Pentecost 2, Proper 4, 2013 (June 2, 2013)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Luke chapter seven. We focus on the words, “Lord, I am not worthy that you would come into my house…but only speak the Word and my servant shall be healed.”
Those were the words of the centurion in our text. He recognized something very important about himself, something we can all learn from. Worthiness is the word. He did not consider himself worthy to be in God’s presence. But Jesus’ Word is all he really needed.
So what about you? Are you worthy to be in God’s presence? Are you worthy to be here, preparing to receive the Lord’s Supper for the first time?
Well, let’s review what might make you worthy. Did you get all your memory work done? Did you complete all your sermon studies, filling out each answer carefully and thoughtfully? How about answering questions? Did you get all of those right, or did you freeze up and freak out along the way?
What? You aren’t all perfect? After all the work your parents have done preparing you? After all the work that I’ve done as your pastor? I am shocked. Well, not really.
Friends, this is what we struggle with all the time as Christians. You aren’t worthy to be in God’s gracious presence. You didn’t do everything right in class. I daresay that you don’t do everything right in school, or at home, with your friends, or anywhere else. Now, don’t get me wrong. You have worked hard. All of you. But that isn’t what makes you worthy to be in God’s presence, or what makes you worthy to receive His Son’s body and blood in Holy Communion.
We said it together this week in your confirmation examinations, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him…” (Luther’s explanation to the Third Article of the Creed) It isn’t your smarts that makes you worthy, although you are all very smart. It isn’t your strength of will (or any other kind of strength) that makes you worthy. Left to your own devices, you don’t deserve to be here. Yes, I know. That sounds harsh. But remember, you aren’t alone in that. It is true not only for you, but for every one of us here today. As we prayed near the beginning of the service, “we have sinned in thought, word and deed by what we have done and by what we have left undone.”
No, as much as I might like to pick on you and point out how unworthy you are, it is really true for everyone here. A big part of being a Christian is really about learning that you aren’t a Christian because you’re so good, or because you’re better or smarter or more holy than anyone else. You, like all of us, deserve nothing but death and hell.
And that, friends, is where grace comes in. Grace means that God speaks the Word and you are healed. The words “I forgive you” ring out through the whole Bible. What God says something, it is true. The centurion in our text knew it. And now, by God’s grace, you know it as well. God’s Word makes you holy. God’s Word is what heals you. God’s Word is what gives you hope and life, the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and all of those many fifty-seven cent words we’ve spent the last two years learning together.
Today you receive and participate in the great gift of the Lord’s Supper. In ancient times Christians had a little prayer that they would pray as they prepared to receive Jesus’ body and blood. The prayer is actually from our text today. It goes like this, “Lord, I am not worthy that you would come into my house, but only speak the Word and my soul shall be healed.” When you see me kneeling behind the altar, receiving the Lord’s Supper, that’s what I’m saying. I would commend it to you, really to all of you, as a good way to begin your reception of Christ’s body and blood. ”Lord, I am not worthy that you would come into my house, but only speak the Word and my soul shall be healed.”
So now where do you fit into all of this, oh parents, friends, family members and congregation? These young women are about to confess the faith once delivered to the saints, and promise to suffer all things, even death, before denying Jesus and His death for their sins. It’s a big deal. And they can’t do it alone. The Holy Spirit has called them by the Gospel, and He has made us into the Church, which is Jesus’ very body. We as a congregation promise to pray for them, support them, and encourage them in the faith they confess today.
But you are no more up to the task than they are! It is all too easy to forget them once they are confirmed. It is all too easy to let them go out of sight and out of mind, to let them become one more set of statistics, more young people that we will “tsk, tsk, tsk” at and wish we had them in church still. May it never be so among us!
The only hope for them and for us is in Jesus Christ and His great mercy. But this isn’t a last, desperate move on the part of the Christian Church. That is always our hope. That is always where our trust lies. Today we rejoice not that they have graduated from Church school and now know all the answers. Today we rejoice that they confess the faith that God gave them in their baptisms. And as a part of this body, the Church, we can pray for them and encourage them in their journey along the way. And Lord willing, they will do the same for us in the years to come.
So this day, new confirmands and old confirmands, rejoice that you are worthy to come under His roof, because you are in Christ. In Christ, your life begins anew. You are worthy.
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.