Ready – Sermon on Luke 14:15-24 for the Second Sunday after Trinity

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Luke 14:15-23

15 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”

16 But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. 17 And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ 19 And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ 20 And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ 21 So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Invite as many as you find to the wedding feastThen the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Our God is a God of order (1 Cor. 14:33; Heb 13:20). Because God is eternal, all-powerful, and all-knowing, God is never surprised, never caught off guard. He is always prepared, always ready. This is very basic stuff, but it is good to dwell on it for a bit.

When God created the universe, He didn’t create cows until everything was ready for cows. God waited until the sixth day so cows would have grass, land, atmosphere, and light. God didn’t create fish or birds until He had created the sky and sea for them to dwell in. And God didn’t create Adam and Eve until very last so that they could be brought into a perfectly prepared world and perfectly prepared Garden. God made everything ready for them.

We can go further. When God sent the Flood in Noah’s days, God patiently waited for Noah to build the ark so that it would be ready to save his family and the animals. When God sent Jacob’s family into Egypt, God made everything ready by first sending Joseph down to Egypt so he could rise to power and provide food and a good, safe place for God’s chosen people. And God doesn’t bring His people out of Egypt until the Promised Land is already flowing with milk and honey.

When God drove the inhabitants of Canaan out so His people could dwell there, He doesn’t do it all at once. God said that He would drive the idol-worshipping pagans out little by little so the wild beasts wouldn’t become too many (Ex. 23:29-30Dt. 7:22-23). On top of that, God also said that would first make the people afraid of the Israelites (Ex. 23:27-28). And when His people got to Jericho, that is exactly what Rahab said had happened (Josh. 2:9-11). God is never in emergency mode. He always makes everything ready.

But even above and beyond all of that, God makes sure that everything is prepared and ready when it comes to the salvation of sinners. Galatians 4:4-5 says, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” God is always ready.

In this parable, Jesus tells us about God’s plan of salvation. The man giving the banquet in this parable had sent out invitations. You can think of this as a “save the date,” even though no exact date was given. The people are simply invited by the host, “I’m going to have a feast, and you are invited.” And the people respond, “Sounds great. We’ll be sure to come when you call us.” That is understood in v. 16.

This initial invitation is God’s repeated promise to send the Messiah, His Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. God repeatedly invited people to come to Him through Christ, but He didn’t announce exactly when Jesus would arrive.

Heavenly Banquet TableSo, the man has sent out this invitation without saying exactly when the banquet would begin. Then in v. 17, the preparations are finished – the food is cooked, the table is set, the decorations are hung, the wine is poured, everything is ready. The man sends his servant to tell all those who were invited, “Come, for everything is now ready.” But they all make excuses, and their excuses are lame and stupid.

No one buys a field without looking at it first to see if it is worth the asking price. No one buys a yoke of oxen without checking if they are old, decrepit, and sickly. And you just got married? Well, bring your wife, you simpleton! Your host won’t mind. Besides, this banquet will be a more exquisite honeymoon than you could afford or imagine.

Now, we need to pause here because a question lies before us: What things keep you from the long-prepared banquet? What do you value more than the kingdom of God? What are your excuses? It doesn’t matter what excuses you have; they are just as lame and stupid as the ones offered in the parable.

Is your schedule so full that you can’t eek out time to pray and study God’s Word for yourself or as a family? God sees that as a rejection of Him. Do you not come to church everySunday because it is your only time to sleep in or because that is when the tournament is scheduled? God sees that as a rejection of Him. Do you withhold your tithe because you don’t know how you would be able to make ends meet even though you can always justify all other kinds of frivolous spending? God sees that as a rejection of Him.

Hear what the master of the feast says, “None of those who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

Repent. Your excuses are all statements that you are perfectly happy and fine as you are and that don’t need a banquet. Confess your excuses for despising the things of God as what they really are – a rejection of the God who personally loves you.

Confess yourself to be poor and unable to pay the debt you owe to God. Confess yourself to be lame and cripple and unable to walk in the way that God’s Law demands. Confess yourself to be blind and unable to grasp the depth of your sin and the heights of God’s mercy toward you.

When beggars – the poor, lame, cripple, and blind – get invited to come to a ready feast, they come. God loves you and has made everything ready for you. God’s feast is ready, and His feast is not sometime in the future. His feast is now.

Jesus tells this parable while He is at a feast. Jesus had just told His host, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite [people who can] invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just” (Lk. 14:12-14).

