Pentecost Sermon| Rev. Rolf D. Preus| Confirmation of Aaron Ollrich and Anthony DeLorme| June 4, 2006
“Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27
Let us pray:
Oh, Holy Spirit, grant us grace that we, our Lord and Savior,
In faith and fervent love embrace and truly serve him ever,
So that when death is drawing nigh, we to his open wounds may fly
And find in them salvation. Amen
The Angel of Death passed over the homes of the Israelites because the blood of the Passover Lamb was painted on the doorposts. Fifty days later God gave the law through Moses. Jesus, our Passover, shed His blood on the cross for us so that death would pass over us. Fifty days later God gave the gospel through the apostles. Pentecost means fifty days. Today we celebrate Pentecost as two young men of our parish confirm publicly the faith into which God baptized them.
Pentecost is a good time for a confirmation. Neither the celebration of this festival nor the practice of confirmation is commanded in the Scriptures. God required the church of the Old Testament to observe certain religious festivals. He has given no such requirements to the church of the New Testament. And while confirmation is an old church custom, it is not a sacrament, was not commanded by Jesus, and is not necessary. Why then do we celebrate Pentecost? And why do we confirm Christians? We do both for the same reason. We believe that we should confess clearly the saving work of the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit is given in baptism. St. Paul refers to baptism as the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. Our Lord Jesus says the birth from above by which we enter into the kingdom of God is of water and the Spirit. When we publicly confirm our baptism, we publicly confess that the Holy Spirit is the Lord the giver of life. As we confess in the Catechism:
I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; just as He calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith.
It is only after the Holy Spirit has called us to faith, enlightened us with His gifts, and sanctified us in the true faith that we can confess this faith. And we do. We confess the faith into which God baptized us. Confirmation is simply a formal way of doing what God calls us to do every single day of our lives. Faith alone makes us Christians. Only God can see faith. Confession alone is what marks us as Christians. Others can know what we confess. They can know that we confess it. Consider what happened on Pentecost. Peter preached. The church was born from above. Thousands were baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Christians confessed. And then the whole world was turned upside down. The disciples that earlier cowered in fear behind locked doors were filled with the Holy Spirit. They preached. Christians confessed. The Holy Christian Church was born.
The Holy Spirit isn’t just a force or a power. He is God. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is the Creator. Where there is unbelief He creates faith. He changes the way we think and feel and act. He changes our stony and unresponsive hearts into believing, trusting, and loving hearts. He takes away our fear of death and replaces it with a joy that remains even when we face the necessary tragedies of life. He gives us peace.
Jesus promised that He would. He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Jesus doesn’t give and then take away. “Peace I leave with you,” He says. He ascends into heaven, but He is not absent. He is present. He sends the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit brings peace. Where Jesus is, there is the Holy Spirit and there is the peace that belongs to Jesus. Jesus said, “My peace I give to you.” It is His peace because He has established it. “Not as the world gives do I give to you.” So what’s the difference? What is the difference between the peace that Jesus gives and the peace that the world gives?
The peace of the world is only outward and temporary. The world makes peace by threatening those who would break it. A man wants to start a fistfight and he sees a policeman so he contains himself. Still, he hates the fellow he wanted to hit. But he’s scared of the consequences if he acts on his hatred. Thieves, murderers, adulterers, and liars avoid theft, murder, adultery, and lies not because they aren’t thieves, murderers, adulterers, and liars, but because they don’t want to suffer the penalties that thieves, murderers, adulterers, and liars suffer. In other words, they do what is right because they don’t want to suffer from doing what is wrong. But that’s not really doing right. It’s just going through the motions. So the world makes peace and keeps peace by laws, threats, guns, armies, policemen, courts, judges, and prisons.
How does Jesus make peace and keep the peace? He makes no threats. He punishes no one. In fact, He does the very opposite. He bears our punishment. He faces the threats of the law that were directed against us. He takes the place of all the thieves, murderers, adulterers, and liars. He bears their sins. He suffers God’s anger against them. In so doing, He takes God’s anger away. He makes peace between God and sinners by taking away all the sin of all the sinners. This is a permanent peace, and it is real. It isn’t held in place by laws that can be broken or treaties that will be ignored. It is held in place by God’s almighty word. And this peace is brought to us by the Holy Spirit.
The peace that God gives is God’s gift. This peace doesn’t come from our spiritual struggles. Rather, it comes from God giving it to us. It is the peace that comes from Jesus’ word. Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.” To keep Jesus’ word is to believe what it says. It is to receive what it gives. It is to receive peace, the peace that Jesus gives.
This peace that is from Jesus is the peace of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit takes what belongs to Jesus and gives it to us. He does this by His pure gospel and sacraments. This is why you, Anthony/Aaron, are promising this morning to be faithful in the use of the means of grace. Let me tell you what you will be inclined to do. You will try to do the Holy Spirit’s work for him. But you will fail. You may try to find peace in how fervently you pray or in how sorry you really are for your sins. You may think that you will find true peace by coming up with your own way to God and ignoring Christ’s gospel and sacraments as if you don’t need the means of grace in your life. But that is thinking like the world, and that peace won’t last. That peace is looking to yourself as the answer to your problems when you are not the answer. You are the problem. Don’t forget that. The problem every one of us faces in life is not out there attacking us, but inside of us.
You need a Savior. You need a Savior every single day of your life. Not just when you are born again or when you feel particularly bad or in need, but today and tomorrow and every single day you will live on this earth you need a Savior. You need the One who faced all of the conflicts, battles, and wars ever fought. You need the one whose perfect submission brings to us perfect peace. You need Jesus whose blood was shed, whose body and blood you will eat and drink in the Lord’s Supper. This is who the Holy Spirit gives us in the gospel and sacraments. In so doing the Holy Spirit works in our hearts with a love that burns away our doubt and our fears and our idolatrous self-reliance, replacing it with faith. There is only one faith that saves and that is the faith that the Holy Ghost creates in us by telling us of Jesus. Jesus talk is Holy Ghost talk. This is talk that gives us peace, not the world’s peace that will surely be lost, but God’s peace that will last forever.
As we pass through life we learn to be afraid. We may be afraid of past sins. Jesus has taken those sins away. We may be afraid of dying. Jesus has already faced and endured your death. Anthony/Aaron, you will learn worries you never knew before. But as the Holy Spirit leads you back to your baptismal faith He will give you peace. Here is how St. Paul put it in his Epistle to the Romans, “Therefore being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the peace that Jesus won on the cross when he blotted out our sins and thereby took away God’s anger. This peace is an accomplished fact. As the hymnist describes it, “Jesus Christ our blessed Savior turned away God’s wrath forever.”
By giving you the peace of Jesus that the world cannot give, the Holy Spirit enables you to face temptation and resist it. He gives you joy in new and holy desires that come from the faith He plants inside of you. He gives you the courage to confess your faith, not only today when the crowd is with you, but later in life when you’ll have to pay a price for standing on God’s word. He’s with you to overcome your doubts and to take away your fears. He does all this by giving Jesus to you. When the Holy Spirit gives us the words of Jesus, the words of peace, the words that impart forgiveness of sins and peace with God, he confirms us in our baptism and saves us. Then the peace of God that passes all understanding will calm our troubled heart and remove all fear. This peace is ours. It is real. It will remain ours after this world has passed away.
Let us pray:
And when our earthly race is run, death’s bitter hour impending,
Then may thy work in us begun continue till life’s ending,
Until we gladly may commend our souls into our Savior’s hand
To rest in peace eternal.