The Feast of the Most Holy Trinity
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Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
May 31, 2015
Central Passage
John 3:1-15
Description

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy and Blessed Trinity; the God who created, redeemed, and sanctified us and is keeping us in Himself through the mysteries of Christ for the revealing of the children of God; those born again, born from on high, born of the Spirit. On this day the Church confesses the Athanasian Creed in proclamation of our faith in the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, distinct in Persons but one in divinity and Lordship.

It is this God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who is the one true God and beside whom there are no other gods. And it is this God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who works for our salvation and our good. For the Church today it is Holy Trinity Sunday. But for us here at Concordia, it’s also Confirmation Day.

So I’m a little torn as preacher. Do I preach on the Trinity or do I teach the congregation about Confirmation? Well, all preaching is preaching on the Trinity since we preach Christ crucified who reveals to us the Father and speaks plainly about Him by giving us the Holy Spirit who makes us God’s temples and is our guarantee of eternal life through the promises of God in Christ. But not all preaching is on Confirmation. In fact, no preaching should be on Confirmation since Confirmation is not in the Bible.

It’s not a sacrament. It’s not apostolic. Confirmation is man-made. That doesn’t mean it’s wicked or useless, just that it is not commanded by God nor endorsed by Him in His word. At the end of the day, Confirmation is simply a tradition of men. And we attach meanings to our own traditions while the Lord attaches meaning to His traditions. So the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, preaching, sing hymns, and all other such traditions of God will always have their meaning given by God through His Word. But Confirmation will always have its meaning given by men.

And through the years it has meant different things. Confirmation as we know it is an historical oddity. It comes from the Roman practice of the bishop bestowing and extra measure of the Spirit of God upon the confirmed. They teach that one moves from being infant Christians to mature Christians through Confirmation. By our Confessions we Lutherans don’t recognize this sort of confirmation since it’s not taught in Scripture. The sacraments themselves are our confirmation, confirming us in our faith and in the truth about God. And the sacraments, including the preaching of the gospel, give us growth in our wisdom and understanding of God since they are the means by which God makes Himself known to us.

So we reject the Roman teaching of Confirmation. But for some reason we retained the rite and even some of the teachings of Rome. So we hear Lutherans talk about Confirmation completing Baptism. That’s not in the Bible. Or we Lutherans talk about Confirmation as a person accepting responsibility for their own faith. That’s maybe a little better, but again, that’s not in the Bible. And it’s kinda wrong since the Holy Spirit is responsible for our faith and grows and strengthens it by the word of God. We hear Lutherans talk about Confirmation being how one receives the Body and Blood of Jesus in the sacrament of the altar. That’s not in the Bible either.

In fact, you can be certain that anytime anyone says that Confirmation gives the confirmand anything in the Church or having to do with faith, you can be certain that that’s not in the Bible. Confirmation gives nothing since God did not give Confirmation. At best, Confirmation is merely one Christian’s promise to remain faithful even in death. But that promise should be given by all Christians, young and old, all the time.

Until recent history, within the last 150 years, we Lutherans didn’t have Confirmation as a rite in the Church. Instead the pastor examined his flock to see that they knew the gospel and were teaching their children. Some of you may recall or may recall your grandparents talking about announcing their intent to commune by going to the pastor’s house or study on Saturday evening. That was examination, or as our Confessions call it, Private Confession and Absolution.

So at best, Confirmation is merely the pastor examining the congregation to see what they know about the gospel and that they are continuing in in the preaching and teaching of Christ and His Apostles. At worst it becomes some Rite of Passage whereby we earn the right to commune or earn the right to anything. I fear this is what it is among us Lutherans today. Which is why folks get upset when I examine those I don’t know before they commune. Their confirmation is thrown up at pastors as if the person earned a life-long pass to the Sacrament because they were confirmed in the 8th grade. Never mind that they no longer can recite the Chief Parts of the Catechism or abandoned their vows and attend some congregation that either denies the Sacraments or the Office of the Holy Ministry, or, as is more often the case, that they never go to church.

But what is needed to receive the Sacrament and participate in Christ? Faith. Faith in these words, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. Thank God even a little child has such faith as our Lord says, “Unless you have the faith of a child you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.” Ask the little ones of Jesus what is that we eat and drink here at Church. If they don’t say, “The body and blood of Jesus” or some similar wording, then their parents are doing their job or the children are not listening. But the ones that do confess rightly, according to the words of the Bible, what prevents them from receiving what the Lord gives? Their age? Their intellectual acumen? These things are not written. They'

The Christian life is not about advancing in morality or becoming a better and better person, though certainly we might pray for such a thing. Rather, the Christian life is living life in the waters of holy baptism. For we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment. But it is not merely that we do things called “sin” but that we are sinners because we are born of a sinner, Adam. You’re not an American because you do American things. You’re American because you were born an American. Either by birth or by naturalization, but either way, being a citizen of the United States isn’t about what you do or don’t do, it’s about being born in or you might say, by, America.

So it is with sinners. You’re not a sinner because you do sinful things. You do sinful things because you are a sinner. For flesh gives birth to flesh.

But you are also a saint, a holy one. For you are born again by the Holy Spirit. So you have this law at work within you: when you want to do good, evil is right there fighting against you. And the good that you would do you don’t do, and the evil you don’t want to do, you find yourself doing it over and over again! Who will save you from this body of death?

Christ Jesus our Lord, that’s who. He saves you by washing you with His Spirit, not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a clean conscience by the resurrection of Jesus (1 Peter 3:21) who has gone into heaven before you and who is Lord of heaven and earth.

And this same Jesus who is the crucified one, who is risen from the dead and reigns over all things seen and unseen, who is Lord and Master, this same Jesus now brings you into the heavenly places were He feeds you spiritual food and speaks to you spiritual words, having washed you with spiritual water. And who sends forth the Spirit that proceeds from the Father to gather His people together to bless you with His benediction and to keep you firm in His word and faith until you die.

The baptized are not those who have succumbed to some ancient ritual or superstition, they are those who have been washed of God, chosen to be bearers of His Spirit, called to be holy ones amid a world of unholy things; a people of His own choosing made ready for the resurrection on the Last Day when both the Lord Jesus and His holy ones will be made manifest before the whole world, giving glory to God the Father.

This holy gathering, made holy by the Holy Spirit who gathers us by the gospel, this holy gathering isn’t a gathering of mere men, women, and children who want to please God or who think they have to go to church to be a Christian. This holy gathering is the kingdom of God seen by those who are born of the Spirit.

In Nomine Iesu