Immediately after Jesus says that, another guest responded to Jesus, “Blessed are those who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Then, Jesus tells this parable in response to that statement. Now, if you take that statement, “Blessed are those who will eat bread in the kingdom of God,” out of its context, that blessing, that benediction, that beatitude is one-hundred percent true. But in context, that statement is damnably ludicrous.

Whoever it was who said it was, at that exact moment, eating and drinking with Jesus, God in the flesh. The blessing he spoke of was not something in the distant future that would happen eventually. It was already present with him, and he completely missed it.

Because Jesus was there, the kingdom of God was there. The feast was ready, and that man made an excuse to not enjoy what had been made ready for him.

Last week, we heard the parable of Lazarus who desired to eat from the rich man’s table. But God blessed Lazarus in his poverty, hunger, illness, and loneliness. Lazarus’ dissatisfaction with the world made him dependent upon God and ready to receive the joys and comforts of heaven for eternity. This week, we hear a parable of people who have no desire for food. They have been invited to a banquet that is ready, but they are full of excuses.I said it before, but I’ll say it again: When beggars – the poor, lame, cripple, and blind – get invited to come to a ready feast, they come.

We started with the premise that God is always ready. Ready to have mercy, ready to save those who are lost, and ready to usher them into His feast. The only thing that will keep you out of His banquet is your stubborn unwillingness to recognize your need and His gracious invitation.

Sinner, your sin has made you unworthy to come to God’s feast. And God could have made a lot of excuses for leaving you out of His heavenly banquet, but He didn’t. It is His good pleasure to give the kingdom to those who are unworthy.

Cross and CommunionChristian, God has ushered you into His paradise. You receive the benefit of the sacrifice of Christ’s death. You are promised the resurrection. And, now, in this feast you are about to receive, God nourishes you and declares you to be the object of His love and His perfect bride.

Your God says to you, His beloved, “Come for everything is now ready.” Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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The Gift of a Name – Sermon on Luke 16:19-31 for the First Sunday after Trinity

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Luke 16:19-31

19 “There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. 20 And at his gate was laid a poor man named Lazarus, covered with sores, 21 who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover, even the dogs came and licked his sores. Lazarus and the Rich Man Graphic22 The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried, 23 and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham far off and Lazarus at his side. 24 And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ 25 But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ 27 And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house— 28 for I have five brothers—so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ 29 But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ 30 And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ 31 He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Being rich is not a sin. Money can, of course, be very dangerous to faith in Christ. Jesus plainly teaches that it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven (Mt. 19:23-24). But the rich man does not go to hell because he was wealthy. Instead, the rich man goes to hell because he does not love God.

GreedEven though the parable doesn’t explicitly say it, we know the rich man does not love God. As our Epistle text (1 Jn. 4:16-21) says, “he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen…. Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 Jn. 20-21). The rich man’s lack of love for Lazarus makes his lack of love for God as plain as the nose on your face.

We can go even farther and say that the rich man is put to shame by the dogs. By licking his wounds, those dogs are more compassionate toward Lazarus than the rich man who can’t even be bothered to send one of his servants to give Lazarus a crumb from his table. Again, it is not a sin to be rich – not at all. But you cannot be saved and live as unlovingly and hard-heartedly as the rich man in this parable.

The Scriptural command to love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18; Mt. 22:39) is something that everyone, even pagans, know they should do. Everyone has the duty to love and serve their neighbor – but Christians especially have this duty.

God has given you abundant blessings so that you can use your wealth to help and be generous to others. Too often when we hear exhortations to assist the poor and needy – and I include myself in this rebuke – we over-generalize and turn the poor into a category or a nameless group of people that are difficult to identify. And once we have done that, we come up with all sorts of excuses to get out of helping our neighbor.

We know we can’t feed and clothe everybody so we don’t even start. Or we think to ourselves, “Jesus said that we will always have the poor among us (Mt. 26:11), so what good can I do?” But by doing this, we make the poor merely a concept, a demographic, or an abstraction. Once we have done this, we easily dismiss God’s call to help them.

So, don’t fall into the trap. Christian, God has called you to help your neighbor, and don’t forget that your neighbor has a name. In this parable, the rich man had a poor person put into his life by God, and that poor man had a name – Lazarus. And without question, the rich man knew who Lazarus was.

