May 1, 2016 – Confirmation Texts: Hab. 2:2-4; Acts 14:19-23; Luke 18:1-8
Dear Friends in Christ,
The good folks at Oxford Dictionaries are always updating our words because as they say, “language matters.” Here are just some of the new words that they have added in the last year: empty-netting, optogenetics, cyberwarrior, selfie stick, wine o-clock, nuff said, mic drop, and awesomesauce. These are just some of the 1,000 or so words that were new this past year.
As commentators have noted our updated language is being borne of juvenile culture and communication shorthand and is being adopted as culturally normative. Another trend in language is that language was once concrete has become culturally threadbare and empty. This includes much of the language of the Christian faith.
Take, for instance, faith itself. It was once clearly known that faith has an object. Such knowledge shaped how we thought, talked, and even wrote about faith. Yet in recent years it is more and more common to hear faith talk employed in language in ways that suggest that it need not have an object. It is its own commodity. For example, there is a Faith Hospice in which they pitch their services for “people of faith.” Okay, but faith in what?
Today is Confirmation Sunday. Many of us have been confirmed, have watched our kids and grandkids get confirmed, and we are blessed with another group giving a public confession today. They are being confirmed in the faith. Okay, but . . .
“FAITH IN WHAT?”
We would agree with the folks at Oxford Dictionaries that “language matters.” We also know that words matter. We have an epidemic in society of stupidity with words. The hashtag should be “I never should have said that.” We have reduced our language to abbreviations and banality, now there is a good word to look up in your dictionary. On top of that we have the word police who decide which words are the worst. A Chicago Blackhawk was recently suspended for a word he used against homosexuals. I’m waiting for a suspension of an athlete who damns God’s name, which happens quite frequently, because that offends me. Oh right, I must be out of my mind!
So the word of the day is faith. Habakkuk in our Old Testament says, “the righteous shall live by his faith.” Confirmation is a confirming of the Christian faith. But even that has obstacles. I read this week about the new Religious freedom laws in Alabama, the ones meant to protect churches and Christian businesses. Who was out protesting? 30 Methodist ministers! Last time I checked, Methodists are Christians. Even Christians get mixed up what being a Christian is.
A Christian is “a follower of Christ.” We then believe his words as recorded in Scripture. Christ is love. He loves sinners. He loves all people. But He also knows the hearts of people. Look what he did in the temple when people were not following his commands. Tables and lives were turned upside down. He loved those in sin, but he always told them to go “and sin no more.” Some how certain groups of Christians seem to forget that part.
As a Christians “the righteous shall live by his faith.” Is Habakkuk talking about the fact that through faith and faith alone we are reckoned as righteous (that is, for the sake of Jesus, God sees us as His sinless people though we still have sin in us), or is He talking about the fact that the righteous live out their lives in faith; that is trusting in God for all things? I would say it is both.
Here we are. Still sinful. Still struggling. Making our share of mistakes. Bearing our burdens of guilt. Yet, for the sake of Jesus, God forgives us. Through the faith He has given us in Christ He sees us as His forgiven, righteous people. We are going to heaven. Not because we’ve earned it, but because Jesus earned it for us. “The righteous shall live by his faith.”
Words matter. This confirmation is taking place in a Lutheran Christian Church. Many of us have said things over the years like, “I was confirmed a Lutheran, I was confirmed a Catholic etc.” Luke writes in our Gospel, “when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Will Rogers once quipped, “God made man a little lower than the angels, and he’s been getting lower and lower ever since.” Just to say we are Lutheran does not mean what it meant for hundreds of years. The feminists, and pro-abortionists and gay sympathizers have hijacked some Lutheran church bodies. They have desecrated the Scripture and the Confessions. Like I like to say, “they are so far off the reservation you cannot see them anymore.”
Many of us are proud to be Lutheran but that doesn’t save us. The living God has a deep and abiding love for His people. Time and again, the Gospel impresses upon us that Christ died for sinners – that God so loved the world. Listen to these words of Jesus, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father, and I lay down my life for the sheep.” (John in 10:14-15) Faith in what? Faith in the Good Shepherd who has given us life. Life that will never end.
Words matter. From our Epistle, “When they had preached the Gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.”
This confirmation in taking place in a congregation of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS). You should feel good about that. We have a church leadership speaking out on the issues of the day. We have a church body that knows the challenges before us. We walk together in life being created by God, marriage between a man and a woman, all blessings coming from God, and saving faith through grace and Christ alone.
Those of us who have been confirmed were encouraged at our confirmation but we were also told of the scoffers who dismiss our faith. I am not going to be melodramatic and say that you have it worse than my generation had it, or your grandparent’s generation. I know history and ever since the Garden of Eden living in a sinful world has been a challenge. But shortly you are going to make the good confession that you will suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the Lutheran Christian faith.
The strength to do this is not your own. God called you in the waters of Holy Baptism. You sang, “Jesus Loves Me” and heard and believed the story of Daniel in the Lions Den because the Holy Spirit was upon you. You all are blessed to be in families that know the importance of being here in worship so that your faith may grow. Today begins a new power in your life as you partake of Holy Communion. This body and blood in, with, and under the bread and wine continues to make your faith stronger and stronger. The gates of hell cannot overcome when we have faith in what?
Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. He loves you. He lives for you. He died for you. He rose for you. He sits at the right hand of God for you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. He cares for you. Faith has an object. “Christ has triumphed, HE is living, Alleluia!