Sunday, September 29, 2019 – Affirmation of Baptism

September 29, 2019  

Confirmation 2019

Philippians 4:4-7

Our Savior’s La Crosse

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

The Affirmation of Baptism, also known as confirmation, is a rite of passage in the Lutheran tradition. If you ask any of our elders who grew up in the Lutheran church, they will most likely have stories to tell about their confirmation experiences. Stories of being tested by the Pastor in front of the entire congregation. Stories of having to “know your stuff” because the pastor wasn’t going to take it easy on them. Earlier in my ministry, I heard memory after memory from older adults of back when they were confirmation students and had to memorize the catechism in Norwegian or in German or in Finnish—depending on what community I was pastoring.

I have two distinct memories of my own confirmation experience.

  1. In front of my entire 30-some member class, I asked my confirmation teacher to explain circumcision.
  2. The day I affirmed my baptism, I was convinced I did not deserve to be there, nor did I deserve to receive communion. It wasn’t that I didn’t believe, it was that I didn’t believe myself worthy. At the time I didn’t realize my thoughts were deeply rooted in Lutheran faith and belief. I didn’t realize my thoughts echoed the writings of Philip Melanchthon, who wrote in the Augsburg Confession, Article 2, on Original Sin:            course of nature are conceived and born in sin. That is, all [people]     are full of evil lust and inclinations from their mothers’ wombs and            Moreover, this inborn sickness and hereditary sin is truly sin and             again through Baptism and the Holy Spirit.
  3.             condemns to the eternal wrath of God all those who are not born
  4.             are unable by nature to have true fear of God and true faith in God.
  5.             Since the fall of Adam all [people] who are born according to the

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

There are two messages here, and they seem contradictory. The first is of God’s wrath, God’s condemnation of sinners; the second is finding joy in our faith.

What reconciles these two messages is the gift of Jesus.

Jesus, given to the world by the God who loves the world in order to free the world from sin and death.

Jesus, our salvation.

Jesus, who is near.

Jesus, in whom we rejoice.

A professor from Cambridge wrote that when we consider rejoicing in Jesus, we aren’t thinking about a transient emotional experience, we are thinking about “a deep and lasting joy that comes through a deepening relationship with Christ; this joy is thus expressed in sharing his love and concern for others.” (The New Interpreter’s Bible, volume 11, p. 546) The same professor asked a question: “If many Christians today lack such joy, is this perhaps because they see their faith to a great extent as an individual matter, and so do not see Christian life in terms of mutual respect and concern or experience the love and support of fellow Christians?” (source above).

I hope that isn’t the case here, at Our Savior’s. I hope we understand and experience the deep joy that comes through a deepening relationship with Jesus found in a community of believers who share his love and concern for others.

I think it is in knowing the deep joy found in Jesus that makes the day a young person affirms his faith so important to all of us. Because we know, we know deep in our hearts that the love of Jesus is real—and we want the person who is saying yes to his baptism, who is saying yes to the promises of Jesus in his life—we want him to feel our joy even as we take joy in his faith. We want him to know his own joy in Jesus. That is our hope.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. (Philippians 4:4-5)

Jesus is as close to us as the wine and bread we share. Jesus is here, in this meal. Jesus is here when we hear his words: “Take and eat; this is my body, given for you…” Jesus is here when we remember he said “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, shed for you and for all people for the forgiveness of sin…”

Jesus is here for our brother Jackson. Jesus is here for his family. Jesus is here for all of us.

Jesus forgives us. Jesus loves us. Jesus frees us. Our relationship with Jesus lives in us as a community of believers.

We receive his love.

We share his love with others.

We believe in him.

And so we Rejoice in the Lord always.

And we pray for our brother Jackson:

May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).