"Hear, O my people, while I admonish/testify/warn you!" / Sermon / Pr. Lucas Albrecht / Confirmation Sunday / June 3rd 2018 - / Psalm 81:1-10
Text: Psalm 81:1-10
Theme: “Hear, O my people, while I admonish/testify/warn you!” (v.8)
Intr – Psalm 81, on our lectionary for today, seems to guess our festivity, Confirmation Sunday, as the psalmist writes: “Sing aloud to God our strength; ishout for joy to the God of Jacob! Raise a song; sound jthe tambourine, the sweet lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet at lthe new moon, at the full moon, on our feast day.” Then the author makes reference to the past acts of God. As is usual in the OT, when you remember what God has done in the past, you have all the reason to praise Him and celebrate.
That’s our case today as well, as we have 9 confirmands professing their faith in the 11AM Service. As we look over our shoulders to the past two years we see God’s actions in their life, and their families as well.
As we read Psalm 81 a bit further, we see that it is even more connected to our celebration today. Verse 8 reads: “Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” That’s precisely the main objective of every single Confirmands’ class along a 24 month period. Actually, this is at the centre of our Christian life, not only each Sunday here at Church, but as we walk daily guided by his Hand.
I looked into several possible translations for the hebrew verb ayad, “admonish” here, and it couldn’t be more fitting for our theme today:
Testify – “Serve as evidence or proof of something's existing or being the case.” This is also the verb used in the German Bible, zeugen.
Admonish – “warn or reprimand someone firmly; advise or urge (someone) earnestly; warn (someone) of something to be avoided.”
Warn – “to inform someone in advance of an impending or possible danger, problem, or other unpleasant situation; give someone forceful or cautionary advice about their actions or conduct.” In Portuguese, you’ll find the similar verb “to exhort”, as well as in French, “t’avertirai”
When we hear the Lord saying in the second part of verse 8: “If you would but listen to me”, we are dealing with what learning the Word of God is all about: the first thing is not to talk, but to listen; it’s not to say what it means to me (because it can be too subjective sometimes) but to listen to the meaning of the text; it’s not to apply the way I think it should be applied but the way the Lord intended it to be used. It all flows from hearing the Lord – with hearing meaning “paying attention to His Words”, even if you have partial or complete hearing loss.
Now, what do you think? Did our Confirmands hear the Lord, while He admonished, testified, warned them – while Jesus taught them through Pastor Giese and our associate teachers Cindy and Barb? Well, why don’t we verify it? Why don’t we have them letting us hear the Lord through the words they’ve learned along the way? I will make use of excerpts from the final papers they wrote and presented last Thursday at our Confirmation Family Night, on the main Biblical teachings as compiled by Dr. Luther in His Small Catechism. We can all have a quick walk through the basic truths of our Christian faith.
1 – TEN COMMANDMENTS
We begin with the Law of God: the Ten Commandments. Let us hear what two of them have to share with us about them.
“The ten commandments are God’s Law. We are told to fear the Lord our God and to love Him. Love toward God and Love toward others. To love God, we serve Him with all our heart and soul.(...) Though we may sin and not always follow the Law, we try our hardest and when we fail we must ask God for forgiveness(...) If someone asked me to pick only one commandment that is important at this stage in my life which one would that be? I know that all the commandments are equally important, but I would say at this stage in my life I would pick the second commandment “You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God“. The reason I say that, is many kids at my age, when mad or they get hurt uses the LORD’s name in vain....” (Kaitlyn MacLeod)
“Overall the 10 commandments are great rules that if you follow them correctly you could be a great person. Don’t worry if you accidentally break a rule though because everybody has broken a commandment except Jesus. And if you do break a commandment Jesus will always be willing to forgive you.” (Liam Colhoun)
As an additional note, I’ll add here an emphasis on the 3rd commandment, “Keep the Sabbath day holy”, which is broached by Jesus on today’s Gospel. Perhaps the common sense these days is that weekends are for rest; lay back and do nothing. Or maybe, adding all sorts of activities, from sports to outings – which are not forbidden by God by the way. But the actual teaching of the 3rd commandment is about actively sanctifying the day. That means actively dedicating time in our life to nourish our soul, both here in the Church or wherever we may be. Again, this connects to our theme today: To listen to the Lord, to have quality time for Him. How many times do we hear about having quality time to foster the relationships that really matter in our life? This applies also to the main relationship we have in life – our Saviour and Friend Jesus Christ.
