Into the World

October 18, 2020

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10, Matthew 22:15-22

Twelve to Thirteen years ago each of our confirmands were baptized in the church and it was then their parents and sponsors accepted the baptismal promises. As parents, you promised

To live with them among God’s faithful people, bring them to the word of God and the holy supper, teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Creed, and the Ten Commandments, place in their hands the holy scriptures, and nurture them in faith and prayer, so that your children may learn to trust God, proclaim Christ through word and deed, and care for others and the world God made, and work for justice and peace. (Service of Baptism, ELW)

It is in our baptisms that we are sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever. While I am sure that none of you remember your baptism, I pray that you remember God’s promise made to you that day. In your confirmation, you will affirm your faith and be welcomed as full members of this congregation.

Reading your faith statements, I know your faith has been challenged at times already. As you get older and have more life experiences, you will most likely encounter many more struggles with your faith. May we hear the words of Jesus and the Apostle Paul this morning as reassurance in our faith, we walk with the living God.

Jesus had his fair share of struggles and he held firm, even when trying to be trapped as he was in our gospel lesson. The Pharisees and Herodians wanted to get Jesus to implicate himself and make his followers question his motives. In his response, his answer takes the high ground and tells them to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. The Pharisees and Herodians were amazed at this response and left without having justification to seize Jesus at that moment.

Our faith leads us to the belief that everything we have is a gift from God, therefore, what is not God’s? The Apostle Paul lives out this faith in his actions and it is his hope to imitate Christ so that the communities he teaches follow his example and ultimately Christ.

Thessalonica appears to be the model community to be following in Paul’s example and the words of Jesus. Now, Thessalonica was along the highway across Macedonia, linking Rome with the Eastern provinces. Therefore, Thessalonica would receive a variety of visitors with many different faith practices. The church that Paul writes to use to worship idols, most likely connect to the Roman Empire. There was a tension between the way of Jesus, lifting him up as the savior and providing the way of peace, versus the Pax Romana and the Emperors which were the supreme benefactors. It was a question of where you find your peace, in the Roman Empire or in God. That same question is still relevant today as we ask ourselves, where do we find our peace, in the promises of God, or in the promises of an empire.

The church of Thessalonica has chosen God. They have experienced the living God in Paul and it is in their imitation that they continue to grow and share in the gospel. His letter to them starts out like many of his other letters, by giving thanks to them. Their faith, love, and hope has been fostered by their work, labor, and steadfastness. They have turned from the idols that once garnered their attention to Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.

It is today in your Confirmation that you affirm your faith and can be an imitation of Christ for others to follow. Is it always going to be easy? NO

Jesus knows this and I think Paul knows this as well and thus one of his reasons to writing to the church in Thessalonica. He wants to affirm their faith and give them confidence to continue moving forward in the word of God powered by the Holy Spirit.

There are many roads that are competing for our attention. You will see this soon enough when you start receiving information from colleges that want you to attend. The claims on our faith can work in very much the same manner. You will have events in your life that challenge you. Each of you in your faith statement mentioned death as being the one thing that has challenged your faith thus far. You can succumb to peer pressure that will guide you down the wrong path. And it is easy at any time to slip into a sense of complacency. This pandemic has been a great example of it as we have had six months of worshipping differently and interacting differently with one another. We have to be intentional to stay in the Word of God. While you may have felt isolated, remember the living God is present among us and in us as we live out our faith.

You are now going to go out into the world as full members of this congregation, affirming your faith in the Triune God. You have been empowered through the Holy Spirit to share the good news. With that power, we are invited to imitate Christ by bringing love and beauty through the promise of healing and salvation. A healing and salvation that comes through the Lord Jesus Christ.

By Alex Steward

I am a husband, father, and pastor within the ELCA. I did not grow up in the church and thus come at this pastoring thing with an unique perspective.

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