation is not graduation. Looking out into the congregation, I see a congregation full of people who, like you, went through confirmation and probably wore a robe on the day they were confirmed. But here they sit, many, many years following their confirmation. Do not think of confirmation as graduation, for there is only one that a person “graduates” from church – that is, when Christ calls us home to be with Him forever. And even then, you only “graduate” from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant, but you remain part of the Church.

For all of us, young and old, sin reduced you to grass, withering and falling to death. But that is not for you anymore. Jesus Christ became flesh just like you. He was born, He lived and He died: but His body did not see corruption. He rose again three days later. By His life and death and resurrection, He reversed the curse of sin. He restored to you everlasting life. In other words, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us—and now the Word of the Lord remains forever.

Christ is risen from the dead! Therefore, while life in this world is temporary, it is not the end. Death remains the enemy, yes; but it remains the conquered enemy under your Savior’s feet. Hear this news: you have been ransomed. The price has been paid for your sins: “not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of lamb without spot or blemish.” Because of sin, your lot was a temporary life in this world, followed by an eternal death far worse than you could imagine. But the eternal Son of God, foreknown before the foundation of the world, came into this world and paid the price for your sin. He redeemed you at the cost of His own blood. And having paid that price to redeem you, He will not leave you or forsake you. That is His promise, His Word: and the Word of the Lord remains forever.

Our holiness comes in the forgiveness of sins, which is nothing other than living our Baptism.  We are to be holy; so God makes us holy. He has set us apart, that we would receive His gifts with thanksgiving.  To this end He has raised His Son Jesus from the dead, so that our faith and our hope are in God.  God gives us this faith and hope as He has given us His Holy Spirit at our Baptism, who creates in us saving faith in Jesus Christ, the faith He strengthens through the preaching of the Gospel and through Holy Absolution, the same faith He feeds and nourishes through the body and blood of the Lord.  By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are holy, made holy through the Word and Sacraments, for in these Means of Grace our risen Lord has attached Himself, to give His gifts to you and for you!

Today, the same Savior comes to you. He speaks His Word to you. He is the Host of the meal, giving you His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. He has died and He is risen, so that He might wash you clean, purify you with His own blood. He lives forever; and because He lives forever, so will you. You’re not grass anymore: in Christ, eternal life is yours. This is the Good News that is preached to you, the Word of the Lord that endures forever: you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Rite of Confirmation – “Confirmation Blessings” (Acts 2:14a, 36-41)

LSB Icon_024Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Acts reading, which was read earlier.

There is bad news and good news for you today from the mouth of Peter. The bad news: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” But there is also good news for you as well: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Within the same statement, there is both bad news and good news. Often times, a statement has either bad news or good news, not both. However, for Peter, as he begins his wonderful sermon, this statement is filled with both bad and good news.

As far as the bad news goes, it’s rather more of a statement: “this Jesus whom you crucified.”That is not something that you want to here, that you are the one who sent Jesus to be crucified. Peter announces this to “all the house of Israel.” In other words, he is addressing everyone. For you confirmands, that also applies to you. You helped to crucify Jesus Christ.

Imagine what that must have felt like when the people heard that statement. Even the disciples were standing there as well and that statement was addressed to them also. With the exception of Judas, the disciples could never think of doing anything to harm Christ. And now Peter is telling them that it was they who crucified Christ. It was all those who were there who crucified Christ. It was all of Israel who crucified Christ. A large portion of the crowd might have been present at Christ’s crucifixion but none of them hammered the nails into Christ themselves. What Peter meant by his statement was that it was their sins that sent Christ to the cross. It was the sins of the disciples. It was the sins of the crowd. It was the sins of all of Israel. It was your sins.

The statement that Peter makes is one that cuts deep because it’s not a message that anyone wants to hear because it makes us come to reality with ourselves. It makes us acknowledge that we are sinners. It makes us acknowledge that because of our sins Christ had to go to the cross in the first place.

