15 There's Still Time For You
Girls, you know that throughout your years in Confirmation I would say that I'm telling you things that would matter more to you when you were 25. On this your Confirmation day, I want to tell you, as a Five For Fighting song says, there's still time for you to be 15. I know none of you are yet 15, but soon you will be, and 15 is a good age to be. In fact, there are some things you can learn easier at 15 than you can at 25.
For example, at 15 there's still time to learn that your Lawyer is do your talking. All 4 of you girls are relatively tender of conscious. It did not take much in class to convict you of sin. Well, what began in Confirmation is going to continue the rest of your lives. Each Sunday you will be convicted of sin and your overall sinfulness by the harsh, heavy Law of God. While all of you are able to play "Miss Goodie Two Shoes," God's holy Law will unmask you for the sinner you are. There's still time at 15 to learn that making excuses or defending yourself is no answer to the Law. If you respond to the preaching of God's Law with, "It's not my fault," or "What else could I do?" the Law will keep coming until it pounds you into the ground. Remember the cartoon character. That's what the Law does to every excuse or defense you could possibly dream up or offer.
So learn at 15 that your Lawyer not you is to do the talking. Jesus says that He "will ask the Father and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth." If Jesus asks for "another Counselor" that means you already have one. That would be Jesus. I John 2: 2 says, "If anyone sins, we have a Counselor [same Greek word] with the Father, Jesus Christ." You know how celebrities have a team of Lawyers? Well, that's what you have. Not just a Lawyer, but a whole team. The Greek word for Counselor is a legal term for one who aids the guilty in court.
There's still time to be 15. Be a person whom the Law makes guilty. Be a person to whom sin is a serious reality. This is not a bad thing; this is not something to grow out of. Your legal Counsel, Jesus and the Holy Spirit only come to the aid of the guilty. The more you protest your innocence the father Jesus and the Spirit are from you. The more you excuse or defend any sin, the less Jesus and the Holy Spirit can counsel you, comfort you, aid you.
15, there's still time for you. At 15 there's still time to find shelter from the storms of life in your family. When I see girls your age dressed provocatively or interacting with boys inappropriately, I think, "Don't these girls have families? They must not have someone at home that loves them, otherwise, they wouldn't be acting this way." You girls have families that care and love you. At 15 you're not too old to take shelter in them from the world's ways.
At 15 there's still time to value the shelter from the storms of life that your family provides. But earthly families can fail. Sometimes they do in reality, but in a teenager's eyes they do all the time. You have all thought or will think that your family has failed you. They don't understand you; they don't care about you; they don't know what it's like. You will feel alone. You will feel cut off from the love, the acceptance, the shelter you once knew in your family. Others will appear to have everything you find lacking in your family. And in despair you will want to attach yourself to them.
People who feel orphaned, abandoned, often do desperate things. In those lonely teen years, when you're just sure that no one in your family cares about you, I want you to remember what Jesus says to you today, "I will not leave you as orphans," and He doesn't say, "I will come [future] to you," but, "I come [present tense] to you." You may indeed at 15 or even 25 or 45 feel orphaned, but that's the lie of the devil. God can't leave you orphaned.
The whole point of God the Father sending God the Son into the world was to claim you as His own, to adopt you as His own dear daughter. You know your Bible stories. You know that Jesus, God's beloved Son, came into the world to take your place under all the commandments of God that expose you as nothing but a sinner. You know that Jesus lived the perfect life that you could never live. And you know that was not enough. Your sins had to be paid for. Your sins deserved shame, suffering, humiliation, death and worse. You know that Jesus suffered guilt, shame, pain, hell, and death to satisfy God's wrath against you. You know the Resurrection of Jesus proves the Father accepted Jesus' payment for your sins and declares you not guilty. You cost God the blood, sweat, and tears of His only beloved Son.
