Sermon for the Twentyfirst after Pentecost
Confirmation

Text: Isaiah 43:1
Israel, the Lord who created you says, "Do not be afraid – I will save you. I have called you by name – you are mine.

"You are mine"

Friends,

This is a special day for our six young people who are sitting in the front row on this their confirmation day. They have been preparing for this day throughout the year and have been led on a journey of discovery and reaffirmation of their knowledge and faith in Jesus as their Lord and Saviour.  What I say today I hope will be a message that will especially be important to them but not only for them but it will be a message that we can all take with us in our continuing journey through life with Christ. 
There is never a time when we can stop appreciating the relationship that God has with us through Christ that for most of us was first established at our baptism.
There is never a time when we can stop affirming our commitment and rselove to follow Christ and be his disciples serving and witnessing to his love through our lives.

L, K, J, M, C and N this is an exciting day for you and it would be easy to focus totally on you and the confirmation ceremony and highlight the important commitment that you are about to make as you stand before us all and promise to be faithful disciples of Jesus. 

I could also spend quite a while focussing on the encouragement and the prayers that we, as members of the congregation, are committing ourselves to as we witness your Confirmation Day and urge everyone here to not forget to keep on praying for you and being good role models for you as take on some responsibilities within the congregation. 

These would all be worthwhile things but let’s get things into perspective.  This whole day begins with the grace of God.  You would not be here at this service, you would not have been baptised, and there wouldn’t even be a congregation here to witness any of this if it wasn’t for the grace of God.

We are going to watch a video clip.  Some of you saw this at Easter but it’s worth seeing again because it is a powerful reminder of the grace of God.  Jesus meets Peter after the resurrection and is confronted with his shameful denial of Jesus during his trial.

See this video at https://skitguys.com/videos/item/grace or http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhoFEuw2GPA

That’s a powerful ending.  I have seen that video dozens of times and I can't help but be moved by this conversation between Jesus and Peter.

At the Last Supper Peter had boldly stated that he would rather die than turn against Jesus.  A promise that he wasn’t able to keep.  Three times he failed in his commitment to own up to being a disciple of Jesus. 

Now on the seashore Jesus asks Peter three times “Do you love me?” Three times Jesus gives Peter the task of “feeding his sheep” – in other words, to continue the work that the “Good Shepherd”, Jesus himself, has begun – caring and loving the people of the world and sharing with them the grace of God and the eternal life that God offers to one and all. 

Jesus reminds Peter of the message of the angel and how he is specifically mentioned as a person who needs to be told that everything is OK and he will meet him in Galilee. 
Jesus knew how badly Peter was feeling about his failure to stand up and boldly confess Jesus as his friend. 
Jesus knew how he had left the courtyard of the High Priest and wept bitterly because he had let Jesus down.
Jesus knew what happened to Peter would be a valuable message for all his followers in the future who would fail in the future to be loyal and faithful.

In the video we saw how agitated Peter is as he adamantly declares that he doesn’t deserve Jesus’ love. It will take him all his life to make up for what he did that night.  People kept coming up to him and he kept denying he ever knew Jesus.  It was an unforgiveable thing he had done. 

He had made a commitment to follow Jesus even if it meant death and he had failed to keep that promise.  

At that moment Jesus stops him saying, “No, no.  What I did on the cross was to take what is unforgiveable and make it forgivable.  That’s my grace.  It’s not about you.  It’s always about me.  That’s grace, Peter”.

At the bottom and in the background of your confirmation today is the grace of God.  No doubt at some time in the future you will have to make some choices like Peter did that night in the High Priest’s courtyard.  Perhaps it might not be anything as dramatic as Peter’s experience but then whom am I to say that it won’t be.  There may come the day when you will be asked if you are follower of Jesus and how you answer will have consequences that will frighten you just as it did for Peter.  I hope that being a Christian is never a terrifying thing.  Yesterday was All Saints Day – 1st November – a day when the church remembers all those who have had to give up their life because of their faith in Jesus.

More often those choices will be much more ordinary but not any easier.  They will be about following God’s ways or what others want or what your want.  The questions that will confront you will be more like,
“Will I choose God’s ways or will I follow my own way,
or follow what everyone else is doing,
or forget Jesus and his amazing grace for me and live as if Jesus had never done anything for me?” 

Take it from someone whose confirmation day was a long time ago, these kinds of choices have to made all along the way.  Just because I’m a pastor doesn’t mean that it’s an easy road following Jesus.  No-one is exempt – not even Jesus own disciples as we saw in Peter before.

L, K, J, M, C and N, when you make your confirmation promises in a moment I don’t doubt that you really mean the promises you make today.  You intend to the best of your ability to follow Jesus,
to read the Bible and learn as much as you can about God’s ways for your life,
to attend worship services and Holy Communion,
and to be the best person that God wants you to be. 
Those of us who have been confirmed can recall the confidence that we had when we made those promises on our confirmation day.

And as certain as I am of your confidence today, I’m also certain that there will be times when you will say with the disciple Peter, “I have really messed things up, Jesus, and what I have done is completely and totally unforgiveable.  I keep on denying you in what I do and how I speak to others and the decisions I make.  I want to be different but I can’t.  I’m a complete failure living up to my confirmation promises”.

Fortunately, Jesus is much better at keeping his promises than we are.  At your baptism, Jesus made a promise to you. “I have called you by name – you are mine” to use God’s words written in Isaiah.  

Like he did to Peter when he had failed so miserably, your living Lord and King comes to you quietly and says,
"L, K, J, M, C and N, you are mine.  I know your name.  You will always be my precious child.  I died on the cross to make forgivable what is unforgivable. That’s my grace.  It’s not about you in the end.  It’s always about me. That’s grace.”

It’s all about Jesus offering you his grace, placing it into your empty hands.  Accept that grace in faith.  To ignore that grace leaves you to deal with your mistakes and sins by yourself.

When you struggle to fulfil the promises you make today, or you begin to focus on your problems, your stuggles and your doubts, remember that you are God's precious child and the grace of God will get you through.

L, K, J, M, C and N God says to you, "I have called you by name – you are mine."  They declare God's unfailing love for you every step along the way through life. 

 

© Pastor Vince Gerhardy
2 November 2014
E-mail: gerhardy65@hotmail.com

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