As the rich man was in torment, he doesn’t say, “Abraham, can you send that guy next to you to give me a drop of water?” No. The rich man sees Lazarus’ face, knows his name, and begs, “Send Lazarus.” And more than that, the rich man has five brothers who also knew Lazarus by name. The rich man knows that, if Lazarus could go to his brothers, they would recognize Lazarus, and they would know that he had risen from the dead to warn them about his torments in hell. From those two details, we know that Lazarus was a familiar family acquaintance for the rich man and his brothers.

Here’s the point: God hasn’t commanded you to feed and provide for the whole world. You aren’t God, and, quite frankly, you can’t do that. God hasn’t called you to provide for everyone, but God has called you to provide for Lazarus. God has put you into relationships with people who have a name. And God has called you to provide for them.

Crying to GodSo, when your conscience is pricked and you feel guilt for your lack of love, first repent. Repent of your lack of love. Then, make a list of the people God has placed in your life to help, to care for, and to love starting with the people closest to you.

Take out a piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle and write down the names of your family members who live with you in that circle. God has called you to care for them first. Be faithful in your care for them. Then draw another circle around the first and list your family members who need help – maybe a grandparent or an aged parent or aunt, uncle, or cousin. Those are the first two groups of neighbors God has called you to serve and care for. 1 Timothy 5:8 says, “[I]f anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”

Then draw another circle around the first two, and write down the names of the people from our congregation that need your care and support. After your family, your fellow believers, your brothers and sisters in Christ are the closest neighbors that God has put into your life to care for. Galatians 6:10 says, “[A]s we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” Your brothers and sisters in Christ need your love and care. They need you to contribute to this congregation so that they can hear the Gospel and receive God’s gifts in His Word and Sacraments. They need you to help them when they fall into hard times. So be faithful in your giving to our congregation, and God will bless those efforts. Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.”

If you still have more to give, draw another circle. Write the names of your neighbors, coworkers, and friends who also have needs. And be faithful in helping them. Then you can draw another circle and write the names of others you know who need help. Or you can write the names of organizations that help those in need – the Women’s Pregnancy Center, Northlands Rescue Mission, the food shelf, etc. Get their newsletters or go to the websites and read the names and stories of the individuals who have been helped by those efforts as well. You get the idea?

With all those names, you might be overwhelmed. So, pray for wisdom. Ask God to give you the wisdom to know when you are equipped to help and when you are not. And remember that the closer to the middle of the circle those names are, God has called you to help those individuals first. And trust that God knows how to order your life and the lives of others as well.

Now, maybe you are a Lazarus. You might be the one who needs to be cared for, and if you aren’t now, you may be in the future. If that is the case, you might wonder, “How can I show love for my neighbor? How can I provide for others when I am in need?” The answer is surprisingly simple.

In Jesus’ day, beggars were seen as offering service to God be being needy. The generous cannot be generous if there is no one to be generous to. God may call you into His service by being the one who needs to receive the generosity of others who have the means to give. So, if you have needs, let us know.

Baptism 2And never forget, Christian, that you have been given a name. Through the waters of your Baptism, God gave you your name. He has adopted you into His family. You are His child and part of the household of Jesus. The love you fail to show to those God has placed in your life is forgiven and covered by the blood of Jesus, your Savior. And God does not forget to pour out His love, mercy, forgiveness, and provision for you.

This is what the Scriptures teach. The Scriptures point you to Jesus, your Savior. It is the same Scriptures that this parable says the rich man’s brothers should look to so that they do not come to the place of eternal torment that the rich man did. Those very Scriptures all point you to the Jesus who shed His blood, died, and rose again for you.

Sinner, you are not some nameless, faceless person to God. He knows you by name. He has called you by that name, and you are His (Is. 43:1). And, dear saints, your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life (Rev. 3:5; 13:8). Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

From Amazement to Fear to Faith – Sermon on Acts 2:1-21 for Pentecost

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Acts 2:1-21

Pentecost Spirit 2When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10 Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11 both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

14 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15 For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;

18 even on my male servants and female servants
in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

19 And I will show wonders in the heavens above
and signs on the earth below,
blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;

20 the sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.

21 And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon
the name of the Lord shall be saved.’”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The crowd in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost was there because it was Pentecost – a harvest festival. We have gotten so accustomed to connecting the celebration of Pentecost with the sending of the Holy Spirit that we forget that Pentecost was one of the three major festivals of the Jews. All the way back in Leviticus 23[:15-21], God had commanded that this feast be kept; though, in the Old Testament, it is normally called the “Feast of Weeks.” Pentecost was celebrated fifty days after the Passover, which was why it became known as ‘Pentecost.’ Pentecost was one of three festivals that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

One of the other festivals that required a pilgrimage to Jerusalem was, of course, Passover. I mention Passover because most of the people in the crowd we just heard about there in Acts 2 would have been in Jerusalem fifty days earlier to celebrate the Passover when Jesus was tried, convicted, and crucified. They would have been the very crowds that cried out, “Crucify Him,” when Pilate asked what he should do with Jesus.

