Palm Sunday (Year C - Lutheran Service Book readings)/Confirmation
Hymn: Then Ev’ry Tongue Will Confess Christ is Lord
Written for the 2007 Confirmation Class based on their selected sermon text, Philippians 2:5-11
Christ Jesus, who is God,
but made himself— noth—ing—
as— a man,
and humbly dying on—the—cross—
Christ Jesus, exalted
to the right hand—of—God,
Name above names,
heaven and earth,
ev’-ry-where all knees—should—bow—.
Then ev-ry tongue— will con-fess— Christ is Lord,
Followed the Fa—ther’s will, death on the cross.
Blessed is He, King of Kings, who comes—in the Name—of—the—Lord;
Humble me, Lord—with a heart—just like Him,
Set a-side my wants, and fill me with Yours,
May I bow down—to the Ser-vant and serve—the— world—.
TEXT: © 2007 Pastor Benjamin C. Squires, Stephanie Bowman, and Soul Power
(student plays the first verse of “Stairway to Heaven” on guitar)
Nick, it’s time to stop playing the guitar. (student stops playing guitar). It’s time for the sermon. You have to choose the Lord over the guitar.
And that’s exactly what Nick did for the Confirmation Retreat a few weeks ago. He chose to come on the retreat instead of staying home and working on his blazing solos for Classic Rock songs. He chose the Lord over guitar.
And actually, all of the DJs, Disciples of Jesus, our Confirmation students had to give up other things in order to be at the retreat where the Confirmation class always helps me plan the sermon for Confirmation Day.
A majority of our students this year attend Wilson Junior High, and the very same Friday of our Confirmation Retreat was the Friday that Wilson was holding a dance, the Neon Dance. (use pulley to raise up some rope lights) Neon lights as the theme for the dance.
Back here in Manitowoc at Wilson many students were at the dance, but these eighth graders were out at Camp Sinawa working on this sermon. They chose the Lord over neon. That’s the meaning of the wuzzle word puzzle on the front cover of the bulletin: Lord over neon. The students chose the Lord over neon. (use pulley to raise “Lord” sign higher than the rope lights) Instead of dancing on that Friday night, the students chose to study the Bible and figure out what they wanted to teach everyone through this sermon. They chose a church retreat over a dance; they chose the Lord over neon.
So whether it was Nick not playing his electric guitar or others not going to the Neon Dance or in the case of our two Mishicot students, Liz and Karl, giving up other things that Friday night, whatever they gave up to be at our retreat, all of these students had to give up something in order to do what Philippians chapter 2 calls on us to do: confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
These confirmands looked at the Bible readings for today, and they decided they wanted this sermon to be about Philippians 2:5-11. They studied what Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, they studied what he meant in these specific verses, and after all of their studying during our retreat, they decided they want all of you to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Philippians 2:5-11 makes a nice reading for Confirmation Day, because certainly, in a few moments, you will see these 10 students confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. They will stand here publicly in front of you all saying that they believe in Jesus as the One who died and rose again, the One who forgives our sins, the One who will give us everlasting life. Philippians 2:5-11 has that perfect tie-in with what these students are doing today; they are confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Yet, the students didn’t pick this reading for the sermon because it was about them. Instead, what they said they wanted this sermon to teach was that everyone would confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
They have spent the last three years in our Disciples of Jesus Confirmation program learning that Jesus Christ is Lord. Before that, they were learning this in Sunday School. Every week they hear this in worship services. They continue seeing that Jesus Christ is Lord, and so they wanted today’s sermon to be another reminder of that truth.
Jesus Christ is Lord, because He came from God the Father, He is the second person of the Trinity, He is true God from everlasting, He became a man in order to suffer and die in our place, He died on the cross for our sins, He rose again to give us life after death, He ascended into heaven and pleads with God the Father for us, He sent His Holy Spirit to live in our hearts, He has taught us love, forgiveness, mercy, and hope. These are the reasons that Jesus Christ is Lord; these are the reasons that the students have learned; these are the reasons that we want you to know. We want you to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, so that you, too, will trust in Him for everlasting life.
But now we’ve got to go back to these lights, the Lord over neon. Most of you probably didn’t have much trouble giving up the Neon Dance that Friday night, because you weren’t even invited. However, what is big and important in your life? What is raised up in front of your eyes, taking up a lot of time on your calendar? What is your Neon Dance that you have to give up in order to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord?
Even just this morning, what did you have to give up to be here in worship? Would you have liked to sleep in, make a big breakfast at home, go out for brunch, watch TV, go fishing? What are the neon lights hanging around you today that had to stay lower than the Lord? What did you have to say would wait until later because now is the time to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord?
Of course, choosing the Lord over neon, choosing the Lord over the guitar, choosing the Lord over brunch-fishing-sleep-work isn’t just about a rule thing. The students aren’t encouraging you to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord just so that you follow a rule and look good to God.
