Easter 3a -- Confirmation Sunday
Preached: May 8, 2011
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The Word of God, given to the Apostle Peter, recorded for us in 1 Peter 1.
God plays no favorites. He judges by what you do. If you call him Father, live in fear while you travel through life. For you know that God redeemed you. He redeemed you from the pointless life which your parents handed down. He didn't use things that wear out like gold or silver. Rather, he redeemed you with the precious blood of Christ. He is a lamb without blemish or spot. God knew Christ before creation. He revealed him in these last times because of you who believe. Through Christ you believe in God. He raised Christ from the dead and gave him glory. So your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:17-21).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior, and especially you, our confirmands today:
"I know that my Redeemer lives!" How often haven't you sung that hymn? It's not only a regular for Easter Sunday but we often hear it at funerals as well. Jesus is your Redeemer. What does that make you? You are his redeemed, his purchased people, his ransomed children.
These words that the Holy Spirit gave the Apostle Peter to write hold that truth before our eyes. Martin Luther must have had these words in mind as he wrote the explanation to the Second Article of the Apostles' Creed. Remember, confirmands, how you recited those words last week? "[Jesus Christ, my Lord,] has redeemed me a lost and condemned creature, purchased, and won from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with his holy, precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death."
How that echoes the Holy Spirit's words, "You know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect" (1 Peter 1:18, 19 NIV1984). You, dear friends, are his redeemed, ransomed with the precious blood of Christ, your God and Savior, the spotless Lamb sacrificed in your place.
You are his redeemed. How that truth changes us! It's not simply a fact you had to learn for confirmation. Rather when you know this truth with your heart and mind, it changes your will, your wants, your desires. And so this truth changes the way you live. It changes our behavior, the way we conduct ourselves, the way we lead our lives. So, dear friends and especially you our confirmands, Abi and Caleb, live as his redeemed. That's the theme on this confirmation Sunday: Live as his redeemed in holy fear and in hopeful faith.
Go back to the open prairie of bygone days. Picture a young family in a little house trying to scrape a living out of the ground. The father comes in after a long day of plowing. He says to his young son, "I heard you sassing your ma today." "Yes, Pa," the boy confesses as he stares at the dirt floor. "Are you suppose t' treat her that way?" "No, Pa." "I'll need to punish you for this." "I know, Pa," the boy answers.
Imagine the kind of fear in this young boy. It's not the kind of fear that wants to run away. He'll even go get the switch, if that's what his pa tells him to do. It's not the hate-filled fear that resents his father's discipline. He loves his father and knows his father loves him. And it's not the terrified fear of a slave cringing under the taskmaster's whip.
Think about that young boy's fear, as you listen again to the Apostle's words. "Since you call on a Father who judges each man's work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear" (1 Peter 1:17 NIV1984). This isn't a slave-like fear or a resentful fear, and it's more than the awe that looks at a beautiful spring morning saying, "We have an awesome God." Your Father is the holy judge. In the verses right before the text, the Apostle Peter tells us, "As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" (1 Peter 1:14-16 NIV1984).
Your Father is the holy judge. He judges impartially. He doesn't play favorites. Don't think you can do as your flesh pleases because you call yourself a Christian and claim God as your Father, so he'll pretend he didn't see it. That's the devil's lie. Yet how many follow down that road after their confirmation! "I'm done now. I know enough. I don't have to open my Bible again, much less my Catechism. I can do my own thing. I'll come to church if I feel like it. But now I'm free."
That's not living in holy fear. That's not the little boy on the prairie carefully listening to what his father said as hard as it was. That's not the attitude of the new self the Holy Spirit created in you at your Baptism many years ago. It's the attitude of your inborn, sinful nature. Which one do you think the redeemed child of God follow? Which one will you follow?
Live in holy fear as strangers here. For you've been redeemed. He has ransomed you to be his own; you do not belong to this world. Don't live as if it were your home. For your Father has redeemed you for a better place. We call it heaven. So don't live chasing every which way for what this world offers for happiness or success. Pursue righteousness, godliness, and holiness, for you are children of the heavenly Father, the righteous God, the Holy One.
