(As a prop for
the sermon, it is beneficial to have a door hanging on two hinges on
a door frame, propped up against the altar.
A door hanging on a door frame can be “borrowed” from a
building supply store or lumber yard.
Also two sets of hinges were available for props.)
Confirmation Sunday in the life of our church, and confirmation is
one of the four most important days of one’s entire lifetime in a
congregation. That is,
our journey in church begins with baptism.
Baptism is a strategically important day, whether you are
baptized as an infant, child or adult.
During the last worship service, three young couples brought
their children to be baptized.
It was a sacred, holy and special day for all of those
families; you could see it in their eyes.
The second important day is confirmation, today, when
students in tenth grade, stand before the entire, jammed-packed
congregation and loudly proclaim the words, “I believe in Jesus
Christ as my Lord.” The
feelings run deep on this day, deep feelings of pride by parents and
godparents and grandparents. And,
if you are so fortunate, you may also stand before the congregation
on your wedding day and publicly state your lifelong vows to your
mate, hand in hand, eye to eye. What a day! What
emotions! What ecstasy!
And then there is that final day, when you have died and we
come here for a funeral or memorial service and you hear God’s
mighty promises of eternal life as a free gift to all who believe.
Yes, there aren’t many unusual sacred days during the
journey of life, but confirmation is one of them.
confirmation, we try to have some visual aid for a sermon, and
today’s sermon is no different.
Today, you will notice a door, a doorframe, and doorknob,
leaning against the church altar, and immediately some of you think
that you know what this sermon is all about.
Some of you have already guessed that this sermon is based on
the Bible verse in Revelation:
“Behold I stand at the door and knock.
If anyone opens that door, I will come in and live in him and
he in me.” You are
anticipating a sermon about opening the door of your heart to
Christ. The doorknob is on the inside and you need to open the door
of your heart. Christ will come in and live in you and you in
Christ. Well...you have
guessed wrong. The
focus for today is not on the door, not on
the doorframe, not on the
doorknob but on the hinges
on the door. Yes, the
two hinges. Focus your eyes on the two hinges.
You will notice
that his door is essentially useless without the two hinges, one on
the top and the other on the bottom of the door.
Without the two hinges, this door just doesn’t work; it
isn’t very useful; it doesn’t do what it is supposed to do.
For this door to operate correctly, it needs two
hinges. One hinge won’t suffice.
If you go home to
your house, I ask you to examine every
cupboard door throughout your whole house or apartment.
Every cupboard door
has two hinges; one on the top and one on the bottom.
If you examine every
doorway door in your house, you will also notice that all
the big doors in your house have two hinges.
If your house is not new, all
the doors leading outside of your house will also have two hinges.
The codes have changes for newer homes, and three hinges are
now found on the outside doors. The point is; every
door in your house or apartment has two hinges. That’s just the way it is. You need two hinges for doors to
Here in my hands I
have two sets of hinges. One
pair is a smaller set of hinges that is used for any normal sized
door. The second pair
is absolutely enormous; they are large decorative black hinges.
But large or small, the function is the same:
these are needed to make the door work.
The doors don’t work without these two hinges.
It is with this
image of two hinges to make a
door work that we approach the confirmation lesson for today.
Jesus is once again in conversation and confrontation with the
Pharisees. If there was
ever a group of people who approached life and religion differently
than Jesus, it was the Pharisees.
They were a rule-oriented bunch of people.
For them, the very essence of religion was to obey the rules
and regulations of the Bible. Their
goal was to obey all the commandments of the Old Testament.
Do any of you people here today know how many commandments
there are in the Old Testament, in all thirty nine books of the Old
Testament? Hw many rules there are?
Are there any guesses, like this is how many jelly beans are
located in a jar? Well,
there are 613 commandments in the Old Testament. And what do you think: are
there more positive or more negative commandments?
You are right; there are more negative commandments.
There are 365 negative commandments in the Old Testament,
“thou shalt not!) and there are 248 positive commandments (you
shall!!). Te very essence of the Old Testament religion for the
Pharisees was to know and obey these 613 rules. And that was the very essence of their confirmation program.