So, people from all over the world are in Jerusalem again. But this time, they are hearing in their own, native languages about the mighty works of God. They were amazed. Amazed at the sound of the mighty rushing wind and amazed at the mighty works of God being told in their own language, their own tongue. This is the amazed crowd to whom Peter preaches.

Peter Preaches on PentecostWe didn’t hear Peter’s whole sermon. It goes on for another fifteen verses, but I want you to hear the highlights of the whole thing. In the part of Peter’s sermon that we did hear, Peter tells the people that, if they had read their Bible, wouldn’t have been surprised at what they are hearing because it had been foretold in the prophet Joel. Then, Peter goes on to proclaim Jesus to the people.

Peter reminds the people how they had, with their own eyes, seen Jesus heal the sick, give sight to the blind, and do all sorts of miracles. But even though they had seen all of this, they delivered Jesus into the hands of lawless men in order to be crucified. But Peter adds that Jesus was crucified according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.

The sermon goes on to tell how though Jesus was crucified, He rose from the dead and is forever seated at God’s right hand. And Peter makes it clear that Jesus was and forever is the Lord and Christ whom they had crucified (Act. 2:36).

Upon hearing this, the people in the crowd are, according to Scripture, “cut to the heart” (Act. 2:37). But before I go to describe what happened that day, I want to make a quick mention of another time when a similar sermon was preached. A few years after our reading in Acts 2 today, Stephen preaches a very similar sermon to a similar crowd (Act. 7). But when Stephen’s sermon ends, the crowd is enraged. They grind their teeth, put their hands over their ears, rush Stephen out of the city, and throw rocks at him until he dies.

I mention that to highlight the greatest miracle on the day of Pentecost. The greatest miracle of Pentecost is what happens when Peter concludes his sermon by saying, “[K]now for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified,” and the people do not kill Peter or run to their safe spaces. Instead, the Holy Spirit works on them. They are, again, “cut to the heart.” They are devastated and full of regret. In other words, they lament and despair because of their sin. They go from amazement to fear.

But in their fear because of their sin, they offer no excuses. They point no fingers. Their mouths are silent before the Law with the exception that they fearfully ask, “What shall we do?” (Act. 2:37). Of course, they know that there is nothing they can do. They can’t go back. They can’t make up for it. They can’t pay Jesus off. No excuses will help them. They know they can’t remove their guilt, but Peter points them to Jesus who can.

Peter says, “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. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Act. 2:38).

That day, God added 3,000 souls to the Holy Christian Church. Their fear is swallowed up in faith. Faith in the Jesus whom Peter preached. Faith in the name of Jesus given to them in their Baptism. Faith in the Jesus who died for them, rose for them, and washed them.

And it is that promise of Scripture that I want you to consider today. Sometimes, we get too caught up in the amazement of the coming of the Holy Spirit. But the most amazing thing that happens when the Holy Spirit arrives is how people are moved by the Holy Spirit working through the Word of God to repentance and faith.

Romans 15_4 - Spirit Scriptures SalvationSo you, when the Law comes and points its finger at you and declares you to be a sinner, don’t make excuses. Don’t try to turn the accusations away. Don’t try to put your own spin on it and say that at least you aren’t as bad as so-and-so. Instead, repent. Repent because the Holy Spirit wants you to know that Jesus came to save you who are lost in sin. That means that Jesus has come to save you and me.

Secondly, know that this salvation isn’t only for you. It is for your children. The promises of Baptism are for the cute little sinners who are born into your family. Jesus calls them to Himself as well.

Finally, know also that this promise is for everyone you meet. Your family, your co-workers, your acquaintances, the people you pass by on the street – Jesus died for them as well. And your Savior desires that they hear the promises of life, mercy, forgiveness, and salvation as well. So, fill your speech with those promises.

One study showed that 86% of people who attend church regularly attend because someone invited them. That’s amazing. So, as your pastor, I ask you: When was the last time you invited someone to join you here at church? I am willing to bet that you would be fearful if I were to have everyone stand and say when the last time was.

