Tag Archives: First Communion

One of the Flock (Misericordias Domini, 2011)

“One of the Flock”

2011easter03-misericordias

This is one of the most beautiful images in all the Bible.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd.  How many hymns to we have which confess this faith?  I am  Jesus’ Little Lamb.  Have no Fear, Little Flock.  Shepherd of Tender Youth.  And that isn’t even counting all of our Psalm 23 hymns like The Lord’s My Shepherd Leading Me, or The Lord’s My Shepherd, I’ll not Want.  The picture we get from so many of these hymns, which I love as well as you, is that of a kind shepherd, holding a little lamb over his back, bringing it to safety, leading the lamb beside the still waters, caring for it as if it was his own son or daughter.

But shepherding is not all quiet, pastoral scenes with gently braying lambs.  Far from it.  It doesn’t take much time around a flock of sheep to realize that they, well, they’re kind of loud and bossy.  They want to eat when they’re hungry, and they won’t take no for an answer.  They are going to go do their business whether it is a good place for it or not.  And they are always, always getting lost.  You would think that a sheep didn’t know what is best for him, far less a little lamb!  But there they are, hungry, in need, not always the brightest, but always in need.  And they look to the shepherd for all of this and more.

So what does it mean when Jesus says “I am the good shepherd”?  What it means is that Jesus is going to step in and do the dirty work.  Yes, he will carry the little lamb on his shoulders and bring it to safety.  But He will also guard and protect the flock from ravenous wolves who want nothing more than a mutton sandwich.  He will feed this flock, even if it means feeding the flock with His own flesh and blood.  He will hear their sins, and He will forgive them.  And what’s more, this Good Shepherd of ours will search out the sheep, near and far, lost and loud or cowing and hiding in silence.  That is what a good shepherd does.  He cares for the flock as his very own.

But this Good Shepherd, Jesus our Good Shepherd, He goes even farther.  Jesus not only cares for you.  He lays down His life for you.  He does this purely out of love.  Unlike the hireling who flees at the first sign of trouble, Jesus puts Himself squarely between the sheep and the wolf.  He stands between you and all even.  In fact, He made Himself from a shepherd into a Lamb so that you might live.  By His wounds you have been healed.  For when the shepherd turned Lamb lay down at the altar of the cross, He was sacrificed for all your sins, all of your needless bleating and braying.  He was sacrificed for your straying and listen to false voices and the siren allurement of the wolves who would destroy you.  He took all of it into Himself.  When you and I would fight back, would retaliate or try to get even, He did not.  In an amazing act of trust in His Father, Jesus stood His ground, the ground of Golgotha, and bore all of your suffering and sorrows to death itself.

He did this for you, because He is the Good Shepherd.  He is the God Shepherd.  The Lord says in Ezekiel:

“For thus says the Lord GOD: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when he is among his sheep that have been scattered, so will I seek out my sheep, and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. And I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land. And I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the ravines, and in all the inhabited places of the country. I will feed them with good pasture, and on the mountain heights of Israel shall be their grazing land. There they shall lie down in good grazing land, and on rich pasture they shall feed on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I myself will make them lie down, declares the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them in justice.”   Ezekiel 34:11–16

This morning our Lord shows His love for two of His little lambs, who will be fed with His own body and blood for the first time this morning.  Our Lord does this because He loves them with an everlasting love, and because He promises to feed them all the days of their lives.  But this day is not about them.  At least not them alone.  It is about you.  God loves you with an everlasting love, a love so strong that not even death itself could hold Him back from caring for you and forgiving your sins.

Come now into the fold of His Church, His flock.  We are all sinners here, lost ones brought back to the fold by the voice of the One who died and rose again for us.   “For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25).  Come and be fed along the waters once poured over you in Holy Baptism.  Come and be fed in the good pasture of His own Body and Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  Come, for all things are ready.  Come, return to the Lord, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  Come, you are part of the fold.  Come, you are one in the family.

In the strong name of Jesus.  Amen.

And now may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.

 

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM

Messiah Lutheran Church

Kenosha, Wisconsin

Easter 3 – Misericordias Domini (May 8, 2011)

John 10:11-16

On the First Communion of Lauren Noble and Isabella Peperkorn

"Worthy" (Pentecost 2009)

Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Kenosha, Wisconsin
Pentecost (May 31, 2009)
John 14:23-31
On the occasion of the First Communion of Five Members of Messiah Lutheran Church

For an audio MP3 of this sermon, CLICK HERE

TITLE: “Worthy”

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.

On Pastoral Examinations of First Communion Candidates

This past month has really convinced me of the benefit of pastoral examinations of catechumens. I’ve always avoided it in a formal setting, because I don’t want to contribute to the “pass the test and graduate” mindset. However, exercising pastoral care by teaching children to confess the faith is a great and mighty gift, and a wonderful tool that I believe we have lost over the past couple generations.

In about ten days or so we will be having the first communion for five of our young catechumens, ranging from grades 2-5. As a part of this practice, I am using the wonderful rite out of the Pastoral Care Companion for examination. Basically what I’m doing is I meet with the child, their parents and an elder at the family’s home (typically). Then we go through the examination, which at it’s heart has the Commandments, the Creed and the Our Father, as well as essentially Luther’s Christian Questions and Answers.

What a great thing! Five times this month I’ve had the privilege of hearing these young people confess the faith once delivered to the saints. I can’t believe I’ve been ordained for thirteen years and have never really sat down and done these examinations.

What was I thinking?

I can hardly express what a blessing these confessions have been. It has served as a great opportunity to hear what actually sinks in, and what doesn’t. I’ll try and write more about this tomorrow, but it is a great gift to Christ’s Church. God be praised.

-LL

Bible Study on Confirmation and First Communion

You will find attached here a PDF file with the bible study I am using currently for teaching about confirmation and first communion in my congregation. I would welcome any of your thoughts on the subject, as this is an important one for the Lutheran Church.

Confirmation and First Communion in the Lutheran Church