How would have you liked that, confirmands?
To memorize, recite and obey 613 religious rules and
So one day, one of
these Pharisees came to Jesus and asked him a question in order to
trap him, “Jesus, of all the 613 rules and regulations of the Old
Testament, which one is the most important?” Jesus
answered, Dueteronomy 6:4, “You shall love the Lord your God with
all your heart and with all your mind and with all your soul.” And the second (he had only asked for one but Jesus gave him
two.) one is like it.” And Jesus reached back into the book of
Leviticus, chapter 18, about the lepers, and there in Leviticus 18,
he chose an obscure line, “And you shall love your neighbor as
yourself. On these two commandments HINGE all the Law and the
Prophets.” On these
two commandments, HINGE the whole Bible.
What use is the
Bible without these two hinges?
The whole Bible is not really useful without these two
hinges. The key focus
is on the word, “hinge.”
During the past
three years of confirmation, you confirmands have studied the whole
Bible very thoroughly. In
the first year of confirmation, I taught you the Old Testament.
Imagine that the bottom third of this door represents what
you learned about the Old Testament. You studied the most important stories in Genesis, Exodus,
Leviticus, Numbers, Duetoronomy.
Then we studied the history books:
Joshua, Judges, Ruth, I and II Samuel, I and II Kings, I and
II Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.
We then studied the four major prophets and the two minor
prophets. There is a
lot of Biblical stuff on this bottom third of the door.
In the second year of confirmation, you studied on the middle
section of this door: all
the birth stories of Jesus, all his parables, all his teachings, all
his miracles, all his passion stories and all of the resurrection
stories. On the top third of the door, you studied the life and
doctrines of the Apostle Paul:
his conversion stories, his missionary trips, his major
doctrines of grace, faith, justification.
You also learned about Martin Luther who thinks like the
Apostle Paul. But what good is all this Biblical material you have
learned during the past three years without the two hinges?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind
and soul and your neighbor as yourself.
What good is all this religious knowledge without the two
hinges of Love? What
good is a door without two hinges?
All you adults who
are present today, who have studied the Bible throughout your
lifetime, what good is all that knowledge you have, of what use it,
if you don’t have the two hinges of love?
This door is full of religious knowledge and Bible knowledge,
and you can’t use it unless you have two hinges that make the door
Now, some people
want to do away with the door altogether and all you need is the two
hinges: “You shall
love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and your
neighbor as yourself.” Throw
away the Bible. The essence of all religion is love of God and love
of neighbor. Some
people, all they want are the two hinges.
They boil all the religions of the world down to two hinges:
love for God and neighbor. That is all that is needed.
But still others,
all they really want is a doorful of Biblical knowledge and churchy
programs. They know a
lot about the Bible and church and church etiquette and church
manners but they really don’t love God with everything they have
nor do they truly love their hurting neighbors.
Such people are moe interested in going to church and being
active in the church and Bible than loving God and neighbor. Such Christians really like the door and spend a lot of time
with the door but truly don’t grasp the importance of the two
hinges. It’s the
wrong way to go.
Of what good is any
door without the two hinges?
“Do these and you shall live.
Do these two commandments and you shall finally find life.”
He didn’t say: memorize
these two commandments. He didn’t say:
recite these two commands for confirmation. He didn’t say:
think about these two commandments every day.
He said: “Do
these and you shall finally find life and what it means to truly
So what does this
first upper hinge, which is so essential, represent?
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind
and soul. What does it
mean to love God that way, with everything you have and are?
I think I understand. Let
me explain. When I was your age, I was wildly infatuated with a girl by
the name of Adelma Garber; but then a year later, it really
love!!! Do you remember her name from past stories?
Of course, Lorna. Lorna Finkelbaum.
How I loved Lorna. I thought of her every morning, noon and night.
I wanted to be with her every morning, noon and night.
I talked with her every morning, noon and night.
My life revolved around my awareness of her.