Choosing the Lord over the other things in your life, confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord through the choices you make, that’s about having a relationship with Jesus. That’s why we call our Confirmation program the Disciples of Jesus, because we continue to be disciples through our whole lives, we continue to have a relationship with Jesus through faith. If it was just about a program, completing enough steps, following the rules, making the students look good, well, we could have them fill out some computer-scored tests and make them jump through some hoops.
But it’s much, much more than that. It’s a relationship with Christ that they have been learning about, it’s a relationship with Christ that they are affirming today, it’s a relationship with Christ that they want you to have today—to remember today—to confess again today. Jesus Christ is Lord; that’s not a statement of rules; that’s saying Jesus is our Lord, our Master, our Teacher, our Guide, our Savior, our God, our Messiah, our Christ, our whole reason for having any hope beyond this life.
So talking about choosing the Lord over neon, choosing the Lord over other things in your life, well, that’s relationship talk. You have a relationship with the Creator of the world. Despite being sinful and completely going against His will, still you have a relationship with God the Father. You have that relationship, because Jesus Christ has come to forgive you, to save you. Because of Jesus, you are now a child of God and Jesus is your brother. When we talk about confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord, and making choices in your life to show that He is your Lord, we’re talking about showing the world who you are, who you have a relationship with. When people see you and how you live, are they able to see that you have a relationship with Jesus Christ?
Hey, Nick, I actually think it’s time for you to play the guitar again. Really! (student plays first verse of “Stairway to Heaven” again)
Many of you may recognize that Nick there is playing a little bit of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven;” some people may wonder why I would let Nick play that in church or encourage him as he learns to play the guitar—mainly by picking up on Classic Rock stuff, but you know, it’s based on a principle I’ve been teaching these confirmands—a principle I use in a lot of my teaching: the Lord is the Lord of the whole world. “Stairway to Heaven” asks some deeply spiritual questions, and while I don’t think Led Zeppelin came to the true answer in Jesus Christ, still the Lord could use that song to begin a search, a search that could lead someone to God’s Word and confessing that Jesus Christ is Lord.
Nick talked about this song in one of his assignments for DJs, and he said he thought God was more “Mozartish,” a Mozart-type God. I wrote back that even God made the electric guitar and could use it for his glory. If God isn’t the God of the electric guitar, than we really have to debate whether the god of the electric guitar is Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page. That doesn’t seem right. God is the God over all things. God is the One who truly works in the world. God can use the electric guitar to bring glory to His Name.
It’s the same with the Neon Dance. I mean, I’m glad these students chose to come to the Confirmation Retreat rather than going to the dance, but the dance itself wouldn’t have meant they were giving up their faith. The Lord is the Lord of neon, the Lord of the Neon Dance. Whenever our youth go to a dance or a party or hang out with friends, the Lord is there. The Lord can use those times, times not at church, to still help people confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
(lower “Lord” sign to be among the rope lights) As much as the Lord is to worshipped and honored above all things, the Lord is also a part of the things of this world. The Lord is present everywhere, and so even when these students do go to dances, the Lord is there. We talk a lot in Confirmation about how to live out your faith, how to live as Christians in day-to-day life—not just at church. That’s why one of the goals of the DJs says: “The student will be able to articulate the Christian faith and recognize how they might live as a Christian in the church and the world.” Speak the faith to the people around them, and understand how to live as a Christian—even while rocking out on an electric guitar or going to the Neon Dance.
It’s the same reason that the mission statement of Redeemer Youth Ministries is: “To give youth an experience of the Christian faith that teaches them how it applies to every aspect of life.” Experience the faith—and experience it in daily life. We choose the Lord over neon, but the Lord is also the Lord of neon, the Lord of the Neon Dance, the Lord of the electric guitar, the Lord of everything in this world. The Lord is over all things—highly honored, and we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. However, the Lord is also present everywhere—always among us, and we confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of all things.
I’m going to leave these lights and sign up here for the rest of the service, because that’s especially what I want you to remember when you see these students take the Confirmation pledge and when we all go home after the service. I want you to remember that the Lord is the Lord of all things—wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, the Lord is present there. He might not always like where you are or what you are doing, but the Lord is there. You might not always like where you are or what you are doing, but the Lord is there. You might think that what you are doing or where you are doesn’t have anything to do with church—but if the Lord is the Lord of all things, if we confess with our tongues and confess with our lives that Jesus Christ is Lord, well, then, everything we do has something to do with God—for good or bad.
When these students leave here today, that’s not the end of the churchy part of their lives, and we send them back to their “normal” lives. Today these students are saying that Jesus Christ is Lord of their entire lives. It’s the same with you—if you like to think that you’ve set the Lord above all things especially by coming to worship, but then you never see that He is a part of your day-to-day life, then you’re missing the point. Jesus Christ is Lord over your entire life.
Whatever you do today, wherever you go today, I want you to remember to lower that sign, to see how the Lord is the Lord of your Neon Dances, to see that the Lord is with you in all things. The Lord will be there, will use you to share His love, is able to use all things to bring glory to Himself.