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August 02, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this eighth Sunday after Trinity comes from our epistle text where Paul tells the Romans, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends …

After a very long time coming, this is also the weekend that we confirm our nine confirmands – after a half-year of upheaval and consternation, we’re all thankful to be here! In light of that, for those of you who have already been confirmed in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, I want you to think back to the vows you took when you were confirmed:

“Do you this day in the presence of God and of this congregation acknowledge the gifts that God gave you in your Baptism?” Yes I do. “Do you renounce the devil, all his works, and all his ways?” Yes I do. “Do you believe in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as confessed in the Apostles Creed?” Yes I do.

“Do you hold all the prophetic and apostolic Scriptures to be the inspired Word of God?” I do. “Do you confess the doctrine of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, drawn from the Scriptures, as you have learned to know it from the Small Catechism, to be faithful and true?” I do.

“Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” I do, by the grace of God. “Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to the Triune God, even to death?” I do, by the grace of God. “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church, and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” I do, by the grace of God.

Those are the vows you took. Those are the vows that you’ll be taking in a matter of moments. These vows are confirming the faith that was given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism, whether you were an infant mere days or weeks old, an elderly child of God after weeks of instruction, or anywhere in between. Suffice it to say … what we are celebrating this weekend is not so much a culmination, as if one stops learning from God’s Word once those vows are taken; it is, go figure, a confirmation of the new life, the new identity, given to you in the waters of Holy Baptism. You are confirming that gift of faith in Jesus Christ, proclaiming that it is, indeed, what you believe and confess before the world. And that makes our epistle lesson from Romans perfect to consider.

I say that because, as I’ve said to all my students, there come days when that identity as a redeemed and adopted child of the Most High, a fellow heir with Christ … seems downright inaccurate. There are days when you don’t feel like a Christian. There are days when you realize just how wretched a sinner you really are, as you unintentionally or otherwise hurt your loved ones and neighbors in careless thoughts, thoughtless words, and destructive deeds. That certainly doesn’t sound like the life of a forgiven child of God! To our ears, that sounds more like, as Paul puts it, the conduct of those who live according to the flesh … who set their minds on the things of the flesh … whose minds are those hostile to God …. In those moments, our identity as the redeemed seems lost, leaving us to wonder if God actually claimed us as His own, if our baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus really did anything, and if Jesus’s blood really could atone for such a hostile, wretched, fleshly sinner like me ….

But is that what Paul is saying? This is, after all, the same Paul who told the Roman Christians a few lines before our text, “I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” Yup, even Paul wrestled against his sinful flesh, fully acknowledging – even after Jesus came to him IN PERSON – that he was a sinner.

No, our identity as Christians is not beholden to the idea that we always think, do, and say the right things. We are not Christian by virtue of our keeping of the Ten Commandments. We aren’t Christians by our ability (or complete lack thereof) to be perfect. We are Christian by virtue of one reason: the gift of faith which, first delivered in baptism, helps us trust that our sins are forgiven because of what Jesus did in His life, death, and resurrection. We’re the same lousy, rotten, no-good, stinkin’ sinners that we were before; the difference is that we acknowledge it, confess and repent of it, and trust that Jesus on the cross atoned, paid for, all our sin. That’s the faith we were given in baptism, and it’s that faith our confirmands are affirming as true and right, by the grace of God.

Paul himself exclaims, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” But then he immediately acknowledges where his help comes from, where his hope lies: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Baptized and confirmed Christians are not perfect, by any stretch of the imagination; I’m certainly not, and I know none of you are either! But our salvation, our standing before God is not dependent upon our ability to keep the commandments of God, but rather upon the faith, the trust that says “Amen! Let it be to me as You say, O Lord!” when God says, “In Jesus, My Son, your sins are forgiven, and I’ve claimed you as My own!”

From the moment you were conceived until you draw your final breath, you will be a sinner. However, God has the final word, and He has marked you with the sign of the cross on your forehead and heart to mark you as one redeemed by Christ, the crucified and resurrected Lord! In spite of what you may see, one lives according to the Spirit by trusting the promise that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. We are heirs with Jesus, my friends. That’s who we are … by the grace of God.

+ In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.