I spent a good deal of time at her locker at school every
day. I was conscious
and subconscious of her all the time.
I gave her my all. And
so it is with God. To
love God with all your heart, mind and soul is to think of
God...morning, noon and night, to want to be with God, morning, noon
and night, to talk with God, morning, noon and night.
I spend time every day with God at my prayer locker.
My whole life revolves around my awareness of God who is the
center of my existence. I
know what it means to love God with everything I have and am; and
that’s not primarily a matter of being churchly and being Bibley.
It’s to love God deeply. Yes, we know what it means to love
And how can you not
love God, after all that God has done and given to you.
You wouldn’t be alive and here today if it weren’t’ for
God. You wouldn’t see
the beauty of this day, nor would you know the beauty of Jesus
Christ living inside of you, if it weren’t for God.
How would you ever get to heaven to live with God in eternal
beauty without his gracious love given in Jesus Christ?
Why would you not
love God with everything you have?
How is life and eternal life possible for you without God’s
gracious giving love?
What good is this
door of religious knowledge or churchly habits without this top
hinge of loving God with everything you are and have?
The door of Biblical and churchy knowledge just doesn’t
work without the top hinge.
The bottom hinge
represents the love of neighbor.
The top hinge is to love God with all our heart mind and soul
and the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.
Intuitively, I think we substitute the word, “family” for
neighbor. We are to
love God with all our heart, mind and soul and our
family as ourselves. Our
Mom and Dad, brother and sister, Grandma and Grandpa, we are to be
filled with love for our family.
Intuitively, I think many of us interpret “neighbor” as
family. But even the
Pharisee loved their children and parents.
... Or we think
that to love our neighbor is to love our friends, our friends at
church, our friends at school, our friends at camp. ... Or we think
that to love our neighbor is to love the people next door, the
people in the house or condominium or apartment next to us who drive
the same kind of cars and wear the same kind of clothes as we do
ourselves. We are to love them as we love ourselves. So intuitively, we think we think we know what the word,
But in Luke’s
version of this story for today, the Pharisee then asked the
Jesus, who is my neighbor?” He
wanted a definition of neighbor and so do you and I. Who do you mean
by “neighbor,” Jesus? Jesus
said, “There once was a man walking down the Jericho Road and he
was beaten up (sharply smash one’s fist into the palm of one’s
hand several times) by life and left there to die.
Who is our neighbor? They
are the people who are beaten up (repeat image of fist into palm) by
life, who get smashed up by life:
in the gospel of Luke, the poor, the maimed, the blind and
the lame, the lepers. And
who gets beaten up and smashed up in your world and mine today?
The poor. Drug
infested families. Starving
people. Hungry people. Those
in jail, prisons, sick, homeless.
Who is my neighbor is not my family, friends or the people
next store but those who are being beaten up by life.
You young people
wrote unusually beautiful papers for confirmation this year, all
entitled “my relationship to Jesus Christ.” We, on the church
council, were deeply moved to hear your stories.
I enjoyed all the papers, but yours, Megan, touched me in a
special way when you told how you get up at 4:30 AM on a regular
basis, come here to church early in the morning before school with
your mom to prepare breakfast for the men at our homeless shelter.
You know what the meaning of the bottom hinge is:
what good is all the confirmation learning without the two
hinges, to love God and
your neighbor...such as the homeless men you make breakfast for.
What good is this
door without the two hinges? Please
tell me, what good is this door without two hinges?
It needs both hinges to work properly.
“Do these and you
shall find life; you shall begin to really live.”
He didn’t say: memorize
them, recite them, or think about them.
He said: Do
these and you shall finally begin to live a life worth living.
One time a Pharisee
approached Jesus and asked: “Jesus,
of all the 613 commandments in the Old Testament, which one is the
most important?” Jesus answered: “You
shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and
the second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself.
On these two commandments
hinge all the Law and the Prophets.
Do these and you shall live.”
The focus today is on these two hinges.
Not the door. Not
the doorknob. Not the
frame. I asked you again: What
good is this door without these two