An employee once cost IBM several million dollars by making a poor business decision. When he was called before the head of IBM, he said, "I know that you have to fire me." The president responded, "Fire you? We just spent several million dollars training you." Well, girls, God the son spent His Body and His Blood so God the Father could adopt you. Do you think anything could make Him disown you now? Not sin, not death, not angels, not demons, not height, depth, or anything in all creation could make Him turn away from you. He comes to you even when you don't want Him to, even when you're sure He won't or can't. He comes to you in His Word and His Sacraments defending you like a good Lawyer should and claiming you as a good Brother would. "She's with Me," says Jesus and neither heaven, earth, nor even hell can deny that.
By grace for Christ's sake God has placed you into His family for eternity. As a pledge and guarantee of that fact, God the Father and God the Son give you the Spirit. At 15, there's still time to get to know the Spirit you have. Remember that question you all missed on the second to the last Confirmation quiz? "The Holy Spirit is given to us in the Rite of Confirmation." Remember all your days that at about 15 you missed that question so at 25 you might value where you do get the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit only comes from Christ through the Father as a gift. Jesus plainly tells us in this text that He will ask the Father and He will give you the Spirit of Truth. No one can give you the Spirit by placing their hand on your head. No one can give you the Spirit by praying over you. No one gives you the Spirit by making you feel excited or inspired. No one gives or gets the Holy Spirit except from the Father through the Son as a gift.
At 15 there's still time to learn the habit of focusing on where the Spirit of Truth is found for you. He's not found in your feelings. He's not found in your friends. He's not found in your family. No, the Holy Spirit is found for you where He is for all Christians. He's found in your Baptism. You were baptized not just into the Father and into the Son but also into the Holy Spirit. Baptism says Titus 3:5 is a washing of regeneration and a renewal by the Holy Spirit. Baptism says Jesus in John 3 is being reborn by water that has the Holy Spirit. Girls, daily make that sign of the cross on yourselves remembering that the Spirit was given you when you were baptized.
The Spirit of truth is found in the Baptism you got long before you were 15 and at 15 He is found in Absolution. When Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Absolution, He breathed on the apostles and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit; whosoever's sins you forgive they are forgiven." As often as you hear your pastor forgiving your sins, know that the Spirit is there. Don't go into you heart or to your head looking for the Spirit. Go to the Words ringing in your ears and know that those words of forgiveness are Spirit and they are life.
At 15, the Holy Spirit is all yours girls. He's not only on you in Baptism and in your ears in Absolution. He's in your very bodies. In our text, Jesus promises the Spirit lives with you and "will be in you." You've literally waited your entire Baptized life to meet the Lord Jesus in flesh and blood whom you've known in Water and Words. Well, today's the day. The Jesus whose love you learned as He took you through all the wonderful Sunday School stories invites you to His Table to eat and drink not only with Him but Him. His forgiveness that you've known in your ears and eyes in Baptism and Absolution, you'll at last also know in your nose, tongue, and skin. The Bread and Wine of Communion preaches to all 5 of your senses that the Body Jesus gave and the Blood Jesus shed for you is here for you to eat and drink. And with His Body and Blood Jesus gives you His good gifts and Spirit.
At 15 is the time to realize the Spirit makes you different. The world, says Jesus, neither sees nor knows the Spirit you've had since Baptism. The Spirit makes you different than the world around you. It is the Spirit, not your decision or opinion that makes you confess that Jesus is Lord. It is the Spirit not a feeling that moves you to love Christ and what He commands. Don't search your heart, your mind, or your motives to see if love is there for Christ and His commandments. Turn to where you know the Spirit is surely given to you: Baptism, Absolution, and Communion. The Spirit is in these without fail forgiving your sins, renewing your life, giving you love for the eternal things of Father, Son, and Spirit.
At 15, you have many desires. God your Father, Jesus your Brother, and the Spirit your Counselor knows what those are, and knows what will become of them. Some will wither others will blossom in ways you could never imagine. Know this: no matter which wither and which blossom, God is at work leading you ever forward to everlasting life. Contrary to that Five for Fighting song, you 4 girls don't "have a 100 years to live." You have forever. So, at 15 there's still time for you. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Easter VI (5-1-05, Confirmation Sunday), John 14: 15-21