A sermon given last Fall to fifth graders and their families at a special worship service for their first communion.
(…continued) Donny was a kid I went to school with. He moved to our school when we were in the fifth grade. Donny never made very many friends. He was little, and not in any sports. He wasn’t very smart, and struggled to pass his classes. He was shy and quiet, and the girls never paid any attention to him. He just rode the bus to school, and then rode it home again, and worked on his dad’s farm.
I was nice to Donny and took the time to get to know him. He was a good guy and could be really funny. And because of me, he got to know some other guys, and wasn’t quite as lonely. And that was good of me. But then I did something that wasn’t good. I gave Donny a nickname. It was a funny nickname, but it was one of those mean names. It was a nickname that made fun of him. He was a good-natured guy, and never seemed to get mad about it. But looking back now, I realize he probably did not like it. That was a sin for me to give him a mean name, and it was a sin to not even think about how it might have hurt him.
You know how it is in school. Some kids are mean to you, and you are mean to some kids; maybe without even thinking about it. When I was in fifth grade, I thought about kids that were mean to me, and sometimes I worried about it, and I tried to avoid them. I thought about them a lot. But do you know what I think about now, still, all these years later? I don’t think about those kids that were mean to me. I think about the kids I was mean to, and I feel bad about that. And feeling bad reminds me of my sin, and of my need for the forgiveness of Jesus. Jesus, who died on the cross for me– because of my sins.
Donny never finished high school, and I did not see him for many years. A few years ago a friend called and asked me if I knew Donny had cancer. I hadn’t heard. My friend said the doctors could not do any more for him, and they sent him home to die; home to the same farm he rode home to on the bus. All his life he worked there with his dad. He never married, still didn’t have many friends, and about the only place he went was to church. He had friends there.
I went to visit Donny one day. He was in bed and in a lot of pain. But was the same old cheerful, good-natured guy, and we had a great talk. And all the while I wanted to say, “I’m sorry Donny, really sorry about that nick-name.” But I didn’t. I didn’t want to ruin the good conversation by bringing it up. The situation was sad enough.
But I have told God that I am sorry about it. When my kids were little and someone was mean to them, I didn’t like it. And God doesn’t like it either when his children are mean to each other, so I did tell God I was sorry. In fact, sometimes when I receive Communion I still think about Donny—not because I haven’t had plenty of other sins to feel bad about, but there was something about being mean to someone who was my friend, and who I had been so good to. It was like I betrayed him.
“Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night he was betrayed… took the cup and said, this is my blood, shed for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.”
When you come forward in a few moments for your first communion there might be someone you will be thinking about, and something you did to them for which you need to be forgiven. That is why Jesus died for you, and that is why you come forward for communion.
And when receive communion you will hear these words: “The body of Christ, given for you. The blood of Christ, shed for you.” For you. Amen.
Psalm 51:3 — For I know my transgressions, and my sins are ever before me.
Jeremiah 17:9-10a — The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.”
Job 13:9 — Would it turn out well if he (God) examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men?
I John 1:8 — If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
I Corinthians 3:18a — Do not deceive yourselves…
I John 1:9 — If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Romans 3:22-24 — This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.
Merciful God, I confess to you that I have sinned.
I confess the sins that no one knows and the sins that everyone knows.
I confess the sins that are a burden to me and the sins that do not bother me because I have grown used to them.
Father, forgive me, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.