The Rite of Confirmation
March 29, 2015
Trinity Lutheran Church—New Haven, MO
In the name of the Father, and of the + Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When fishes flew and forests walked
And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
Then surely I was born.
With monstrous head and sickening cry
And ears like errant wings
The devil’s walking parody
On all four-footed things.
The tattered outlaw of the earth,
Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
I keep my secret still.
Fools! For I also had my hour;
One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
And palms before my feet.
The donkey isn’t a majestic beast; far from it. Think of the donkey’s wide, goofy smile, his floppy ears, and that bleat that is anything but musical. It seems like the donkey was born on some twisted day when the moon was blood, the devil’s walking parody on all four-footed things.
The donkey best serves as a beast of burden, the outlaw of the earth. He’s the one who’s starved, scourged, derided, carrying things that his owner cannot (or is too lazy to) carry himself. He is not a majestic beast, but a beast whose sole existence, it seems, is to bear burdens.
How unlikely, then, is it that the donkey serves as a most beautiful illustration of the mind of Christ? In this poem, the donkey reveals how foolish it is to look down upon him, for he had his hour, indeed, one far, fierce hour when the Son of God chose him above all other beasts to bear Him into Jerusalem with palms before his feet. The donkey’s greatest hour was when he bore the burden of the One who bore the sins of the world.
St. Paul talks donkey-talk in today’s Epistle. Think just as Christ Jesus thought: Although He was God, He did not consider His being equal with God as a prize to be displayed, but He emptied Himself, made Himself a slave, became like other human beings, and was seen to have the ways of a man. He became obedient and humbled Himself until He died, yes, died on a cross (vv 5-8 AAT).
The donkey isn’t just a matter of convenience for our Lord—the first means of transportation He comes across. It had been prophesied since Zechariah. It was a reflection of His very nature. Christ chose a beast of burden to be His steed because from the moment He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself of His divine majesty and took on the likeness men. He united Himself to human flesh—proteins and cells and bones and organs. His human form was His flesh—true man united with true God.
This He did in obedience to His Father. When Adam transgressed God’s command, God promised to send the Seed of the woman; Jesus submitted to this promise, even though it would mean His own suffering and death. Yet like the donkey—who is starved, scourged and derided, yet keeps his silence—so Christ endured the suffering and shame of the cross. He was obedient to the point of death.
Yet the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is not only a God who kills, but also makes alive. That is why God also exalted Him up on high and gave Him the name above every other name that at the name of JESUS everyone in heaven and on earth and under the earth should kneel, and everyone should confess, “JESUS CHRIST IS LORD!” and so glorify God the Father (vv 9-11 AAT). The Father raised Jesus from the humility of His grave, stood Him up on His own two feet. The One who bore the burden of the sins of the world left those sins—your sins—buried in His grave. He breathed new life.
What’s more is that this resurrected Christ God exalted again, setting Him at His right hand in heaven to be the means by which the Father would distribute His grace to this fallen world. There is no name that is higher than the name of Jesus, at it every knee will bow on the last day when He is finally revealed in His glory; every tongue will confess that He is Lord, even if it denies Him now.
Today, Joseph, you will confess the Christian faith as you have come to learn it from the Small Catechism. If there’s one way to summarize the entire catechism, it’s that the Christian life follows a pattern of humility and exaltation. In the Ten Commandments, you learned God’s good and holy Law, but also that you stand condemned by its strict demands. In the Apostles’ Creed, you learned of the nature of God, of every blessing given by the Father, that there is no condemnation for those in the Son, that the Holy Spirit daily sanctifies you in this Church and keeps you in the true faith.
You learned to pray, to submit yourself to God’s will, to rely on Him for every good. You learned that in Holy Baptism you were given the name that is above all names to be your own when you became a child of God. You learned to humble yourself in Confession, and that God raises you up in Holy Absolution. And lastly you learned of the blessed Sacrament, Christ’s true body and blood, which you receive on your knees, yet it raises you up to be with Him in heaven. You have been given the mind of Christ.
And now in just a few minutes, your tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. You will give glory to God the Father in your confession. But remember that your confession of faith is not the end of your faith—rather it’s the beginning. The years ahead of you must be shaped by the mind of Christ—keep yourself humble, and God will raise you up. He did it for His Son, and He will do it for you. Because,
God Raises Up the Humble
In + Jesus’ name. Amen.
Rev. Jacob Ehrhard