Confirmands, the day has finally come. This is the day you have been looking forward to for so long. When I say, “so long”, I mean longer than just the last two years. This is the day that you have been looking forward to from the day of your Baptism, where God called you to be His own beloved child. How fitting that the day of your confirmation comes just one week following Easter and the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The day which we celebrate Easter has come and gone for another year, but the meaning of Easter goes beyond just a single day. Rather, it lasts for 50 days. The reason why: there is too much joy to keep in just a single day. Our text for today highlights the importance of Easter: resurrection.
Peter writes, “He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” In the opening sentences of his letter, Peter twice calls to mind the election of God’s children from eternity. God has chosen each of us to be His own. The Holy Spirit makes us confident of this through faith in God’s promises. Though our faith makes us “strangers in the world,” yet we have “grace and peace … in abundance,” knowing the love of the Father who chose us, of the Son who died in our place, and of the Spirit who sanctifies us.
One must ask themself this question: Why? Why would God do what He did? Why would God promise to send a Savior, a Savior who would be His only-begotten Son, only to have Him die? Christ’s death brought about His resurrection – not only for Himself but for all believers as well. That translates into a resurrection for you and for me. But we’re still left with the why. Peter tells us it is “according to his great mercy.” It’s is God’s mercy for His beloved creation that He did what He did and that He continues to do what He does. And today, for the fifteen of you, you have that opportunity and privilege of standing before God and these witnesses and confirming that faith given to you at your Baptism, confirming that faith that you have been raised in for these many years and for you to confess yourself, “I believe.”
What God gives to us is a gift. It is a gift like no other gift. This is a gift that you can’t buy at Wal-Mart. This is a gift that you can’t order off of the Internet. It’s a gift that you cannot repay, for it is a gift that is given freely. This is truly a one of a kind gift. This gift brings with it eternal blessings, such as the forgiveness of sins, everlasting life, and salvation.
God was not content with having His creation die in sin. From the very moment that man fell, He promised a Savior. This was His beloved creation. It was so beloved by God that He declared man to be “very good.” In creating the world, He deemed it only as “good.” But man, on the other hand, created in the image of God, that is holy and perfect and without sin; only man was deemed to be “very good.”
Having been brought to faith, we are different from the way we were before. We have been reborn with the restored image of God. Our Old Adam has to take the back seat. The new man is now at the wheel – with a lot of help from his lifelong driving instructor known as the Holy Spirit. And though the Old Adam is there right behind us, “through faith” we “by God’s power are being guarded.” The Old Adam in the back seat keeps trying to grab the wheel, but our faith is the metal-mesh screen between the front and back seats, as in police cars, preventing him from taking control. And it is the power of God, ours through the means of grace, that makes the screen strong enough to resist even the most savage attacks of the Old Adam. Oh, he may distract us with all his screaming and hollering and thus cause us to swerve occasionally, but he cannot take control unless we ourselves let our guard down. Our “living hope” is that Christ, who has conquered sin and death, has given us the promise of eternal life.
So what are we supposed to do with this wonderful gift given to us? We rejoice! You and I have been given such a wonderful gift by God in the resurrection of Jesus that we should do nothing less than rejoice! We rejoice because our sins have been forgiven. We rejoice because we have been given everlasting life. We rejoice because we have been called children of God. Why wouldn’t we rejoice at that!
But as St. Peter says, our rejoicing is for a little while, because “you have been grieved by various trials.” There are many trials that we face in our lives. Throughout these trials, our faith must be anchored in Jesus Christ, for He is “the founder and perfecter of our faith.” All of this is done to test the genuineness of your faith. It is the Lord who declares it necessary for us to undergo these trials, compared by Peter to the test used to prove if gold is genuine or not. Peter had tasted the bitterness of failing such a test, but he also knew the sweetness of Christ’s forgiveness and promise of future help. We, too, have God’s promise that no trial will be more than we can bear, for our faith and our eternal salvation are worth far more than perishable gold.
Even you confirmands will face trials. A great trial will be, “What will I do next Sunday?” Right now, you are wearing a robe. This robe marks that you have been covered in Christ’s righteousness and that you have been forgiven all of your sins. But for many, when you wear a robe, you think of one thing: graduation. You will wear a robe when you graduate high school. That robe signifies that you will be leaving high school and moving on to other things. When you graduate college, once again you will wear a robe, signifying that all of your hard work has led up to that day called graduation. But in the church, confirmation is not graduation. Confirmation is surely not a graduation. Look behind you. When you look out in the congregation, what do you see? I see a congregation full of people who, like you, went through confirmation and probably wore a robe on the day they were confirmed. But here they sit, many, many years following their confirmation. Do not think of confirmation as graduation, for there is only one that a person “graduates” from church – that is, when Christ calls us home to be with Him forever. And even then, you only “graduate” from the Church Militant to the Church Triumphant, but you remain part of the Church.
Just as Jesus tells Thomas in our Gospel reading today, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed,” Peter makes the same point in our text. He says, “Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Peter also heard that as blessed as Thomas and the rest were by Christ’s reassuring presence, those who would not see Jesus but would still believe in him would likewise be blessed. We look forward to something we have not seen and which was promised to us by someone whom we have not met. The world calls this foolishness. We call it a miracle.
The fact that you and I have been given faith is indeed a miracle. God chose to love us when we were unlovable in our sin. Through His great love and mercy, He gave to us His only-begotten Son. By the work of Jesus Christ, we have been given the gift of Jesus and His forgiveness, won for us on the cross.
What God has given to us is truly a gift, a gift that is given to us freely, a gift that requires nothing from us. At first glance, it might appear to be a little strange. We feel a bit uncomfortable receiving something without keeping score so that we make certain of returning a similar amount. But if this is truly a gift, that means the recipient has not earned it because the earning aspect would take away the gift aspect. That’s precisely the point! Salvation is given to us without any merit or worthiness on our part – and without our having to prove to anyone that we have earned it. This gift of salvation had been made available for all of us by God.
For you, Zane, Alec, Desire’e, Jonathan, Danielle, Tallie, Caleb, Raelee, Shelby, Jordan, Adam, Kristine, Janie, Marissa, and Chance, today is indeed a day to rejoice. It is not a day to rejoice that confirmation is finally over and that your Wednesday nights are free again. Instead, it is a day of rejoicing because today, you have taken that step in your spiritual maturity where you yourself make that public confession of faith, made for you in your Baptism but which you confirm today. God has given you a gift. He has given you the gift of being called a child of God. For Peter, there is great cause for joy. The cause for joy in our relationship with God is not that we have discovered Him, but the simple realization that He claims us as His own. Being called a child of God with your sins forgiven – there truly is no better gift than that!
In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.