Those who were gathered there felt a huge amount of pain at the words of Peter.Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”” They were willing to do whatever it took to right the situation. They wanted to feel better, if not for Christ’s sake, for their own. The shame they felt was enough to kill them. The disciples, especially, had the utmost respect for their Teacher. There was so much that He taught them, so much more they could have learned. But when they saw their Master crucified, they ran. They hid. They were ashamed and afraid. Now they are together. Feelings of shame and fear overtake them and the crowd. They were greatly troubled that they had sinned against God and killed the Christ.

The feelings that they felt 2000 years ago we feel today as well. It is hard not to. What if I told you that you alone were the cause of death of the Savior? What would you feel? If only your sins were present, Christ would have died for your sins. Why? Death entered through the craftiness of Satan and ruined what God had created, what had been deemed “ good” and “very good.” There was only one way to purge that death: through the death of an innocent. That’s where the good news comes in to play.

Peter says that God has made Jesus both Lord and Christ. It means that because He is both Lord and Christ, His death and resurrection have proven to be sufficient payment to God. Solely by what He has done for us on the cross, all those sins from Adam unto the present have been paid for. They have been atoned by the blood of Jesus that was shed upon the cross. For you five young adults, that blood ran over you in your Baptism and now you come before the Lord’s altar and confirm that faith granted to you all those years ago.

So what is left to the Christian, both then and now to do? We’ve already run in shame. We’ve already mourned and now are taking responsibility for our actions, that we have crucified Christ. There is only one thing left for us: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Peter here uses the word “repent” simply to mean “believe.” This involves a changing of the mind effected by the Holy Spirit working through the Gospel in which an unbeliever becomes a believer. Peter invites the crowd to trust the forgiveness Jesus had already accomplished.

This repentance is not a condition for receiving forgiveness as the text implies: “for the forgiveness of your sins.” Such a thought would make forgiveness dependent upon human action. We are “dead in [our] transgressions and sins.”This repentance is all God’s doing by grace. Peter ties the forgiveness of sins to faith, baptism, and the Holy Spirit. When God empowers believers to share the Gospel, the Holy Spirit works through it to create faith in the hearts of unbelievers and to nourish the faith of those who already believe.

For the five of you, today is the day where your faith is called into question, for this is the day where you speak on your own behalf, to confirm that faith granted to you, that faith which your baptismal sponsors stood in place of you and affirmed, that you would be raised in the faith, that you would be taught the Lutheran doctrine. In just a few moments, you will have that opportunity to affirm that faith which was granted to you in your baptism. The questions that will be asked of you are not questions to be taken lightly, for they truly are life and death questions, questions which have been asked to countless Christians before you and will be asked to countless Christians after you. Of all the questions that will be asked of you in your lives, there can be no greater question than this: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?”

It is because we are dead that Jesus has come. It is because we need to have our sins forgiven that Jesus has come. It is because of God’s great love for His creation that Jesus has come. It is because of this wonderful gift that we are able to stand before God our heavenly Father and receive His graciousness, His invitation to be His beloved children. That comes from our repentance and baptism in Jesus’ name.

The best part of Peter’s sermon is what he leaves out: your action. Aside from repentance, which is the part of man, there is nothing else for you to do. All the action is solely the work of God for us. That is the way it is meant to be. That’s the way that Jesus spoke His entire ministry – He is the subject of the verbs, He is the one who is doing the action. We graciously receive all that He has to offer, namely the forgiveness, life, and salvation that comes about because of what Jesus Christ has done.

We have heeded the words of Peter through our baptism. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith….” Through our baptism, we have been marked as children of God. Through the Lord’s Supper, we continue to sustain our faith by the food that Christ gave to the disciples and to His Church.

Take heart, for this Jesus whom you crucified”, has taken your sin from you. You have died in Christ and have been forgiven all of your sins through His death and resurrection.

Before we get to the part that you five have been waiting for all day, let me make one last request, no, rather an invitation. Come see me next Sunday, for I will have a gift for you. And I will have a gift for you the Sunday after that and the Sunday after that and every Sunday until Christ our Lord calls you home. Your coming and receiving these gifts aren’t of value to me or even to your parents, but are of great value to you, for these are the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Rite of Confirmation–“Public Confession” (John 16:12-22)

LSB Icon_024Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

For you fifteen young men and women, I hope you’re ready. There is one last test before you, probably the most important test that you will ever take. You have already taken the first part of it a long time ago, when your baptismal sponsors spoke on your behalf. Throughout the years since, you have been preparing to take the final exam. There is only question and only one answer that is appropriate. Here is your question: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” For now I’ll let you think about it.

