Confirmation Sermon (Trinity Sunday)
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
2 Timothy 3:14-17 Sermon
June 3, 2007
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
131 “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty”
290 “Blessed Saviour Who Hast Taught Me”
291 “With Solemn Joy We Come, Dear Lord”
292 “O Take My Hand, Dear Father”
KNOWING WHAT YOU’RE DOING
TEXT: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
The day was March 26th of this year. I had my mother in the car with me, and we were on our way to her house after an appointment. As we passed by Stockwell Street, just several blocks from her home in the Country Club area of Lincoln, we saw a myriad of flashing lights and emergency vehicles.
From our vantage point on South 18th Street, we saw that a late model white Chrysler Concorde (or what was left of it) was wrapped around a pin oak tree in somebody’s front yard. It was very obvious something serious had happened.
Seventeen year old Ricky Turco had picked up three friends—Austin Jones, Josh Rice, and Megan Churchill from Lincoln High School. They had wanted to “go over the hill” as it is called, which refers to a section of Stockwell Street that crests a hill, and then drops rather sharply, giving sort of a roller coaster effect.
He turned on to Stockwell Street, which is a quiet residential street in a School zone. He then accelerated to speeds in excess of sixty miles per hour before cresting the hill, where the wheels of the car actually left the ground. When he got over the hill, there was a truck in front of him, so he swerved out of the way and wound up coming to a dead stop against a rather unforgiving pin oak tree.
Everybody went to hospital; however the accident wound up killing one of the passengers in the car, fifteen year old Megan Churchill. The rest, including Ricky Turco survived the incident.
One of the big problems with all of this, is that Ricky Turco doesn’t even have a drivers’ license. In fact, he’s never had one. According to an article which appeared in the April 6th Lincoln Journal Star, it says and I quote: “Turco said he’s tried to get his permit to drive several times, but he can’t pass the test. It asks all kinds of questions that have nothing to do with driving, he said….Turco said he drives without a license because sometimes he needs to go places when there’s no one to drive. Lots of people do it, he said. ‘You can ask the people that drive with me,’ he said. ‘I’m a really good driver.’ He’s not sure what will happen to him. ‘I don’t think I should be put away for it,’ he said, ‘Because technically I didn’t kill anybody.’” (End quote)
The police blotter records Police Chief Tom Casady’s remarks about Ricky Turco, and I quote: “Mr. Turco has been no stranger to the Lincoln police department. Since turning 16 in 2005, we have either arrested or cited him on 21 occasions, resulting in a total of 38 counts or charges. Of these, prosecution was declined in two cases, three were transferred to juvenile court, 17 are pending, and he was found guilty or pleaded guilty in the remaining 16, resulting in fines totalling $935.” (End quote)
I find this whole thing absolutely mind-boggling. Here’s a seventeen year old kid (I guess he’s turned 18 now), who is a high school dropout, and he’s married to boot. His intelligence level is rather obvious, since he can’t even pass a drivers’ test; but yet he has no compunction whatsoever about getting behind the wheel of a car and driving.
And then, he brags about how good of a driver he is. “You can ask the people that drive with me,’ he said. ‘I’m a really good driver.” Okay, let’s ask Megan Churchill…no wait, you killed her in that stupid accident you had. Okay, let’s ask the other two with you that day who wound up in the hospital. I doubt if they will give you the “safe driver of the year” award.
Really good drivers don’t crest hills doing over sixty miles per hour in school/residential zones. And if he was as good of a driver as he says he is, how did he get those twelve driving without a license citations? The police don’t pull people over to tell them how good they’re driving. And get this, he got his last citation just three days after the accident. I don’t think people will be queuing up around the block to get into the Ricky Turco Driving School.
I also can’t figure out how he can be so cavalier about saying “technically I didn’t kill anybody.” He was behind the wheel of the car, he wrapped it around a tree, and someone died. How can he justify that comment at all?
The State of Nebraska, along with almost every other place in the world has a certain set of standards when it comes to driving. Driving is a privilege, and not a right. People who don’t drive can catch a ride with someone, use public transportation, a bicycle, or even their own two feet. Ricky Turco certainly can’t even remotely be considered the expert as to what is and isn’t fair on a driving test. And having such opinions don’t ever give a person the excuse to just go ahead and drive anyway.
Ricky Turco can’t make it in high school. He can’t make it at the DMV. He takes no responsibility for the life lost due to his stupidity. He feels he is being treated unfairly. And he wants the general public to feel sympathy for him, because according to him, “[The driving test] asks all kinds of questions that have nothing to do with driving….You can ask the people that drive with me; I’m a really good driver.”
I’ve used this rather lengthy illustration to lead in to our text for today. I did so because I believe that Ricky Turco echoes the sentiments many people have about life today. His approach is not unique.
In our text for today, we read the very familiar words penned by the Apostle Paul in his second letter to Timothy. Timothy was a young man who was studying for the ministry; and so Paul gives him various instructions and words of encouragement in his preparation.
In the very beginning of the letter, in II Timothy chapter 1 verse 5, we read the following: “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”
Paul goes right to the beginning of things. Timothy was a person who had been raised in the faith from birth. He didn’t have the dramatic conversion like Paul did when he was struck blind on the road to Damascus. No lightning bolt zapped him from the sky. The heavens didn’t open up and God’s voice didn’t thunder from above when the Holy Spirit worked faith in Timothy’s heart.
Timothy’s faith came from his instruction at the knee of his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. He grew up knowing the Bible and Jesus his Saviour. Verse 15 of our text says, “How from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”
On this your Confirmation day, you are confirming, or making a profession of the faith which began in you at your Baptism. Even before you could focus your eyes or form your first words, you knew Jesus your Saviour. God saw fit to give you the gift of the Holy Spirit which made you part of his divine family through faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit is able to create faith in the hearts of anybody, regardless of their age or their outward cognitive ability. Faith is something we can’t see, but we trust what God says; therefore we know it is there.
