Summary: The truth of Christ sets us free.
I have a question that I think you can help me with, Michael. I have some climbing equipment here that I’m not sure what to do with. What I mean is if I were on the edge of a 100m cliff and wanted to rappel down, how would I use this equipment? Of course, I would need to put the climbing harness on and ensure that the rope is secured correctly to it. But that’s not all is it? I would also need to anchor myself. If I’m not anchored correctly, a strong rope and a good harness won’t do much good. So what would serve as a good anchor in the chancel area where I am standing? The massive pulpit would do nicely wouldn’t it? It certainly would support my weight if I were to rappel down from it.
You know all this stuff about climbing, Michael, because you took some rock-climbing courses didn’t you? Well for the last two years you’ve been taking some other very important classes. Classes that have given you skills that are more crucial than knowing how to conduct a safe belay up or down a mountain. I’m talking, of course, about your confirmation instruction. There we delved into the Bible to strengthen the faith God gave us at Baptism. On your confirmation day today I want to encourage you to anchor yourself to this truth – the truth that comes from Christ, and the truth that sets you free.
Why did you say before that the pulpit, and not the communion rail, would serve as a good anchor for a rappel? It’s pretty obvious isn’t it? This communion rail is flimsy. Look at how it shakes. The pulpit, on the other hand, is big and solid. There’s a reason our pulpit is built this way. It’s rock-solid to remind us that the Word of Christ preached from here is solid and can be trusted. That’s the point Jesus made when he said in our text: “If you hold to my teaching… you will know the truth” (John 8:31b, 32a). Whenever we had a question about God, creation, heaven and hell, sin and salvation, or about the end of the world where did we turn in confirmation class? We turned to the Bible didn’t we? We did that because the Bible tells us the truth about all those things.
Although it may be obvious to you now that Jesus speaks the truth, Michael, that belief will be challenged if it hasn’t been already. You’ll have classmates and teachers who scoff at the Bible. They’ll tell you that Jesus didn’t exist or if he did, they’ll say he didn’t do the things the Bible says he did. They’ll also tell you that God didn’t create you, nor is there life after death. Accordingly they will insist that you make the most of your life here. They’ll advise you to use your intelligence and ingenuity to enjoy life not waste it by going to church.
Listening to such people would be like anchoring yourself to this flimsy (communion) rail. Sure life without God may be fun for a while. You may even make a lot of money and become famous. But what happens when the money disappears and the fame fades? Without a solid anchor you will fall into despair.
It’s not just the advice of unbelievers that’s dangerous; counsel from fellow Christians can be harmful as well. You may be surprised to hear me say that but many who claim to be disciples of Jesus have added or taken away from his rock-solid Word. Anchoring yourself to false teaching, even if it is mixed with the truth, is like anchoring yourself to choss (rock climbing slang for loose or bad quality rock). Choss looks like solid rock but because it’s mixed with sand, it crumbles quickly under pressure. Therefore anchor yourself to the truth - all of it, and your faith will withstand even the worst storms of life.
But now it’s not just the quality of your anchor that matters; the quantity of time you spend tethered to the anchor is also important. What I mean is a good anchor is useless if I unhitch my harness halfway into a rappel. If I did, I would fall! Why is it then that so many confirmands do just that? They spend two years of their confirmation instruction faithfully tethered to the anchor of God’s Word, but soon after confirmation they unhitch their harness when they stop coming to church and reading God’s Word on their own. As a result many have fallen from the faith. I have no doubt, Michael, that you have anchored yourself to the truth. You have expressed your belief and trust in God’s Word openly, even eloquently this morning. What about next week though, and the week after that? Will you continue to come to church to hear God’s Word and to receive the sacrament? Will you stay for Bible study so that your connection to the anchor is strengthened? That’s not just my prayer for you; it’s what Jesus wants for he said in our text that those who are truly his disciples will continue in his teachings (Jn. 8:32).