As we turn to today’s portion of John’s Gospel, the time for Jesus to be betrayed, arrested, tried and crucified is quickly at hand. Jesus is running out of time to tell the disciples everything that He must tell them. Of course, being the disciples, the ones who were most intimate with Jesus, being a part of His inner circle for three years, they didn’t get what He was saying. Unfortunately, this sounds like the everyday thing for the disciples. Just once, you would hope that the disciples would get the message of Jesus, but today is not that day. They are still missing one thing in their disciple arsenal: the full work of the Holy Spirit, for it is by the Holy Spirit that all things regarding Jesus will be revealed.

Throughout John’s Gospel, he frequently describes the work of the Holy Spirit. Here, the Holy Spirit is referenced as the Spirit of truth. The spirit of falsehood, at work in the sinful hearts of humanity, would deceive the disciples. It has been running rampant since the Fall into sin and leaving a wake of destruction in its path. It has lead people to disbelieve, to doubt, to question God and what He does through His Son. Therefore, Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples into all truth. The truth is nothing short of God’s divine plan of salvation that is meant for His creation. The truth is of Jesus Christ, and His salvation of us through His life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in a person. Note that the Spirit does not speak on His own but rather He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus and testifies about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. For the Holy Spirit, It has to be all about Jesus because Jesus is the sole means of salvation.

The Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus by introducing Him to people as the crucified and risen Christ. That is what He comes to do for the disciples and that is what He comes to do for us. The Holy Spirit comes to introduce us to what the truth is about: Jesus. The disciples weren’t prepared for all Jesus has to say, as He tells them, for they were too worked up over Jesus’ impending departure. But He wasn’t going to leave them empty-handed. He leaves them the Holy Spirit who will testify of Him and what He has done.

Years ago, you received the gift of the Holy Spirit at your Baptism. It was there that God called you to be His beloved child in the faith. And now, for you confirmands, you are about to confirm for yourselves that faith granted to you in your Baptism. However, it won’t be easy to remain faithful to God and His Word, for the world will tempt you in many and various ways.

We aren’t all that different from the disciples. We’re not ready to listen to the true message of Jesus, though we are quick to fill ourselves with the false message that the world brings. Even in the church, we don’t pay attention to the message of the Holy Spirit. We don’t always give attention to the Word of God read and preached in the Divine Service. We go through the motions of the Divine Service, counting down the minutes until it is over so that we can have our Sunday afternoon all to ourselves. We spend little or no time outside of Sunday morning in God’s Word. The world would tell you that that is perfectly fine, because Jesus isn’t going to save you, you’re going to save you by any number of ways, such as by good works and the like.

If there is a single message that we need to hear and take to heart, it is that of Jesus Christ, for that is our sole means of salvation. In this Word, the Holy Spirit introduces us to “the things that are to come.” For the disciples, that would be revealed in the death of Christ, when they would finally understand what Jesus had been preaching and teaching the last three years. Jesus would rise triumphant from the grave and return to the Father, to prepare a heavenly mansion for all those who are in Him.

But even for the disciples, they would face hardships in the days ahead. Tragedy lay ahead for the disciples, great pain and grief at the arrest and execution of Jesus. They would cry and lament while the world would rejoice. The event that would crush their spirits would elate the unbelievers. Even so, their sorrow would not last but be turned to joy.

Here enters the Holy Spirit, to reintroduce us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. In a few hours, Jesus will be arrested, tried, crucified, and will die on a cross. Even as tragic as all that sounds, this will be Jesus’ greatest glory. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, who has come out of love that people might believe and have life. For our joy, we need look no further than the words of Jesus here in our text: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them. He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live.