Brothers and sisters, our world is dark, and people are hurting. Let us, all of us, be people of faith in our Lord while we invite others to the faith as well. Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

The Heart & the Helper – Sermon on Ezekiel 36:22-28; 1 Peter 4:7-14; John 15:26-16:4 for the Seventh Sunday of Easter and Confirmation Sunday

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Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The sermon today is from all three texts read: Ezekiel 36:22-28; 1 Peter 4:7-14; John 15:26-16:4

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Dear Confirmands and dear Christians,

I have good news and I have bad news. First, the bad news: Being a Christian is difficult.

According to Jesus, to be a Christian is to be on the narrow path (Mt. 7:13-14), and Christ promises, “In this world you will have tribulation” (Jn. 16:33). In our Epistle text, Peter says, “Do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pe. 4:12). God doesn’t promise that Christians get a detour around problems in this life. Instead, Scripture promises the exact opposite. In fact, in today’s Gospel text, Jesus says that there are people who are willing to kill you thinking that they are worshipping God by doing so (Jn. 16:2).

No, you don’t get a detour around problems in this world, but don’t be discouraged – here’s the good news. You do get a Guide through them. This past Thursday marked the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God the Father. Christ ascended into heaven in order to help you with the help you need the most. You, Christian, have been given the Holy Spirit who helps you in every trial, temptation, and tribulation.

Your Savior sends the Holy Spirit to be your Helper, your Aid, your Defender, your Comforter.

Andrew, Stephanie, Josiah, and all you saints, though you have enemies attacking you from the outside – the devil and the world – and enemies attacking you from the inside – you own sinful flesh and desires – you are not without help. You have the comfort of the Comforter and the help of the Helper.

When you are discouraged because of your constant sins and failure to keep God’s Law, the Holy Spirit is right there helping and comforting you with the Word of God. He says, “Yes, your sins are great. That is why you have a greater Savior, Jesus Christ. God is not disappointed with you. He is totally and completely pleased with you because of what Jesus has done for you.”

When the devil accuses you and throws your sins in your face, the Holy Spirit, your Comforter and Advocate, stands between you and the devil saying, “None of that, Satan! Those sins were already thrown in Jesus’ face, and He has taken the punishment for all of them.”

When the world calls you a hypocrite saying that you do not live the way you should, the Helper reminds you, “You bear God’s holy name. You have been Baptized in to Christ, so you have put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27).

Did you hear what God said in our Old Testament lesson? Were you listening? God promised that He would act for the sake of His holy name which you bear. Because God has defined Himself as a God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex. 34:6). God will make sure you have that mercy, grace, love, and care. God has sprinkled clean water on you, His people, and He has cleansed them from all your sins and idols. Holy Spirit New HeartGod given you a new heart and a new spirit. God has put His Holy Spirit within you, and He has caused you to walk in His statutes and rules. Again, God promised to do this for the sake of His name, His reputation, and your benefit because you are His.

God promised all of this, and because of what Christ has done, it is finished.

God acted. You were in desperate need of help. You weren’t just dying, you were dead in your trespasses and sins. And, even worse, you were dead and still actively and stone-heartedlyrebelling against God. But He gave you what He promised in our Old Testament lesson. Christ came and removed your heart of stone and gave you a heart of flesh.

Christian, you will struggle your entire life – Scripture promises it. Yet, there is a comfort in Christ saying that you will struggle because those very trials, tribulations, and persecutions mean that you belong to Him. Just a few verses before our Gospel text began, Jesus said this: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (Jn. 15:18-19).

And know this, know this: You have help in your trials. The same Jesus who died and rose again for you is the same Jesus who helps you by ascending to the right hand of God the Father with all authority in all creation having been given to Him. And He has given you a new heart and the Holy Spirit, the Comforter and the Helper.

Each of the verses our Confirmands picked are Holy Spirit-sent to help and comfort you now and forever.

As Andrew’s verse (Jn. 3:16) promises: God loved you so that He sent Jesus to die and rise again for you. Believe in Him and you will never perish but have eternal life.

Josiah’s verse (Prov. 3:5) encourages you to trust in those promises of Christ and to not lean on your own understanding. Your own understanding will lead you nowhere. God’s ways and thoughts are higher than your ways and thoughts. Trust in those.

And Stephanie’s verse (Jer. 29:11) reminds you that God’s plans for you are for your welfare. God’s plans for you are to give you a solid future and hope for all eternity.

Christian, you have a new heart and the Helper. Go from here in that comfort and that certainty. God has promised, and He is faithful.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.