God also commands that we are to instruct our young people in the faith. This is what Lois and Eunice did with young Timothy. They knew that a faith which wasn’t fed and nurtured would die.
And the same is true with you. Throughout your life, you’ve been brought to Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and the Worship Services in God’s house. In every way, you’ve come to know that your relationship between you and God is most important. It’s the closest relationship you’ll ever experience, and it’s a relationship which will carry you through this life into the next.
And then as you get older, there’s Confirmation classes; two years of them consisting of twenty-eight lessons each year. And I’ll let you in on a little secret too. There’s nothing in the Bible that says you must be confirmed. That’s a rite which has come about as a development in the church. So if it isn’t specified in the Bible, why do we do it?
Perhaps Confirmation isn’t commanded, but instruction in the Christian faith IS commanded. Back in Luther’s day, there were no real standardized lessons for that instruction; in fact proper instruction in the Christian faith was woefully lacking. So he developed the Small Catechism as an instruction tool to cover the basics of the faith. This is the book we continue to use up to this very day.
The Catechism is divided up into six chief parts: The Ten Commandments, The Apostles’ Creed, Holy Baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Confession and the Office of the Keys, and the Lord’s Prayer.
As we studied these parts, we learned that the Bible is the inspired and inerrant Word of God. We know God would never lie to us in his Word, or lead us astray. We learned about God’s law in the Ten Commandments. We learned about God himself in the Apostles’ Creed—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We learned that God comes to us through both Word and Sacrament, and what it means for us. We learned about how God forgives our sins through our faith in Jesus our Saviour. And finally, we learned how God wants us to communicate to him through prayer. Learning these six chief parts gives us a good foundation on which to build our lives of faith.
In today’s world however, people have the tendency to shove the importance of this instruction aside. People have the misguided notion that what one does is more important than what one believes.
To understand this, think about a brand new house. You can build that house with no foundation whatsoever; just find a level piece of ground and set the framed walls up on it. It might look nice when it’s finished, but it won’t last long. The ground will shift, and the boards lying on the ground will begin to rot. Cracks will appear in the walls, doors and windows won’t open, and finally it will all just collapse in upon itself.
If we base Christianity only upon what a person does and we neglect what a person believes, it’s like building that house without a foundation. It might be nice and pretty at first, but with no foundation, there’s nothing to keep it strong and straight. It will only be a sham.
A little while ago, I said that Ricky Turco echoes the sentiments many people have about life today. His approach is not unique. There is this “dumbing down” trend in America, where people are encouraged to get by with doing as little as possible. When the standards are set too high, then the tendency is to lower the standards instead of elevating people to meet them. And when people do wrong, they are encouraged to justify their actions rather than confessing and admitting they have erred.
Sadly, this has affected the church as well. Christian instruction has taken a beating as it has become more and more watered down. The Bible is being replaced by modern philosophy and situation ethics. The Ten Commandments have become more like the “Ten Suggestions.” And the foundation gets weaker and weaker every day.
As we studied the Ten Commandments, it became obvious that we’ve all broken each and every one of them many times. We daily sin much. In his Word, God has shown us that we have fallen far short of the perfection he demands. We’ve been guilty of trying to make God fit our standards rather than us fitting his. We’ve tried to find loopholes to excuse our wrongs rather than confessing our sins and repenting of them. We’ve tried to get by in this life by doing as little as possible to get by.
God shows us our sin; but then he shows us our Saviour too. Out of the love God has for us, he sent Jesus to this earth to pay the price for that sin. Nothing we have done has been good enough to reconcile ourselves with God; only Jesus Christ could do that. He took our sins and lifted them from us, taking them upon himself all the way to the cross.
The righteousness we now have is Christ’s righteousness, and we have that through faith alone. God the Holy Spirit has given us the faith to accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord of our life. This is God’s gift of love to you and to all humanity; we have been born again into a new life which will take us to heaven when our earthly days have been completed. Faith in Jesus Christ is our entry into heaven’s eternal paradise.
As you now enter into the confirmed communicant membership of this congregation, you can be thankful that we don’t take the Ricky Turco approach to our instruction. His cavalier, know-it-all attitude and his lack of remorse shows the type of person he is, and the type of person we don’t want to be. Just this past week in fact, Ricky and several others were arrested, this time for breaking and entering into Lincoln High School for theft and vandalism. He’s certainly no role model. Hopefully the Holy Spirit will work in his heart too as he spends his days in jail.
This congregation, or whatever congregation you might be attending in the future is partly your responsibility. It will be your responsibility to see that the Word of God is preached and taught in its truth and purity, and that the Sacraments are administered according to that Word of God. The future direction of the church is the responsibility of the next generation, and you are a part of that.
When Timothy was learning God’s Word from his mother and grandmother as a small boy, I doubt if any of them knew that Timothy would become the great pastor he did. What they did know however, was that the foundation they were helping to build was very important. They knew that Timothy needed to have that personal relationship with his Saviour in order for anything in his life to have any real meaning at all.
As you are confirmed here today, you will be stating your faith in your Lord Jesus, and your intent to live your life as one of his disciples. You have been instructed in the basics of the Christian faith. But this isn’t the end. You’ll be given a Bible, and we expect you to use it and not let it gather dust on the shelf. You are expected to regularly and actively participate in the life of this congregation.
When you keep yourself grounded in Scripture, you’ll know what you are doing. Wherever life leads you, remember that you are a Christian first, and everything else will fall into place. And as you read and study your Bible, remember the words Paul says to Timothy in our text today: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”