Live in holy fear as his redeemed. For you know his great love. In fact, holy fear cannot exist outside of love. Unlike slavish fear that destroys love, this child-like fear flows from love. First, your Father's love. His love redeemed you. Look at the price he paid for you! Not silver or gold, even at $1500 an ounce, but something far, far more valuable. The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, our Lord. The blood of Jesus Christ, sacrificed as a lamb, pure and holy without spot or blemish, blameless and perfect.
What love the Father has lavished on us! You know that he has redeemed you. You are his ransomed child. Such love leads us not only to love him but also to fear him with the holy fear that we've been talking about. Why don't we run away from him in terror since our works are sinful from the time we were conceived? Why don't we flee in terror? Because you know that he has redeemed you. His Son, Jesus Christ, paid the price to ransom you. So his blood washes your works clean. And his spotless record without blemish or defect counts as yours in God's courtroom. So live in holy fear as his redeemed.
This redemption is also the foundation for our faith and hope. As his redeemed we live in hopeful faith. "Through [Christ] you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God" (1 Peter 1:21 NIV1984). Live in hopeful faith.
Especially when you're young with your whole life ahead of you, life can seem so full of opportunities. So much to see. So much to do. But in the end, what is the point of it all? We eat. We sleep. We die. What's the purpose?
That's "the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers" (1 Peter 1:18 NIV1984). No matter what you accomplish, no matter how much fun you wring out of life, no matter how many people like you, it always boils down to that. You eat. You sleep. You die -- no matter how rich and famous you might have been. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned, that's what's awaited each of us. Death. So what's the point of it all?
But you, dear Christian, you've been redeemed from that. Live as his redeemed. Live in hopeful faith. Remember how we talked about being strangers here? Death ends this earthly pilgrimage, but look what comes next for you who believe in the Lamb. Heaven. Our Father's home. The Lamb's throne. Paradise. Can there be any better hope than that? What meaning, purpose, and fullness that gives your life right now! For you know that your hope is not built on getting good grades in high school or making the team or having a happy family or a big house or a nice car some day. Even if you achieve some or all of those things, they pass away. You eat. You sleep. You die. But that's not the end for you who believe. For you live as his redeemed now and eternally.
Live each day of your time on this earth as his redeemed marching toward your Father's home. Some days we may feel like we're crawling through the dust of this life rather than marching. But keep your eyes fixed on your Father's home where your Redeemer lives. Do you see how that fills each day with hope, no matter how dark the pilgrimage feels at the time? Up ahead shines the warm light from the windows of your Father's house. What meaning and purpose that gives you right now! Why are you here? To bring glory to your heavenly Father so that others praise him through the Son, Jesus Christ, our Redeemer. Then they too share in our hope and journey with us to our Father's home.
And unlike human hopes that disappoint, this hope does not prove false. For it is the hope that comes from faith, faith in the promises of the Lord who is trustworthy and true. Just think back to Easter. Do you remember the sermon theme from then? The last part of it was: "It's just as Jesus said." He kept his word. The Apostle Peter reminds us of that, "Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him" (1 Peter 1:21 NIV1984). Jesus' bodily resurrection from the grave is the exclamation point behind all of God's promises, even the ones yet to be fulfilled. His return to life from the dead is the guarantee of your own resurrection. Faith in Jesus brings this sure, certain hope that will not prove false.
And finally notice how God has arranged all things so that this Good News has come to you and here today you are ready to confess your faith in Jesus at your Confirmation. He planned the sacrifice of Jesus in your place from before the creation of the world. But how would you ever know about it? He chose to make it known, to reveal it through his Word for your sake, so that you too may believe in Jesus Christ. "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake" (1 Peter 1:20 NIV1984). He did it for you. So your faith and hope are in God. Live in hopeful faith as his redeemed.
Jesus is your Redeemer. That means you are his redeemed. Live as his redeemed. Live in that holy fear that honors God as your Father through Jesus. Live in that hopeful faith built on your risen Savior, filled with your true purpose as your travel toward your Father's home. Live as his redeemed. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.