Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Pentecost (May 31, 2009)
On the occasion of the First Communion of Five Members of Messiah Lutheran Church
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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for this holy day of Pentecost, and also our Confirmation Sunday, is from the Gospel lesson from John chapter 14 as follows: But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.
You are not worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper; It’s not about you. That’s what I’ve told these five young members of our church as they have prepared to receive the Sacrament of the Altar. All the work, all of the learning by heart and reading and prayer and preparation for this day, none of these things make you worthy to receive the Lord’s Supper. It’s not about you. It’s about what Jesus did for you, and it’s about what the Holy Spirit does in you even know by creating faith and giving you Jesus. As you, catechumens, have learned in the catechism, the words go like this:
Who receives this sacrament worthily?
?Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe.
In a few minutes, these five young men and women will confess the Holy Christian Faith given to them in their Baptism some years ago. They will stand up here with their fathers and mothers and cling to God’s Word rather than their own works. They will confess faith in God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They will confess that they are sinners and that only the blood of Jesus can forgive them. Not long after that, they will receive Christ’s body and blood for the first time for the forgiveness of sins. It is a big day for them and for the whole Christian Church on earth.
Why is it such a big day for them and for us gathered here? It is an important day because this is an opportunity for us as the Christian Church to remember who we are in Jesus Christ, and what makes us tick, so to speak, as a congregation.
(addressing the first communicants) God’s Word teaches us that it is here in the Christian Church that God gives the forgiveness of sins to hurting sinners. I hope that you have learned studying God’s Word that you are a hurting sinner. You do not deserve God’s grace and mercy any more than I do or anyone else in this room. None of us deserve God’s mercy.
But you see, that’s the whole point. God’s mercy means that it is undeserved. Nothing you can say or do or think will every make you worth of God’s love and mercy. The point is that God’s love and mercy comes down to you in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God creates faith in Jesus, and He is the one who keeps you in His love. As we confess in the Small Catechism:
What does this mean?
?I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.
The Holy Spirit is the one who has called you to this place. The Holy Spirit is the one who called you by the Gospel. The Holy Spirit baptized you in the name of the Triune God so many years ago. The Holy Spirit forgives your sins by the mouth of your pastor. The Holy Spirit gives you His Word. The Holy Spirit preaches to you. The Holy Spirit, to sum it all up, gives you Jesus. And when you receive Jesus Christ, whether it be by hearing His Word or receiving His body and blood, when you receive Jesus Christ in faith, God forgives your sins. And when God forgives your sins, you receive life and salvation. These three things go together: forgiveness, life and salvation.
That is why we as the Christian Church rejoice this day to hear you confess this faith. The angels in heaven rejoice over one sinner who repents. When you confess this Christian Faith before God and His Holy Church, you are recognizing yourself as a sinner who needs God’s healing touch and word of forgiveness more than anything in your life.
This is in some ways a hard thing to understand. On the one hand you stand before the congregation this day and confess your faith. People after church will give you congratulations, and there is a probably a party of some sort at your house after church today. It sure seems like it’s about you, doesn’t it? But it’s not. That’s one of the reasons why I appreciate having first communion here on Pentecost. This is the day where we remember the Holy Spirit is the one who gives faith and that He is the one who will keep you in this one true faith all the days of your life. So it’s not about you. It’s about God. And God gives it all to you.
(addressing congregation) This is pretty much how it always works in the Christian Church. God is constantly taking lowly sinners like you and I and lifting you up, forgiving your sins, and setting you at His Right Hand as the honored guest at His banquet. That is what you receive every time you partake of His Holy Supper. God makes you His honored guest. He forgives your sins and sets you in the place of honor. He doesn’t do this because you are so wonderful or so great. No, He does this because He loves you. He does this because He loves you with an everlasting love, and that love drove Him to die on the cross and rise again so that you might rise from the dead with Him. You are no more worthy to receive the Lord’s Body and Blood than these young ones. But God is merciful to you, and He gives of Himself for your salvation.
So this Pentecost we see God’s work before us. It is His Church, and He is the one who both creates faith and gives it to His children whom He loves. Well, I guess it is about you, after all. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.