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“What Does This Mean?”
Acts 2:12


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Pentecost Sunday—May 19, 2013

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Members of Holy Cross Lutheran Church; guests and visitors; friends, relatives, sponsors, and parents of the Confirmation Class: Kaleb, Bryce, Gracie, Katie, and Anna.  The text for your Confirmation message is from today’s Reading from the Book of Act.  On the first Pentecost the disciples are filled with the Holy Spirit, tongues of fire dance on their heads, and they speak the word of the Lord in many different languages.  “Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’”

Anyone who has studied Luther’s Small Catechism is very familiar with that question, “What does this mean?”  Each commandment, each article of the Apostles’ Creed, each petition of the Lord’s Prayer, is followed by Luther’s explanation, beginning with those words, “What does this mean?”

Luther continually asks that question in his Small Catechism because it is not enough simply to memorize, to be able to recite correctly without any feeling, to know the words, but not personally take them to heart and know what they really mean.  In the same way, it is not enough for you to be confirmed today without really knowing and believing and feeling in your heart what Confirmation means for you, for the rest of your life, and even beyond this life into eternal life.

This morning as you are confirmed, ask yourself, “What does this mean?”  Those of you have already been confirmed in the Christian faith, ask yourselves, “What does this mean?”  What does this mean for you, in your life, every day of your life?   What does this mean that you are confirmed?

Confirmation does NOT mean that you are better than anyone else, that you are any less of a sinner.  In fact, Confirmation actually means the opposite.  You know all too well what a poor, miserable sinner you are, unable to save yourself, justly deserving God’s temporal and eternal punishment.

Confirmation means you are heartily sorry for your sins, sincerely repent of them, and you pray God of his boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to you, a poor sinful being.

Confirmation means you believe God has given his only-begotten Son to die for you, you flee for refuge to his infinite mercy, seeking and imploring his grace for the sake of your Lord Jesus Christ.  Confirmation means you trust that for his sake God has mercy upon you and forgives you all your sins, through Jesus Christ your Lord.

Today we are celebrating Pentecost Sunday, when God miraculously filled the first disciples of Christ with the Holy Spirit.  In the Small Catechism, Luther’s explains in his explanation of the Apostles’ Creed how this miracle continues in us today: “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.”

Like those first disciples the Holy Spirit makes you today a disciple of Christ, miraculously filling you with faith.  The Holy Spirit’s power comes to you in the Word of God, the Holy Bible, giving you faith in the Good News that God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

The Holy Sprit’s power comes to you in Holy Baptism, through this Sacrament washing away your sins and making you born again as a believing child of God.  As Peter says in today’s Reading from the Book of Acts, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of  Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive  the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children.” 

You received Holy Baptism when your parents followed those words of the Apostle and brought you to receive this Sacrament. This morning you publicly confirm your personal faith in Jesus as your Savior, acknowledging the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism.

The Holy Sprit’s power comes to you in Holy Communion.   Today as you receive your First Communion we ask, “What does this mean?”  What does Holy Communion mean for you, not only the first time, but every time, throughout your life, as often as you eat and drink at the Lord’s altar?

Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  Holy Communion means Christ died for you, you are forgiven.  “Take, eat; this is my body, which is given for you. . . . this . . . is . . . my blood . . . shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

Holy Communion means that in, with, and under the bread and wine Jesus Christ is giving you his very body and blood, as a pledge to you of your salvation.  As Paul also says in 1st Corinthians, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”

In his explanation of Holy Communion in the Small Catechism, Martin Luther says, “In the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us . . . [for] whoever believes these words . . . ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins’ . . . has exactly what they say: ‘forgiveness of sins.’”  Through this cup of blessing you receive forgiveness of sins and the Holy Spirit’s power to strengthen you in the true faith unto life everlasting.  Holy Communion means that just as you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table here on earth, by his grace you will eat and drink at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.

“What does this mean?”  Confirmation does NOT mean graduation.  This is not the end of your growth as a Christian.  Today is the first day of the rest of your life in Christ, a life of worship, a life of prayer, a life of growth in God’s Word, a life of service to your Savior, a godly life worthy of the Gospel of Christ, a life of thanks to Christ because he gave his life for you.  That’s what Confirmation means for you, today, and every day.

Amen.

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