A Feast Greater than Pignic, Philippians 4:4-13, Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (Confirmation, Outdoor Service), July 7, 2019
156 years ago this past week, from July 1, 1863 – July 3, 1863, the nation was convulsed in the most divisive time in our history. During those three days of the Civil War, over 50,000 men were killed, wounded, or captured on the battlefields of Gettysburg.
That is more casualties than Iraq and Afghanistan combined, and we racked that up in a single three day battle. A name written on a tombstone in the miles of cemeteries at Arlington, or at Gettysburg, or even at the Biloxi National Cemetery right down the road, is glorious, but this morning I am here to tell you, even more glorious is in Baptism our name is written in heaven.
What does it mean that in Baptism our names are written in heaven? The great accuser definitely wants to use the idea of our own importance against us. He will suggest that our names in the book of life have little black marks next to them. But he is simply playing on our pride. Our sins are not bigger than Jesus blood, and the righteousness that He has earned for us in His death and resurrection. Our name in the book of life is written in the very blood of Jesus, and it is there because He has made you perfect in His death and resurrection.
Baptism is important. It’s what makes us Christians. It establishes God’s promise to us. Our confession, repentance, and the absolution which follows does not establishing the forgiveness of God. We live in that because of our Baptism! Yet, it is in our repentance and confession that we are living out that reality.
And we live out our Baptism as we do things like dedicating outdoor space as Holy Ground, teaching and confirming, saying goodbye to brothers and sisters, sending youth to worship with each other, and even joining in fellowship and dining on a little pig named Arnold.
Quite a few people have worked long and hard on this area where we gather this morning. My first thought was that I sure hope we don’t mess up the young grass. Upon reflection, I have determined that when Jesus comes back on the last day I hope He finds this grass worn down, not because of lack of watering or care, but because we use this area so often for His glory.
Just as I pray Jesus finds the carpet in our church threadbare, the doors scratched and worn, and the church showing the signs of hard use. It is supposed to be His space to serve His kingdom, not just our treasure.
The world might suggest that we join a church, or that the people are here because they chose to be here. It is easy to slip out of the language of being called and gathered by the Holy Spirit. It is all too easy to speak of “my church”. If we do it often enough, even though we might admit that you don’t really own the church, we sound like we do, and deep down we might even start believing it.
Today we live out our Baptism as we join in celebration with Kaitlyn and her confirmation. Today is the day that she is ready to make a public confession of the faith into which she was baptized into. This morning we will hear that she has been taught in the faith, and she is ready to promise to be faithful to her Lord and Savior.
To be terribly brief, confirmation means that something is made firm, made certain and sure. How are we made firm at confirmation? We confess our faith given in our Baptism and make a promise.
Despite all the work and time Kaitlyn has put into it, it is God who does the confirming. This Spirit fills Kaitlyn, and each of us, with life anew. Fortunately, God provides forgiveness when we break our vows. Thank God that His vow to us in Baptism and in His Word is never broken. Through His Word, and in light of our Baptism, God strengthen us and helps us to keep our promise.
Despite the common misconception, confirmation is not the final fix that takes care of us for the rest of life. The devil tries hard to lead us astray. He has his own ways to get at each of us individually: whether it be rationalizations, hard times, temptations, rejection or ridicule of our faith and even poor health.
There is something we can do when this happens. We can pray, and go to His Word and Sacraments, because through them God breathes His life into each of us again and again. Jesus is not physically present to breathe on us, as He did in that upper room with His first disciples, but He still breathes on us in our Baptism. He breathes on us through His Word. He breathes on us as we receive His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper.
Kaitlyn, as you get ready today to make your confession of faith and speak your vow, and those of us who have already been confirmed remember our own confirmation, we all can think about, and thank God for how He has breathed His life into us. That’s what it means to have your name written in heaven!
I recently learned that there are two types of tape. Now, I know you are thinking there are way more than two types of tape. There is narrow tape, medium tape, and wide tape. I am particularly fond of the narrow black tape called electrical tape, and the wide silver duct tape. I use them all the time and I can fix almost anything with them, or so it seems.
However, I have learned that all tape has two types of adhesive. And just in case you always wanted to know, there is what is called initial stick and lasting stick. Now initial stick you can find on masking tape, scotch tape or post-it notes. This tape doesn’t stay on very long and it easily rubbed off. The adhesive just isn’t that good.
But there is another kind of tape that has lasting stick. This kind of tape doesn’t stick real well at first, but as time goes by, the glue gets harder and harder. In fact, it gets so hard that after a while, you have to chip it off like hard cement. You find this kind of tape used in campers and airplanes.
Well, it seems to me that there are two types of Christians; those who first believe and then gradually fall away, and secondly those who believe and their belief becomes stronger and stronger as the years pass by. Initial stick and lasting stick. Which are you? Just to go through confirmation with pastor is not enough. To have initial stick is not enough. We need lasting stick.
As we prepare for our Pignic Feast today, we also note that throughout scripture, God’s people always celebrated important events with feasts. Yet all these feasts pointed forward to a greater feast. Every time we feast with family and friends we are reminded of this ultimate feast when one day we will celebrate with all of God’s people around the throne of God. It will be the ultimate reunion, feasting and celebrating with family and friends that are in heaven today.
Most importantly, we will see Jesus face to face. The sin that has been defeated on the cross will be removed. There will be no more initial stick, no more broken vows, no more sorrow or pain but everlasting celebration in the presence of Jesus, a true everlasting stick. Even our celebration today, is only a shadow of the feast that is in store for us.
“Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, Rejoice!” This is the Master’s invitation, come to the feast! Our eternal banquet hall is prepared. God’s forgiving love calls us to lasting stick, and food and fellowship and His eternal feast. There is where we find life in our Baptism, defense against the enemy, shelter from life’s storms, and rejoice in the feast that the Lord provides.
Most of all, we rejoice together in our fellowship with Christ. Paul drew strength from that fellowship constantly, and it carried him above the anxieties of earthly life, anxieties he had experienced often and severely, he said: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me” (11b–13). That’ll stick! Amen.