4th Sunday of Easter
15 May 2011
St. John's, Chicago, IL
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I AM the Bread of Life. I AM the resurrection and the life. I AM the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I AM the Good Shepherd. But how often do you really stop and think of Jesus as our Door? A gate. And entrance.
The motion picture industry tends to have some recurring themes, no matter what the subject or genre of a particular film. One such theme is called: "the load-bearing hero."
In the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, a large, strong Minotaur becomes a "load-bearing hero." He braces himself under the descending iron gate, bearing the enormous weight, so that many of his fellow soldiers may pass through the gate to fight evil and protect the innocent. Eventually, the weight is too much, and he is crushed, which leaves many others to perish. Still, he died so that others might live. The fallen hero sacrificed himself for the lives of the faithful.
The Minotaur worked to keep the gate open, but it was only partially successful. On the other hand, Jesus does all things perfectly. "I AM the Door of the sheep." Jesus not only keeps the door open, He IS the door. And He is not merely partially successful. He has purchased and won salvation for all. He died so that all might live.
At the end of this service, you will go out these doors. You will mingle a bit, and then go about your business for the week. But then what? Our loving and merciful Lord is desiring that you come back through these doors, regularly and often, being fed and nurtured by Him, as you are His little lamb.
Dear Confirmands, and friends in Christ, do not treat these doors as if they are locked, and you can't get back in. When you walk away and are frequently absent from the Lord's Table and His teaching, it is as if the doors are locked and you can't get to Jesus. It is not His fault. He is the Door! He has opened the Kingdom of heaven to you. He has borne the load of sin, death, and hell to rescue you, and He keeps Himself as that open Door as He gives His Baptism, Absolution, Gospel, and His Supper.
Too many youth around the world fool themselves into thinking that this is a sort of graduation. The devil wants you to think that you have worked and completed something -- that you have somehow earned this and are now done. Satan wants nothing more than for you to think that none of this is necessary or important. He wants you to believe that your faith will be just fine and heaven is easily attained, even if you do not come to church and receive Christ's gifts often. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If you fail to keep coming through these doors week after week, your faith is in danger of shriveling up and dying. Even if you memorized the Catechism perfectly, and completed every religion assignment without flaw for all your years, if you do not come often to be nourished by the Gospel and Christ's Holy Supper, you can spiritually starve to death.
Even if you would end up serving on boards and committees, or teaching the faith to others, or joining all the congregational social groups, if you are not coming week after week to hear the Lord's Word and receive His Sacrament, you endanger your spiritual well-being. It is that plain and simple.
And for these twelve young people who confess their faith this morning, and receive Jesus' Body and Blood for the first time, what a tremendously joyful day this is. And sobering. They are vowing to God that they believe the faith as it has been taught them, drawn from the Scriptures and explained in the Catechism, and that they would rather die than fall away from it! They make a promise to the Lord today that they will be faithful in receiving Christ's preaching and Sacrament.
But they will fail. And so will you. No one here perfectly comes at every opportunity to hear the Word of the Lord and receive His Holy Supper. Even when in this building, hearts can be far from it.
But Jesus is the open Door, drawing you to the very gifts that deliver His forgiveness for these sins of neglect. He renews you in that baptismal faith, and restores you. He opens the kingdom of heaven to all believers.
So while some get caught up in all the vows of confirmation, and the work and words of these youths, that is not our focus at all! Jesus comes in His Word and Work. As Lutherans, THAT is what we celebrate today. Jesus is the Door through which you enter communion with the Lord God. He is the entrance into forgiveness, life, and salvation. In fact, He is forgiveness, life, and salvation!
It's not about us at all. Today, as always, it is all about Jesus. Today we celebrate that our Risen Good Shepherd is our Door to salvation, and that He is passing gifts through that door until the day when we walk through that door a final time on this earth, joining Him in His never-ending paradise. Amen.