May29TueA Confirmation Sermon on Romans 8:12-17 May 29, 2018 Pastor Sebastian
Affirmation of Baptism Sermon on Romans 8
Grace and peace be unto you, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Today’s service boasts two highlights:
the Feast of the Holy Trinity, where we ponder the mystery of our God,
One-in-three and Three-in-one,
and also the affirmation of baptism of four confirmands:
Will, Cailin, Lauren and Evan.
These four young people have seen a lot of change since they began their program in September 2016,
beginning with instruction by Pastor David and Intern Ronnie,
and then with Pastor Olavi and Heidi and Linda,
and then finally this year with Pastor Carey and myself.
You’ve certainly been exposed to a lot of different confirmation teachers with different perspectives,
there hasn’t been a lot of continuity, that’s for sure,
but you’ve experienced a very broad spectrum of teaching about our faith.
You learned about the Small Catechism; the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Sacraments, and then about the history of the Reformation, and of course the Bible.
You learned what it means a little more to live as a Christian.
You met mainly on Sunday mornings,
first joining the congregation in the Sanctuary, and then the Sunday School with the Children’s message and then downstairs with the gathering time, before going off to Room 101 for an hour or so of confirmation class.
You also attended the Kitchener Waterloo area Saturday Confirmation workshops held at the various Lutheran churches around town, learning about prayer, doing a downtown Kitchener Stations of the Cross, visiting a local mosque, working in a community garden, and many other topics.
And today, you get to speak for yourselves:
to affirm your baptismal vows in front of the congregation;
that you want to be active Christians, participating in the life of the church, serving, and helping, and sharing your faith with others in word and deed.
And this part of the service, where each of you say “I do”,
is really the most important part.
Part of the conclusion of the Confirmation Program involved writing about why you wanted to affirm your baptism,
what you had learned for your life’s journey,
and selecting a confirmation verse and discussing why you had selected it.
I liked your responses so much, I’d like to read them now:
Will, you selected as a verse Acts 16:31:
"Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”.
This is a special verse to me because whenever I pray for strength in a bad situation or when I pray for strength where there could be a bad outcome I find that that helps me. For example, when I am having trouble with friends I pray for strength…and in the end everything will be OK.
Cailin, you chose Ecclesiastes 3:1-4:
“For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up what was planted
A time to kill, and a time to heal
A time to break down and a time to build up
A time to weep and a time to laugh
A time to mourn and a time to dance.”
To me, this means that there is a time for everything. The timing of everything is very important. Killing someone, is almost always a crime (and some can argue it always is) but if there was an appropriate time, that time would be during a war. Laughing and dancing would not be appropriate during the war, but after the war has been won it would be. I think that these verses are very important and that we should agree, that there is a time for everything.
Lauren, you chose as your Confirmation Verse: Isaiah 41:10:
“Do not fear, for I am with you,
do not be afraid, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.”
In this verse, God is saying that we should never be afraid or discouraged. If I give my life to God, he will always give me the strength to guide me through the good times and the bad times. God will give me the strength, the help and courage I need to overcome any obstacles throughout my life. The Lord’s righteous right hand will always protect me throughout my life’s journey. In knowing that, it makes me feel that I am part of God’s family and God will always be with me.
And Evan you selected Psalm 46:1:
“God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.”
The verse means to me; whenever I have a problem, I know that I can trust in God to help me out.
I think all these responses are wonderful and heartfelt commentary on great passages from Scripture.
Thank you for sharing these insights with me and the congregation.
This morning, our second Reading today from the letter to the Romans is a extraordinary passage which speaks not only to the essence of the Holy Trinity, but also to what it means to live the life of a baptized Christian.
When we are baptized, we are set free!
We no longer are enslaved to sin, or to any other force.
When we are baptized, we can walk by faith, and walk in the spirit.
As Eugene Peterson puts it:
15-17 This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children.
It’s a central truth of Baptism:
we are called and adopted children of God!!
So we can truly say in the Lord’s Prayer and whenever we please:
Our Father in heaven!
God is our heavenly parent.
Not a distant God- Father up on a far-away cloud somewhere,
but a close, dear and loving parent.
Paul uses the (Aramaic) word Abba here:
which is a close term of endearment.
You could translate it Daddy, or Papa.
So we really should say :
Hey Papa in heaven, holy and special is your name.
How do we know?
How do we know that we are God’s children?
Because Jesus told us and taught us so.
But also the Holy Spirit teaches us daily,
God’s Spirit communicates with our Spirit,
the Holy Spirit nudges and prods our hearts.
But that may be a little vague sometimes,
so we can also remind ourselves that we are baptized,
with a physical, tangible reminder of God’s promise to us,
the Water splashed on our foreheads, the Cross in oil traced on on our brow,
accompanied by God’s Word of promise.
Yet we may not remember that event if we were baptized as an infant,
so there are our parents or our baptismal sponsors whom we can ask,
and of course, our fellow Christians in the pews around us,
and there are pastors, and church records as well
that can help remind us that we are God’s children.
We are not alone; there are always other Christians we can lean on,
when the life of faith gets rough.
As baptized children of God,
we are a large family of over 1 billion Christians on this planet.
Baptism is a unifying factor for Christians throughout the world,
we may be divided over other issues,
but baptism is the great uniter, the great unifier.
In Baptism we all share with Christ
his death and resurrection,
forgiveness of sin.
We have life abundantly now and eternally since we are God’s children.
There is nothing to fear for we can call out: Mommy, Daddy to our heavenly parent, and God will listen to us and care for us.
God sends the Holy Spirit to comfort us, and remind us that we are loved and that we are always part of God’s family.
Even though we go through tough times, even though we suffer loss at various stages of our life, we can hold fast to the blessed assurance that we are part of God’s family and that Jesus Christ himself is our brother.
We live with the cross of Jesus Christ as our guide:
this cross was traced on our foreheads at baptism.
I’d like to invite you to join me in doing something special right now.
I’d invite you to TRACE on your forehead, with your finger,
the sign of the cross.
Go on. Trace a cross on your foreheads.
In doing so you remember your baptism,
just like Will, Cailin, Lauren and Evan today.
And as we recall our own Baptism with the confirmands today
we too remember that we are born again, born from above by God’s Spirit,
which transforms our lives into a more Christ-like life.
“God has taken up residence in our lives
this Three-in-One mysterious Trinity,
three Persons, one God.
Remember and know through the gift of Baptism
in the name of the Holy Trinity,
that we are all Children of our Heavenly Father.