By introducing us to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit gives to us that joy, a joy that passes all human understanding, for it is not joy in earthly terms, a joy that will come and pass away. Rather, the joy that we receive from the Holy Spirit is a joy that is centered upon the glories of heaven, of life eternal in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We have the joy of sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit keeps that joy alive by constantly feeding us through Word and Sacrament, forever reintroducing us to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Dear confirmands, this is an important day for you, a day that continues all the days of your life. Today is not the end of your journey of faith. St. Paul writes, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. This is the place where God comes to speak to you in His Word. This is the place where God comes to feed you in the bread and wine, the true body and blood of Jesus Christ. You won’t be able to find it anywhere else, though the world will tell you otherwise. For you fifteen young men and women, I have one request for you. Do yourself a favor: continue to come here each week for the rest of your lives. Don’t do it for my sake or for your parent’s sake, but for your sake. You have been given a wonderful gift called faith – a faith given to you at your Baptism and a faith that you are going to confirm in just a few minutes. This is the most wonderful gift that you could be given, a gift that is worth more than anything in this world, for it is by this gift that you have been given the keys of heaven.

There is only one name that you and I must remember: the name of Jesus Christ. We know Him as our crucified and risen Savior, for the Holy Spirit has introduced Him to us in Holy Baptism and continues to declare Him to us in Word and Sacrament. All of this brings joy, a joy that can never be taken away from us, for it is joy in knowing that we have God’s name placed upon us and that we are a part of Him. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Easter 2A (Confirmation version) –“God’s Gift” (1 Peter 1:3-9)

LSB Icon_024Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon this morning comes from the Epistle, which was read earlier.

Confirmands, the day has finally come. This is the day you have been looking forward to for so long. When I say, “so long”, I mean longer than just the last two years. This is the day that you have been looking forward to from the day of your Baptism, where God called you to be His own beloved child. How fitting that the day of your confirmation comes just one week following Easter and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The day which we celebrate Easter has come and gone for another year, but the meaning of Easter goes beyond just a single day. Rather, it lasts for 50 days. The reason why: there is too much joy to keep in just a single day. Our text for today highlights the importance of Easter: resurrection.

Peter writes, “He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In the opening sentences of his letter, Peter twice calls to mind the election of God’s children from eternity. God has chosen each of us to be His own. The Holy Spirit makes us confident of this through faith in God’s promises. Though our faith makes us “strangers in the world,” yet we have “grace and peace … in abundance,” knowing the love of the Father who chose us, of the Son who died in our place, and of the Spirit who sanctifies us.

One must ask themself this question: Why? Why would God do what He did? Why would God promise to send a Savior, a Savior who would be His only-begotten Son, only to have Him die? Christ’s death brought about His resurrection – not only for Himself but for all believers as well. That translates into a resurrection for you and for me. But we’re still left with the why. Peter tells us it is “according to his great mercy.” It’s is God’s mercy for His beloved creation that He did what He did and that He continues to do what He does. And today, for the fifteen of you, you have that opportunity and privilege of standing before God and these witnesses and confirming that faith given to you at your Baptism, confirming that faith that you have been raised in for these many years and for you to confess yourself, “I believe.”

What God gives to us is a gift. It is a gift like no other gift. This is a gift that you can’t buy at Wal-Mart. This is a gift that you can’t order off of the Internet. It’s a gift that you cannot repay, for it is a gift that is given freely. This is truly a one of a kind gift. This gift brings with it eternal blessings, such as the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and salvation.

God was not content with having His creation die in sin. From the very moment that man fell, He promised a Savior. This was His beloved creation. It was so beloved by God that He declared man to be “very good.” In creating the world, He deemed it only as “good.” But man, on the other hand, created in the image of God, that is holy and perfect and without sin; only man was deemed to be “very good.”

