Let The Devil, The World, And The Tyrants Storm And Rage!

2017 Zion Lutheran Church Confirmation Sermon

Text: John 16:16-22

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

Brady, KyAnna, Schuyler, Carissa, Christina, and Bladen, today is Confirmation Sunday.  Today is the completion of your three years of study in the Six Chief Parts of Luther’s Small Catechism.  Today is the day that you publicly confess the Christian faith with boldness and then drink of the Lord’s cup and eat of His body, for the forgiveness of your sins. 

Now, considering all of this, we live in a time where many perceive Confirmation as some Christian Graduation.  To be honest, this view of Confirmation is not only misguided but downright foolish.  Yes, foolish.  You see, today is not a day where you somehow graduate and are released from the church into the grandiose world where life will be easy and smooth.  Indeed, life for the Christian beyond Confirmation is not quiet walks on the beach, and the Christian life beyond Confirmation is not roses and teacups.  But rather, Confirmation is a time to prepare you to not only know what you believe and why but also to prepare you to live, as Christians, in the valley of tears.  Yes, Confirmation is a time to equip you to live your lives in the valley of tears.  Or, as they poetically say, in this vale of tears. 

Now, the phrase, “vale of tears,” is a phrase that is often used to describe the tribulations of life that humanity experiences in the here and now.  In other words, from the time of your conception until your death, you and I and the rest of the church, travel, and labor through this valley of life – a valley that is characterized by tears, trouble, and sorrow.  Indeed, we live, breathe, and have movement not on top of the mountains, but more often than not, within this valley of tears. 

Brady, KyAnna, Schuyler, Carissa, Christina, and Bladen, let us considering this valley of tears a bit more.  This valley is dark.  In other words, this life as a Christian contains hardships, suffering, loss, grief, persecution, and pain.  It is a valley that is clouded with gloom, where you will experience the attacks of the devil, the struggles with the sinful nature, the persecution of the world, and the sting of death itself.

As you will find out, though, many people in North Americans like to pretend that our lives are not in this valley of tears.  That is right; many like to avoid the valley of tears at all costs.  It makes them uncomfortable, and it goes against their ingrained view of entitlement.  So, they try to make peace with the darkness of the valley.  They try to turn the lemons of the valley into lemonade.  They convince themselves that they are overcomers.  They say, “When I get knocked down, I get up again.”  And then, when they get up and stand as supposed overcomers, they look into the dark valley of tears and roar as if they are invincible.  This is foolishness and naiveté at best. 

Brady, KyAnna, Schuyler, Carissa, Christina, and Bladen, you will also find that there is a temptation to buy into every kind of fad and gadget that promises to take you from the valley’s tears to happiness – every gadget that promises an easier life.  Indeed, we humans are suckers when it comes to fads promoted by movie stars and infomercials with their three easy payments which promise miraculous happiness and ease.

Oh, and don’t forget death!  You will find that mankind does everything possible to sanitize the effects of death.  Plastic surgery can fix dying skin that sags on our faces, makeup covers the wrinkles of age, Rogaine attempts to reverse hair lose, and medication can temporarily reverse the effects of disease.  You will find that everybody dreams that they can be like the Joneses down the street who have apparently overcome the valley of tears.

All this stated though, dear Confirmands, know this, no matter how hard you try to climb out of the valley of tears or deny it, there is no escape – the valley’s walls are too steep, and the valley is too dark.  No matter how hard you wipe away the tears, they keep flowing – they keep flowing until your last dying breath.  In this life, the devil will continue to attack, your sinful flesh will always long to sin and wreak havoc in your lives, and the world will continue to spew forth lies, deceptions, and false promises.  There is no bottom to this stuff.
Now, I do not share this to be a killjoy, and I am not trying to place a raincloud over your heads.  I am not trying to earn a medal for the most depressing Confirmation Sermon in the history of the church; but rather, I am sharing this because this is the way that life is.  This is reality.  Life in this world is tough.  In this earthly pilgrimage, the devil and the world will never stop assaulting you.  That is to say; if you speak the truth the world rages in anger; it begins to curse, condemn, persecute, and you will endure its scorn and mockery – which leads to tears.[1]  “And if the world can whip out its sword against you, it will surely do that too, with master devil joining the fray, driving such poisonous, fiery darts into your heart that you will almost literally suffer a meltdown.”[2] 

Now, let us pause a moment.  Considering this valley of tears, when you Confirmands will experience this kind of suffering, what will you do?  Keep in mind that you cannot escape the valley – the walls on each side are too high.  Also, you cannot turn around and get out of the valley – it is too dark.  Maybe you can give up – curse the valley, curse the world, and curse God and live this life in bitterness, shaking your fist at God and grumbling to the grave!  But this still does not change the fact that you are in the valley.  So, what shall you do dear Confirmands?

