What does ‘freedom’ mean to you? We hear a lot about our freedoms during election years. But these days I find myself dreaming of a ‘freedom’ that lets us go where we want, gather in as big a group as we want, and not hear the words, ‘social distancing,’ or ‘masks.’
Don’t you long for the freedoms we had to pack into the gyms or stadiums and cheer on our favorite teams? Don’t you imagine hanging out with friends or packing into cars and going somewhere together? We can even long for the days when we can have the freedom to gather in worship in a full church building and sing to our hearts’ content. We long for the freedom to go to a restaurant, or stay for fellowship time after church, or go to a church supper without fear. Because of this awful Coronavirus it seems that the freedoms we have enjoyed, and have taken for granted, have disappeared—at least for the time being.
The idea of being free and doing what we want is suggested in Jesus’ words to us about being made free by the truth. Jesus said, “If you continue in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The truth which sets us free is none other than the truth of God in Jesus Christ. This is the truth of the Gospel which proclaims the faithfulness of God in sending his only Son to save us from our sins. In our Gospel, Jesus is proclaiming that freedom comes not through inde-pendence, but through de-pendence upon Jesus and His Word. The Bible never speaks of freedom as doing just what we want, or doing our own thing, or getting our way on things, or believing just what suits us. Sadly, some people spend lifetimes searching for some truth of their own which would let them sing along with Elvis and Sinatra, “I did it my way.”
Our worship today has a dual focus. We are celebrating the Lutheran Reformation which, begun by Martin Luther, reminds us of someone who searched for freedom and found it in the Bible. We have studied Luther and the Reformation in Confirmation class. Martin Luther was searching for freedom from the terrible guilt he felt over his sins. He was trying to free himself from what he thought was an angry God who was out to punish him. His freedom came in the discovery that only through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ did he find forgiveness. It wasn’t found in things he could do. It wasn’t found in appeasing an angry God through good works. It was, however, found by Luther in the sacrifice of Christ on his behalf. Luther found his freedom in Christ and then spent his life joyously serving this One who had died for him. It was on the eve of All-Saints’ Day, October 31, 1517, that Martin Luther began his Reformation by nailing his 95 Theses on the door of the castle church in Wittenberg, Germany.
This is also the day to celebrate the faith and lives of five youth who claim this as their Confirmation Day! We all celebrate with you as you commit your lives to Jesus Christ before this congregation today. Today is a day of new beginnings for you, confirmands, as today you step out on your own and assume responsibility for your faith. Your parents or family, along with Sunday school teachers, sponsors, and others have been faithful and brought you to this day. Now it is up to you to respond to the grace of Jesus Christ knowing that He is with you in all that you do, every moment of your lives. The freedom of the Gospel of Christ is yours now and always—and with that freedom comes responsibility—and great joy as you serve Jesus Christ.
Jesus has promised that as you serve Him you will come to know the truth and the truth will set you free. What is that freedom that Jesus promises you today? Is it the ability to do whatever you want or the right to do absolutely nothing now that you are ‘confirmed?’ Is your freedom the choice not to go to church—to bolt right through those doors at the conclusion of this service never to be seen in church alive again? Some people think so.
The freedom we enjoy as Christians has been bought with a price. That price was the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus came to earth to live among us, to know us and to deliver us from the sin and death that have bound us. When Jesus died on the cross, it was for you, and it was totally ‘undeserved and free.’ It was Christ’s gift of love for you. It was the fulfillment of His promise that you would be made free. You are free from sin and death, you are forgiven completely and fully of your sins—anything that you have done—or ever will do—can be forgiven by the gracious love of Jesus Christ.
The freedom Christ gives you has been yours since baptism. Those of you who are affirming your baptisms today are saying, “YES!” to the gift that has been given you. You’re saying “YES!” to the promises your parents and sponsors made for you in baptism. [Or, you are claiming a faith that has been shared with you from someone else.] You are saying, “YES! I believe! – I believe in the Promise of God and in His Son who has freed me from a life of sin and death and has given me new life in His grace.” You’re saying, “YES! I believe that the Holy Spirit will lead me and guide me throughout my life and help me keep my focus on Jesus Christ my Lord.”
The freedom Christ brings you will free you up to be the best person you can possibly be. You need not worry about impressing Jesus or having to be ‘cool’ around Him. You can let down your guard with Jesus and know that you are free to share all your thoughts and feelings with Him. You can be afraid, insecure, and uncertain around Jesus. You can be happy! You can be your crazy self! You can have fun and laugh! In other words, you can be yourself. You can be the person you are in your innermost thoughts. You can be sorry. You can ask Him to forgive you. And you can ask Him to help you and give you strength. You will never be condemned or rejected. You will always be heard, loved, and appreciated. You will be comforted when necessary. You will be challenged to change and grow at times as well. And always, always, you will be loved for who you are, not what you are perceived to be by anyone else!
So today you are starting out on a journey of new beginnings. This is a journey we are all on, and one in which we travel together. All of us here today are not alone on this journey, and we certainly are not expected to know all there is to know along the way. Confirmands, and all who are here today, I challenge you to continue to grow in your faith. Continue in the Word that you have been taught. Use those shiny, new Bibles you’re getting to continue your journey to know the Lord.
As these youth affirm their faith here today, I would challenge the rest of us here today to renew or reaffirm our faith. Make this a renewed time of commitment to Jesus and walk with our confirmation class down this journey of faith. The promise of Christ is for all of us. Let us all make this a day of Reformation in our hearts and minds and be reminded of the great gift of love Jesus has given us.