2 – THE APOSTLES’ CREED
The Law of God shows us what we should do. We should. But we can’t. We can’t be perfect. So we need to hear what God did and does for us. That’s why next to the 10 Commandments comes the Apostles’ Creed. The Confirmands help us now this way:
“The creed was written to express who we believe in and our belief in what happened. Christians all over the world still say the creed today and use it to teach what the Bible teaches... The creed can be broken down into 3 Articles: Article 1 is creation, Article 2 is redemption and Article 3 is sanctification.” (Kyden Wagner)
“This means a lot to me because it’s more than a Creed to me it is a prayer I can say anytime, if I need to, The Apostles’ Creed is what we believe, teach and confess like it says in Romans 10:10, “for with the heart one believes and is justified and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” When I pray this creed as a prayer I can trust God that I have what the creed says I have, “the forgiveness of sins.” (Layne Ermel)
The Apostles’ Creed is the easiest, shortest, simplest way we all have to answer to anyone who asks us: “So you are a Christian, eh? A Lutheran Christian. What is this that you guys believe after all?”
3 – LORD’S PRAYER
While on earth, Jesus taught us how to pray. This is the perfect prayer. One of the Confirmands, then, will help us to further our understanding about it:
“In relation to the bible the Gospel of Matthew 6:9-13 tells us of the Lord’s Prayer, “This then is how you should pray.” The Lord’s Prayer is very important in relation to my Christian life and relationship to God. It is important because it is a very thorough prayer and when you use it in prayer you know you’re not leaving anything out. It is also important in my relationship with God because Jesus made this prayer, this is why we know it’s the best prayer. It is important in my relationship with others because it tells us to forgive the trespasses of others, which means we should be forgiving of others as the Lord is to us.” (Ben Davis)
4 – OFFICE OF THE KEYS
We actually didn’t have a text about this part last Thursday, but I’ll add it here. The office of the Keys could be a Sacrament. The only reason for not being is that it doesn’t have a visible element (like water, and bread and wine). But it has divine Command and grants pardon, which are the two other legs of this three legged stool called Sacrament.
In the Office of the Keys we are taught about God’s forgiveness. It is the power the Church and Christians received from Jesus both to forgive and to retain sins. Of course, this is not a power we have in us, but it stems from Christ’s Authority and His Word. So the Office of the Keys is the specific teaching about the wonderful news of the forgiveness of our sins we have in Jesus.
5 – BAPTISM
Next part: Baptism, water and the Word, one of the Sacraments. Let’s hear what the Confirmands have to share with us:
“When I was little and just starting Sunday school, I learned that when you get baptized it was like the doors of heaven open and you can have a relationship with Christ. Then when you get the opportunity to have that relationship, you can be forgiven... But wait…have you ever thought about how water with God’s word combined being poured on your head can give you eternal life and save you from sins?? Well this is the answer: the water provides rebirth and you are being cleansed with God’s word which gives you renewal.” (Alicia Gould).
