May 19, 2019
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church
Confirmation Sunday is a Sunday full of questions, whether this is your day to be confirmed, or if it happened years and years ago. The First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods” is followed with the question, “What Does This Mean?” That’s the pattern throughout Martin Luther’s Catechism, you state something and then the question, “What Does This Mean?” is asked.
That is a good question. You had better know what all this stuff is about. Today I want to ask you some good questions – but they are much more than the questions that Martin Luther asked in 1529 in his little catechism.
In Thursday’s Denver Post an article asking and answering the question as to who Kendrick Castillo was, was written. Kendrick was the 18-year-old student who ran toward the shooter at STEM School – Highlands Ranch and was killed. His service, on Wednesday, at Cherry Hills Community Church, drew about 3,000 people.
“Who Kendrick was” is a good question. He loved Robotics and riding in the family Jeep off road in the mountains. He went with his dad looking for a prized elk. He had a wonderfully strong Christian faith, in fact the folder that was handed out to the worshippers at the service had a smiling picture of Kendrick, with the Bible passage of the words of Jesus that said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friend.” (John 15:13) Kendrick Castillo, only a senior in high school, had already developed an understanding of who he was. Already he was answering some good questions.
How about you? Who are you? Can you answer the great questions in life? I read about you in that little folder that tells us of you and your interests. Ian – video games. Erik – video games. Cody – video games. I think I see a pattern here. Boy, if I could have had a video game of Confirmation instruction, of church services and of my sermons, I think these past two years would have even been better than they were!! Hannah, Holly – soccer – all year long!! Ann – drawing, crocheting, painting, crafts. You have a few moms and grandma’s in the service that want to see your work.
But you are much more than video games or soccer or crafts – there are some other good questions that you are answering in life. I came up with the sermon title, “Good Questions” from our text from John 16. Jesus is speaking these words on Holy Thursday, Maundy Thursday, within 24 hours of Him dying upon the cross. He spends a few chapters in the Bible preparing His followers for all that was going to happen to Him and them when He went to the cross and when He rose and later when He ascended to heaven. He was going to die for their sins and the sins of the whole world. He was going to be placed on a cross, and for 6 hours suffer awful, terrible things. They would be left with that impression in their mind. But, as He had promised, He would come to life again, defeating the unholy four of sin, death, the devil and hell.
These are His words to them and their questions of Him, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me again. Some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, in a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’ And ‘Because I am going to the Father’. They kept asking. ‘What does he mean by a little while? We don’t understand what he is saying.’” (John 16:16-18)
The disciples were simply perplexed by Jesus and His words. Those are good questions, right? It is sort of like you’ve been learning, “What Does This Mean?” He is going away. Where? Why? How? And then He says that he’ll be back in a little while. This was all a riddle and they weren’t getting it. I’ve got a riddle for you. “What occurs once every minute, twice in every moment, yet never in a thousand years?” The answer? The letter m. HA!!
Here are some good questions for you. Who is Jesus? What has He done? What has He done for you? Those questions demand an answer from you. They are more than simply academic questions, they are confessions about how great your God is, how much He loves you and the difference, now and eternally, that He makes for you.
I was reading about a pastor in Amarillo, Andrajack is his name, who has a painting in his dining room that always leads to a good story. The painting is of Jesus holding a little black lamb in His arms. Jesus embraces the lamb with gentleness and compassion. What makes the painting memorable is the person that painted it. An inmate, a prisoner from the Texas Department of Corrections is the artist. It was a self portrait. He saw himself as the black sheep, the one who didn’t fit in, got into trouble, was an outcast. But who still loves him and holds him? Jesus.
Who are you? His. Maybe some time in life you will feel like the black sheep, the outsider, the one who screwed up. You may have many questions about life. About yourself. About God. And God has great answers for you.
John Castillo, Kendrick’s dad, spoke at the funeral. He said he wasn’t surprised that his son would charge the shooter as he did. “That’s just who Kendrick was.” Then he said, “We can all be Kendrick. When you strip people down, there’s Kendrick underneath.” I’d like to change that a little bit here, for you. “When you strip people down, there’s Jesus underneath.” Jesus lives in you. You are baptized. He claimed you as His own. You have been filled with God’s Holy Spirit. You have a great answer to who you are, and what has Jesus done for you. Jesus treasures you and works mightily in your life.
Because of what Jesus did for you on Good Friday and Easter – by His sacrifice and then His victory, your life is changed. You, in some great ways, are going to give your life for others. It may not be to stop a bullet, but it will be in some other ways of treasuring the lives of others – some who do not know the love of God…yet. Way back in the third century the church in Rome was a strong congregation. There was a pagan ruler who had heard that the church had received generous offerings and he gave an order to a man named Laurence, one of the church’s deacons, to produce “the treasures of the church.” (I think he was going to help himself to some of those treasures.) Laurence promised to assemble the treasures within three days. But when the Roman ruler came to the church he didn’t see all the gold and jewels and articles of wealth, but Laurence brought the poor, the sick, the widows and the orphans who were supported by the offerings of the congregation. These, he said, are the treasures of the church.
As you live within this congregation, or wherever God leads you, realize the treasures of the church – all the people who God loves so strongly in Jesus.
This Bible reading answers the question of what Jesus was going to do “in a little while.” But it also tells us that we get to keep on asking questions about God and God will give us His brilliant answers.
Never tire of seeking God. Never think you know everything about Him. Have a passion for knowing more and more of God’s truth. Jesus says this about spiritual growth, “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you.” (John 16:12-14)
Today is a big day, an important day, but it is not the day when you say that you know all the truth about God. God’s Spirit had to keep on teaching them – God’s Spirit has to keep on teaching you. You have to keep on coming to church. You have to keep on coming to youth group and Bible Studies. You have to come to take the body and blood of Christ at God’s Table. To you as well, Jesus says, “I have much more to say to you.” Jesus, just a few chapters earlier said of the Holy Spirit, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” (John 14:25-26)
There are a lot of good questions out there. Who am I? How am I to be? And those questions get answered when you have found the answers to these questions:
- Who is Jesus?
- What Has He done for me?
- What difference will that make in my life today and forever?
- How will that change how I live?
- What more can God, through the Holy Spirit, teach me and help me to grow in faith?
Do you have some good questions? God has some great answers. Keep on asking. He wants to give you His truth. Amen!!