Having been brought to faith, we are different from the way we were before. We have been reborn with the restored image of God. Our Old Adam has to take the back seat. The new man is now at the wheel – with a lot of help from his lifelong driving instructor known as the Holy Spirit. And though the Old Adam is there right behind us, “through faith” we “by God’s power are being guarded.” The Old Adam in the back seat keeps trying to grab the wheel, but our faith is the metal-mesh screen between the front and back seats, as in police cars, preventing him from taking control. And it is the power of God, ours through the means of grace, that makes the screen strong enough to resist even the most savage attacks of the Old Adam. Oh, he may distract us with all his screaming and hollering and thus cause us to swerve occasionally, but he cannot take control unless we ourselves let our guard down. Our “living hope” is that Christ, who has conquered sin and death, has given us the promise of eternal life.

So what are we supposed to do with this wonderful gift given to us? We rejoice! You and I have been given such a wonderful gift by God in the resurrection of Jesus that we should do nothing less than rejoice! We rejoice because our sins have been forgiven. We rejoice because we have been given everlasting life. We rejoice because we have been called children of God. Why wouldn’t we rejoice at that!

But as St. Peter says, our rejoicing is for a little while, because “you have been grieved by various trials.” There are many trials that we face in our lives. Throughout these trials, our faith must be anchored in Jesus Christ, for He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” All of this is done to test the genuineness of your faith. It is the Lord who declares it necessary for us to undergo these trials, compared by Peter to the test used to prove if gold is genuine or not. Peter had tasted the bitterness of failing such a test, but he also knew the sweetness of Christ’s forgiveness and promise of future help. We, too, have God’s promise that no trial will be more than we can bear, for our faith and our eternal salvation are worth far more than perishable gold.

Even you confirmands will face trials. A great trial will be, “What will I do next Sunday?” Right now, you are wearing a robe. This robe marks that you have been covered in Christ’s righteousness and that you have been forgiven all of your sins. But for many, when you wear a robe, you think of one thing: graduation. You will wear a robe when you graduate high school. That robe signifies that you will be leaving high school and moving on to other things. When you graduate college, once again you will wear a robe, signifying that all of your hard work has led up to that day called graduation. But in the church, confirmation is not graduation. Confirmation is surely not a graduation. Look behind you. When you look out in the congregation, what do you see? I see a congregation full of people who, like you, went through confirmation and probably wore a robe on the day they were confirmed. But here they sit, many, many years following their confirmation. Do not think of confirmation as graduation, for there is only one that a person “graduates” from church – that is, when Christ calls us home to be with Him forever. And even then, you only “graduate” from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant, but you remain part of the Church.

Just as Jesus tells Thomas in our Gospel reading today, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” Peter makes the same point in our text. He says, “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Peter also heard that as blessed as Thomas and the rest were by Christ’s reassuring presence, those who would not see Jesus but would still believe in him would likewise be blessed. We look forward to something we have not seen and which was promised to us by someone whom we have not met. The world calls this foolishness. We call it a miracle.

The fact that you and I have been given faith is indeed a miracle. God chose to love us when we were unlovable in our sin. Through His great love and mercy, He gave to us His only-begotten Son. By the work of Jesus Christ, we have been given the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness, won for us on the cross.

What God has given to us is truly a gift, a gift that is given to us freely, a gift that requires nothing from us. At first glance, it might appear to be a little strange. We feel a bit uncomfortable receiving something without keeping score so that we make certain of returning a similar amount. But if this is truly a gift, that means the recipient has not earned it because the earning aspect would take away the gift aspect. That’s precisely the point! Salvation is given to us without any merit or worthiness on our part – and without our having to prove to anyone that we have earned it. This gift of salvation had been made available for all of us by God.

For you, Zane, Alec, Desire’e, Jonathan, Danielle, Tallie, Caleb, Raelee, Shelby, Jordan, Adam, Kristine, Janie, Marissa, and Chance, today is indeed a day to rejoice. It is not a day to rejoice that confirmation is finally over and that your Wednesday nights are free again. Instead, it is a day of rejoicing because today, you have taken that step in your spiritual maturity where you yourself make that public confession of faith, made for you in your Baptism but which you confirm today. God has given you a gift. He has given you the gift of being called a child of God. For Peter, there is great cause for joy. The cause for joy in our relationship with God is not that we have discovered Him, but the simple realization that He claims us as His own. Being called a child of God with your sins forgiven – there truly is no better gift than that!

In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.