Brady, KyAnna, Schuyler, Carissa, Christina, and Bladen, do not panic and do not fret.  Be still this hour and this moment; hear right now.  Did not Christ predict that there would be trials and suffering and pain in this life?  He certainly did.  However, our Lord Jesus Christ also said that this valley of tears will only be a ‘little while.’  Truly, this valley of tears is only ‘a little while.’  The comfort of the Christian is that this life on earth is only ‘a little while.’ 

It might seem strange to consider your lives in this valley of tears to be a little while, especially since you have so many more years before you to live; however, when we measure our short lives to God’s eternity, it really is a short time in comparison.  Your lives are infinitely small compared to the amount of time that awaits you in eternity. 

Though it might come across as a peculiar illustration, consider for a moment a woman about to give birth.  Her agonies and contractions increase.  Her laughter is silenced.  She sees no end to her pain.  In the midst of labor, the contractions seem like an eternity of hurt.  The pain blinds her from reality.  Fear can take hold of her as she may wonder if she and the baby will be preserved through the anguish and pain of birth.  However, objectively speaking the labor is only a little while – there is an end to it.  In a moment, all of her tears are turned to laughter, her fear is turned to victory, and her sadness is turned to joy.  At once the anguish and pain and fear and doubt are forgotten as she hears and sees the beloved newborn child in her arms.

This exchange will be the same for the church – for you dear Confirmands.  As the church, we too are in this labor with its contractions of pain.  Yes, the valley of tears is like the pains of labor.  As with labor though, your sorrows in the valley of tears will not last forever but will be turned into eternal joy.  Indeed, the valley is dark, but soon there will be a glorious day.  You will walk with the shadow of death in the valley, but soon there will be the light of life.  You walk with evil around you in the valley, but in a short while the devil, sin, and the world will have their end. 

Brady, KyAnna, Schuyler, Carissa, Christina, and Bladen, you mustn’t forget that the Lord Jesus Christ has all things in His hand.  The wind, the sea, sickness, disease, and death itself have submitted and will submit to Christ once again.  Therefore, dear Confirmands, let the devil, the world, and all the tyrants storm and rage.  Let them have their worst.  Let them growl, let them thrash, for they can only do so as God permits them and they can only do so for a little while.    

As for the time being and as you continue to walk through the valley of tears, remember what you have been taught.  Hold fast to that which you have been given.  You must cling to the promises of God’s Word – the promises that are for you.  Receive from the Lord’s Altar this day for the first time and continually receive the Sacrament of the Altar – that is given and shed for you.  Remember your Baptisms – where God’s name was placed upon you.  Patiently endure any misfortune, comforting yourself with the truth that the Lord is with you in His Word and Sacraments.  Comfort yourself with Jesus’ Word that this life is only a ‘little while.’  Know that as tough as it gets in this life that the Lord holds not only the beginning but the end of this world. 

Brady, KyAnna, Schuyler, Carissa, Christina, and Bladen, do not lose heart and do not grow faint this day on in the days to come.  The valley of tears does not last forever; there is an end to the valley.  There is an end to the suffering, an end to the persecution, an end to sin, an end to pain, and an end to the devil.  It is only a little while.  Be patient, wait it out, take courage!  The day is coming that the valley of tears will end and all things will be made anew.  Therefore, lift up your chins, confess Christ boldly this day, and know that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  Indeed confess Christ boldly today and know that His mercies never come to an end.  All grief will be swallowed up in the end and pain will be remembered no more.  Christ holds the final victory – victory for you and for me and for all of us here this day. 

In the name of Jesus Christ: Amen.

[1] Martin Luther, Complete Sermon of Martin Luther: Volume 6 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House Company, 2000), 90.

[2] Ibid.

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