Summary: Jesus asks his disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" At a young person’s confirmation s/he has the opportunity to say with Peter, "You are the Christ."
Confirmation Sunday Matthew 16:13-18 19 May 2002
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.
Today is Confirmation Sunday, a day that is part of a long Lutheran tradition. Some churches have pictures of Confirmation classes on their walls that go back as many as 80 years. It is a day filled with much honour and not a little apprehension. Some of you confirmands may have been regaled with stories of public questioning and massive amounts of memorization. It is a tradition of hot spring Sundays, packed churches with relatives traveling miles to be with you today. Parents and sponsors, grandmothers and grandfathers will be straining to hear your unique voice as you affirm your baptism and recite the Creed. All wanting to hear your answer to Jesus’ question, “Who do you say that I am?”
People have always had lots to say about Jesus. Some recognized his power and imagined him as the one sent to rescue Israel, the Messiah for whom they all longed. Some today imagine Jesus as the one to solve all of life’s problems, the great Tylenol for whatever pain we suffer. The one who will save our world from whatever it is that troubles us this week.
Some look at Jesus and see one who heals. We look around and see TV evangelists marketing Jesus from elaborate TV sets, dispensing healing and miracles in direct proportion to the donations sent in. Do a Google search on the Internet for Jesus and you will find 11.7 million hits.
Some see Jesus as the Mr. Fix it of the spiritual world, dashing about, sanitizing lives, removing pain, suffering and hardship if we only pray hard enough.
Some see Jesus as the answer person, waiting for the right word to apply so that all discomfort will disappear.
God gives us different words. The story of Jesus in the Bible is one of suffering and death. Not long ago we read the story of Jesus death on Good Friday. It is a story of failure, weakness, suffering and death on a cross. This is the story of one who died for the unlovely, the unlovable. One whose body was pierced for you and me. But Jesus did not stop there. To the cross he adds resurrection. To failure he adds words for you and me, the message that we heard at our baptism, “you are chosen, you are my child, the one I love.”
God’s words for us today are words of hope and victory in midst of failure, weakness, suffering and death. We are loved no matter what, we will never be forsaken.
This is a day of words. As confirmands you will speak words of commitment, affirmation, high hopes, and celebration. We as parents, God-parents, relatives and friends will mouth the words with you.
Today we remember the words spoken by parents and sponsors at your baptism. That day we spoke for you, making promises to bring you to this day when you can speak the words of commitment for yourself. Words that will help you live as God’s people into the future:
- to live among God’s faithful people
- to hear his Word and share his supper
- to proclaim the good news of God in Christ through word and deed
- to serve all people, following the example of our Lord Jesus,
- and to strive for justice and peace in all the earth
These words are a tall order. These are promises which are beyond the ability of any of us to fulfill on our own. These are proud promises today, yet promises which we as adults know, looking back on our Confirmation day are easy to forget. Promises like those of Peter who said, "I’ll never deny you!" yet did three times. Promises like those of James and John, "Let us sit at your right and your left" without any idea of what that would mean for them.
Yet words when spoken in the light of God’s acceptance of each one of us become a possibility. Words bringing with them the promise of forgiveness readily available for all of us to try again to live up to our confirmation promises when we fail.