May 21, 2017
“Here I Stand”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
“Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” I Corinthians 15:58
I wonder if Martin Luther knew that 500 years after beginning the Lutheran Reformation, 9 14-15 year-old kids in America would be telling the whole world that what he said about the Bible and Jesus was right. I bet that he had no idea that thousands of miles from Wittenberg, Germany in a suburb of Denver, Colorado such things would be happening today. I guess even Martin Luther didn’t know everything.
This is a special class. 6 boys. 3 girls. But what is more special than you is the year that you are being confirmed. There is no other class that can say that they were confirmed on the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. Next year when Josh and Reese, Dominick, Ben and Jake get confirmed it will be just another year. But you, you are special. We even stitched the emblem of the 500th anniversary into your banners.
Your sermon is historic as well. One of the big quotes of Martin Luther is “Here I Stand.” In 1521 Luther was brought before the leaders of the Church and State in Worms, Germany (The Diet at Worms). His writings were brought out, placed on a table and he was told that he must deny all that he had written, if he did not, he would face expulsion from the church, be labeled a heretic, be sentenced to hell and anyone who saw him could kill him. He was given a little bit of time to think about what his answer should be.
The next day he came and stood before the group and spoke, “Since Your Majesty and your lordships want a simple, clear, and true answer, I will give it. Unless I am convinced by the teachings of Holy Scripture or by sound reasoning – for I do not believe either pope or councils alone, since they have often made mistakes and have even said the exact opposite about the same point – I am tied to the Scriptures I have quoted and by my conscience. I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against conscience is neither safe nor right. Here I stand. God help me! Amen.”
Here I stand!! Isn’t that what you say when you make your confession of faith today and promise that you will confess this sound faith now and till the day you die? Isn’t that what St. Paul is saying when he speaks, “Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you.”? (I Corinthians 15:58a)
There are four phrases that I want you to remember today. They are: Here I Stand; Here I Fall; Here I Sit; Here I Go. Got it? Stand, Fall, Sit, Go.
Here I Stand!! Stand strong for the Christian faith. When Paul wrote this there were some folks who were doubting the resurrection of the physical body to eternal life in heaven. And by doubting that they were doubting the resurrection of Jesus Christ. He says of that, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins…if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (I Corinthians 15:17,19)
You are going to be challenged to reject this faith. Your friends, your enemies, some folks who you greatly respect and want their approval, will tell you that believing in a God you can’t see, and confessing the death and resurrection of Jesus as the only way to have forgiveness of sins and eternal life, is foolish. More than one will tell you that you can’t trust the Bible to be true. And someone will try to tempt you to live a life that denies God’s holy ways of life. Someone will try to get you to take stuff into your body that will only harm it. Someone will tell you that you can do stuff sexually with your body that is outside of God’s holy will for you. Someone will say you can do what you want to do anytime and anywhere. You’ll be challenged to reject true faith and true life.
If you say, “Here I stand, this is what I believe”, you may stand alone. You may be rejected. You may be considered ignorant or stupid by some. Don’t believe for a second that your confession won’t come with some type of resistance.
But there is no better place to be. Stand in the faith. Live the faith. Jesus says, “My sheep listen to My voice; I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)
Here I Stand!! Here I Fall!! A few days after I gave my thoughts/corrections to the rough drafts of your Confirmation Papers, Will Schwerin, came to me with this question, “That paper that we worked on, can we work on it again?” I said, “Sure. But what happened to what we already did?” “Well, it was in the back pocket on my pants and it went through the wash.”
If you read Will’s little bio on Meet Our Confirmands, Will confesses, “I am accident prone.” And then he says, “Something I am going to do in high school is adventure, which involves rock climbing and zip-lining and thinks like that.” Bill and Cheryl (his parents), I’d suggest you get more insurance before that first day of high school!!
Here I Fall. The Bible is clear, God gives you every chance to stand with faith and in faithfulness. “God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (I Corinthians 10:13) But we don’t always stand. Sometimes we fall. I don’t want you to give up when you do fall. Go back to Christ. Go back to Jesus. Seek Him. Never reject the waiting arms of your Father. Proverbs says, “Though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again.” (24:16a) John writes about the will of God and the heart of God when he says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense – Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:1-2)
Stand. Fall. Sit. Here I Sit. Here I rest. Here I have peace. There was a theme that I read and heard in your papers. It was a word about trust. Every one of you said that Jesus Christ was your Savior and Lord. To sit and to rest is to know that God is in charge. You know that God has things in His hands and that your security rests in believing that He will ever be faithful to you.
Today you are anxious about receiving Holy Communion. For the first time you receive His Supper. I hope it gives you great joy that you will be receiving it. It was given for the forgiveness of sins. And it was given for your rest, your peace. When this busy day is done I hope that there is a sense of calm and peace. You have confessed His name. You have taken your stand. And He has given you the best that He can give you – His very self – for your new life and for your daily life. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You.” I saw a number of verses that you chose as verses of sitting – Pete – “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” (Psalm 4:8) Lyla, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you.” (Isaiah 43:2a) Or, Kayden, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)
Here I Stand. Here I Fall. Here I Sit. Here I Go. This reading that I chose says, “Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” This week I heard that a young person that I confirmed many years ago was awarded a special medal because he saved the lives a number of people while they were in combat. As the general awarded the medal to him, and to some others, he remarked that things went wrong that day and many lives were in danger, but the heroes just did what they were trained to do. They didn’t consider themselves heroes, just soldiers doing their duty.
The word, “Here I Go” is a word saying your life has a divine purpose. You are called to do much good every day that God gives you life. It may be with your friends and your family, it might be among people that you don’t even know, but God will use you for the bringing of many blessings to others. Your Confirmation is not simply about your faith in God. It is about what faith in Him looks like. It is when you live a good life. It is when you do God’s will. It is when you ask God to use your body and your mind and your will and your attitude for those God has placed in your life. Did you catch the promise here? “Your labor in the Lord is never in vain.” “Here I Go” is a word made with some excitement because God will bring His power into your works.
The Confirmation Class at Ascension Lutheran Church 500 years from now, the next time we recognize the Reformation by increments of 500, might look different than today, but they too will be able to say, Here I Stand; Here I Fall; Here I Sit; and Here I Go. And you, you can say it right now. Amen!!