"...through slander and praise" (2 Cor. 6:8).
This Sunday, May 15, is Pentecost, which has been called the Birthday of the Church. Pentecost is on the same level as Christmas and Easter: Merry Christmas, Christ is risen, and Come, Holy Spirit!
At Our Redeemer, the congregation I pastor, Confirmation takes place on Pentecost, and this year five of our young people will be confirmed in the Christian faith. And my custom is to share with them, and the whole congregation, the following story.
A young king was quarrelsome and gave no peace to the wise old king of a neighboring country. The old king entreated for friendly relations, but in vain. The young king started a war. The old king, remembering how many foolish things he himself had done in his youth, and that there is an age from which we cannot expect wisdom, gave orders to his officers to capture his young enemy alive.
So it was done. He was brought in chains before the victor. The old man pitied the youngster, but pretended to be very angry with him and sentenced him to death. The young king begged for his life. So the old man told him: "I will give you a chance. Tomorrow you will be given a jug of water, full to the brim. You must carry it from one end of the main street of the city to the other, without spilling a drop. If you do not succeed, your life is lost."
The next day the procession started - the prisoner with the jug of water; around him soldiers to guard him; behind him the executioner with his axe, a terrifying reminder that he would be beheaded on the spot if he failed. The old king had given orders that on one side of the street there should be a mob to boo the prisoner, on the other side a crowd to cheer him.
The prisoner succeeded. He did not spill a drop. The old king asked him: "When so many people were mocking you, did you answer them back?" The young man answered: "I had no time for that. I had to be careful about my jug." "But did you thank the ones who cheered you?" "What business had I with them? Their acclamation could not help me. I was concerned with my jug of water."
The old king set him free with this advice: "You have been entrusted with a soul. You have to bring it back to the Lord whole and clean. That is the only thing that counts. If you do not succeed, you perish. Don't seek the applause of men by cheap victories. Don't worry if they mock you. Watch over your soul."
In order to do this, may the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting! Amen.