“The power of baptism not only affects us, but also our relationship with the people around us. By being baptized, being forgiven and repenting our sins, we become better people and are more likely to forgive others and be sorry for the things we have said, done, or thought. This, and our commitment to God, allow us to have better relationships with people because we’re able to take into consideration their feelings. It may also inspire others to believe in God and repent their sins. Lastly as a baptised child of God, if someone’s going through a tough time we could pray to God for them and try to help them so that they feel better. Being baptized and believing and having faith in God has made my life so much better.” (Katarina McNutt)
6 – HOLY SUPPER
The last part is the Holy Supper, bread and wine, body and blood, the other Sacrament. Today is the first time our Confirmands will receive it. They studied about it quite a bit, and here’s a bit of what they’ve shared:
“Holy Communion doesn't seem like anything much. All you do is go up, kneel down and have a snack right? Well, no because there is a lot of purpose and meaning to communion, or The Sacrament of the Altar... It is the blood and body of our Lord Jesus Christ, under the bread and wine... What is the point of having communion? Christ gives us His blood, body and the forgiveness of sins. Even if someone doesn't believe, they will still receive Holy Communion because it depends on Christ’s word, not our faith. We should do Sacrament of the Altar as often as possible because Christ commands us to by saying “This do in remembrance of me,” and His words “Give and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins” offer us great blessing” (Noah Bodnar)
“Can just anyone have the Sacrament of the Altar? Who receives this sacrament worthily?The catechism teaches us that the person who is truly worthy and well prepared is the person who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” That means that they really believe that it is what Jesus says that it is and that it really is for them. But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe...”(Drew Mucha)
Today is a Festival Day. We are celebrating God’s good gifts, God’s grace, God’s love for us in Christ. We celebrate the life of 9 Confirmands that confess with their own mouth that Christ is their Saviour. But we all can do the same. We can do the same today in our mind, in our hearts. We can remember our Baptism, remember our learning process, not only in confirmation, but along our life. Above all, we can all remember and pay attention to the words of our Lord, as on Psalm 81: “Hear me while I admonish you”.
There will be times in your life though in which you will be tempted to think differently from this. Something like: “Why would you listen to God through the Church? It is sort of an outdated institution. It is for old folks who like to keep tradition. Today things are different. You gotta listen to such and such folks, they have got it together”.
Please, bear in mind:
_Why would you exchange the Scripture for the words of others? If, like some say, the Bible is just the word of men, why would we exchange it for words of other imperfect people, since the Bible has been around quite a while proving itself to be true and useful time and time again?
_Another aspect: We are in sort of a “feel it” generation, so if you come to church, or if you try to feel God with you during your week and you just can’t feel anything special, don’t lose heart. Just because you are not feeling it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening; doesn’t mean that it is not true.
_And, remember that God’s Word doesn’t only warn you or exhort you, which may sound like God is always mad or angry. Remember the different meanings (remember Paul’s counsel to Timothy). The Word of God is profitable for teaching, for correction, warning, testifying. The word encourages you, strengthens you; keeps your faith alive. Above all, the Word of God, through Christ, saves you and takes you home, to live with Him eternally.
Cc – Sometimes people say things that sound like this: “I go only by my own opinions”. Or: “You have to think with your own mind, and have your own thoughts”. Of course we need to learn, grow, think and articulate our thoughts. But that would be a great advice if….that was possible. Everybody is affected by someone; we were, we are, and we will be always influenced by what we hear, read, listen, watch, browse. That’s why I repeat here the Great advice from Psalm 81, which comes from no other than the Lord Himself: “Hear, O my people, while I admonish you! O Israel, if you would but listen to me!” That’s truly great advice. Because makes you believe, think, act and live not only for this life. It confirms you into eternity.
Mc 2.23-28 (3.1-6) - Prof. Dr. Vilson Scholz - 2º Domingo após Pentecostes - (Perícope)
 Whenever you think you are lacking words to talk to the Father - and even when you do -, don’t hesitate to use it. There’s no more complete prayer than the one Jesus Himself taught us.
 Think of the food you eat everyday: even though you don’t know how it nourishes your body, even though you don’t feel a super duper something every time you sit down to eat, it doesn’t mean you are not being nourished. The Word of God does the same, and even more. As long as you are near to it, hearing it, receiving it, you are being nourished by His love to stand still and strong in face of the challenges life will present you;