"The Lord Has Opened Your Mind"
Third Sunday of Easter
St. Luke 24:36-49 April 26, 2009
Confirmation of Derick Allen Meyer
Final Sermon at Zion Lutheran Church, Harbine, Nebraska
IN NOMINE JESU
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! AMEN!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ at Zion Lutheran Church, Harbine, Nebraska, especially Derick, my young brother in Christ, our risen Lord:
Here you are on what by far is the biggest day in your life to this point. In a few moments you will be standing before me, this congregation, and God Himself, publicly confessing the faith into which you became baptized and this same faith which you have been taught. The formal process of catechesis, which you are completing, is not always an easy one. Some parts of Luther's Small Catechism are harder to memorize than others. Some points of Christian doctrine and, consequently, Scripture are not as easy to understand as others. Is there anyone, pastor, layman, or catechumen, who can fully understand the Trinity? Any attempt we make to explain something that abstract in concrete terms is doomed to failure, for our finite minds cannot, and will never, comprehend an infinite God. We are His creatures, and He is our Creator. We will never be on equal terms with the One who made us. There are some things we will simply have to accept on the basis of faith, accepting them on the basis of Scripture.
You have learned that we cannot understand what the Scripture says unless it is explained—taught—to us. We are like the Ethiopian in Acts 8, who could not understand what he was reading until Philip explained to him that Christ is the Fulfillment of the prophecy spoken of by Isaiah. There the Ethiopian's mind was opened. He understood what the Holy Spirit caused Isaiah to say and write. Moved by this same Spirit, the Ethiopian desired to become baptized, which he did. Just as the Holy Spirit, through the prophet Isaiah and the deacon Philip, opened the Ethiopian's mind to understand the Scriptures, He has, through the pastors who have served here, opened your mind to understand the Scriptures as they have taught and preached in your hearing, for "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Rom. 10:17). The disciples, even after being with the Lord for three years, still did not understand the Scriptures until the Lord Himself "opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, 'Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things'" (vv. 45-48).
Even after being with the Lord for three years, the disciples still had to have the Lord come directly to them and open their minds to what His Word says, and that this written Word has been fulfilled in the Word who became flesh, the risen Lord Himself. Today you and I have the benefit of their witness to the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. We have that in His Word. This is how He makes Himself known to us. In our text, He dealt with His disciples directly. Today He does so through means—namely, His Means of Grace, for the strengthening of our faith. As we hear from the Lutheran Confessions: That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ's sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ's sake. [AC V]
For the reason given in (and just read from) the Augsburg Confession, I will be asking you in a few moments, "Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord's Supper faithfully?", to which you will respond, "I do, by the grace of God." I will also ask you a very important question: "Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?", to which you will again respond, "I do, by the grace of God" (LSB, p. 273). These questions necessitate your vowing by God's grace to do what they ask, for we are unable to withstand what the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature throw at us. Sex, drugs, underage drinking…temptations that surround and attack young Christians like you. You will be tempted by the allure of being anywhere but where the Lord has called you to be to receive His gifts—His house; it may seem really attractive to skip Divine Service once in a while by going out of town or even by staying home and sleeping in, which I call "worshiping at the 'Chapel of St. Mattress.'" You are likely to face pressures not even imagined by those of previous generations. As you get older, you might even be tempted to forsake the confession you will soon make here in favor of one of another denomination, perhaps out of convenience due to marriage or location. Such temptations can cause our minds to become closed to the Scriptures. There is no sin in merely being tempted; the sin is in our giving in to temptation. It is important—it is imperative—that you take to heart the answers you will give to the questions I will soon ask you, for words mean things, and these words are the vow you will publicly make before this congregation and me and to the God who created, redeemed, and sanctified you. When you make this vow, do not let your words ring empty, making yourself a liar, for St. Paul writes: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life" (Gal. 6:7-8).
It is also important for you to know that you are not alone in this fight. You are surrounded by fellow fighters and fellow witnesses. Your parents, sponsors, and fellow members here at Zion are fighting this same fight with you and for you. When Pastor Schauer begins serving the vacancy here next Sunday, he will do likewise, preaching and teaching God's Word, which is our greatest weapon. The Lord Himself quoted the Scriptures to withstand the temptations of the devil. If the Word is good enough for Him who authored it, it's certainly good enough for us who hear it. Not only do we have the written and spoken Word as our ally, we also have the Incarnate Word—God in the flesh—Jesus Christ, our Lord! He is our sure Defense, our Rock, our Fortress, and our Might. Doctor Martin Luther summed it up well in his great Reformation hymn and anthem of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church: With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected; But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected. Ask ye, Who is this? Jesus Christ it is. Of Sabaoth Lord, And there's none other God; He holds the field forever. [LSB 656:2]
Our Lord has fought the battle for us. He was tempted, just as you and I are. He has defeated sin, death, and hell forever. He took the battle to the top of Mt. Calvary, where He was killed, yes, crucified in battle for you and for me. He was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. He was beaten, bruised, and bloodied, all as part of the will of God, of your heavenly Father and mine. By His stripes we are healed. By His bloody death He has washed us clean through Holy Baptism and Holy Absolution. By His resurrection we have life with Him forever! Thanks be to God! At Pentecost the Father and the Son sent the Holy Spirit upon the apostles, now clothed with power from on high. At Baptism you became robed in the righteousness of Christ, baptized in and into the Name of the Triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Through His called and ordained servants of the Word in their preaching and teaching of this same Word, your mind has been opened to the Word, that you would hear and keep it, that you would trust in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. In our text, the risen Lord said to His frightened disciples, "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have" (v. 39). Next Sunday, you will get to behold His body and blood. Taste and see that the Lord is good, as the Psalmist writes: "Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him! Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. The young lions lack and suffer hunger; but those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing" (Ps. 34:8-10).
It is my prayer that you would, by the grace of God, continue steadfast and strong in this confession and in the Name of Jesus, and that your mind will always remain open to His Word, for the learning never stops—not even for pastors! "He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6); and "now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it" (1 Th. 5:23-24). The peace of the Lord be with you always!
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA! AMEN!
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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