Filled with the Spirit
June 8, 2014
Day of Pentecost/Confirmation Day
Today we celebrate Pentecost, one of the most important Christian holidays of the year. On this day, St. Peter preaches to us, “And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” On Pentecost, God pours out His Spirit upon those Disciples because He wanted to include the whole world into His covenant. And so He has to you as well who have been baptized into Christ, calling you to privately and publicly bear witness to Christ crucified for forgiveness of sins.
The entire Book of Acts emphasizes Gods’ mission of carrying the Gospel to all people and joining them into the body of Christ through Baptism. In Baptism, God pours out His Holy Spirit. We are called to imitate not the experience of that Pentecost so long ago, but to turn to God’s promise of renewal in Baptism through daily repentance. Then, turn around and filled with the peace of Christ and with His Word in your heart and on your tongue, bear witness to others of that which you have received in Christ.
The Holy Spirit teaches you a new language, the language of Christ, the language He speaks in His Word. He teaches you “Christian.” That is part of what we are doing today as we celebrate not just Pentecost, but the confirmation of a sister in Christ. Confirmation teaches you to speak Christian by the power of the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word.
Confirmation is simply one step in the life of the Christian. It is not an end to anything. It is not a graduation. You do not graduate from Church. You do not graduate from studying God’s Word with other Christians in Sunday School and Bible study. You do not move on to something different, certainly not something less. It does not bestow any more grace, or a different grace. It is a declaration of the work of the Spirit in your life, that you are a Christian who has been baptized, confesses the faith, and is in communion with Christ and His Church.
Christians are disciples of Jesus - catechumens - for life, not just for a couple years of confirmation instruction. We learn from God’s Word continually as we sit together at Jesus’ feet in the Christian congregation and in the Christian home. From His Word, we learn that we are sinners, we learn repentance, we learn to confess our sins to God and to one another, we learn to trust in Him for the forgiveness of sins, we learn to forgive others as they sin against us, we learn to live faithfully in our vocations in life. Catechesis involves doing those things that we Christians will continue to do for the rest of our lives.
Consider your Confirmation Vows. Marie, you will make these shortly. The rest of you, for the most part, already have, and need to be reminded what it is that you actually promised. The very first question asked is this, “Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism?” Do you renounce the devil? Do you believe in God? Do you confess the truth of God’s Word as learned through the Small Catechism? Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, continuing steadfast in this confession of faith even to death? Whenever we get to celebrate a person who is confirmed, we ought to be reminded of our promises. And our promise to help this young women continue to remain steadfast in the truth faith to life everlasting.
But those who refuse to learn deny Christ and do not belong to Him. This is a harsh reality, especially in our world of cultural relativism and individualism. But this is simply a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit, a rejection of the Gospel itself. We spoke of this last night during the Confirmation examination in the Third Commandment, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold is sacred and gladly hear and learn it.”
Faith in Christ lives from the preaching of the Gospel and the reception of Christ’s sacraments, and this faith expresses itself in the Christian’s life of prayer, confession of faith before the world, confession and absolution in the home and in the world, acts of mercy toward our neighbor, and faithfulness in our vocations. The gifts of God for the support of this body and life. The Holy Spirit provides for our greatest needs. Through the very ordinary means of words, water, bread, and wine to do the most extraordinary things through the Gospel. And our response ought to be much like those who witnessed the Disciples proclaiming the mighty deeds of God in their own language, “What does this mean?”
Above all, the work of the Holy Spirit throughout the life of a Christian, from baptism to confirmation to marriage to burial is to direct you to Jesus Christ and Him crucified. As Marie wrote in her Confirmation essay answering the question of how and why she will remain steadfast in the true faith, “” To help my friends and community to find their way to Jesus by my morals and devotion in the way of my faith in words and deeds.” What you wrote about is simply that same confession of faith, that same zeal, that same Gospel truth in our Epistle reading, “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Marie, baptized brothers and sisters in Christ, what you need, what you have, is the God who looks at you and all your sins and still loves you. Not a God who lets you off the hook but a God who is honest with you and who teaches you to be honest about yourself. And a God who does not leave you to my mess but takes you, washes you clean in Baptism, teaches you a new language, the language of repentance and confession, imparts to you the Holy Spirit so that your feeble heart trusts something other than yourself, and feeds you the food of heaven. Thanks be to God that God has guided you in the true faith, and sustains you there by Word and Sacraments, unto life everlasting. Amen.