Monday, April 23, 2007

May Newsletter Article: Confirmation

For our May Church Newsletter:

Most of us remember a day long ago when we underwent a rite of passage called, “Confirmation”. I remember my own confirmation day mostly because in our family it was traditional to throw a huge party, and for the confirmand to receive huge sums of cash and prizes. Confirmation was, so I thought, a time in which I had “earned” my “full membership” in the church, by suffering through years of classes with the pastor. I figured I had finally jumped through the hoops necessary to deserve the Lord’s Supper. Boy, was I wrong.

Now as a pastor, I am on the other side of the confirmation equation. And I find many children and adults think the same about this churchly practice as I used to. But since confirmation day is just around the corner, here’s some reminders for those of us who are being confirmed and for those of us who have already been confirmed:

Confirmation is:
  • Connected to Baptism. In fact, that’s what is really being “confirmed”. God’s promises made to us in the water and the word are recalled and reiterated through the rite of Confirmation.
  • The conclusion of formal training, which is connected with that baptism. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples… baptizing… and teaching them” (Matthew 28). The Rite of Confirmation recognizes this instruction.
  • A churchly tradition with a long history, but it is just that, a tradition. There is nothing that says we must have Confirmation a certain way, or even have it at all.
  • An opportunity for our young people to publicly confess their faith, both in renewing baptismal vows, and in a personal statement they have prepared.

Confirmation is NOT:
  • “Graduation” from church. If anything, it’s a new beginning, a new phase of even greater participation in the life of the church.
  • A Sacrament. Confirmation does not offer any special blessings to the confirmands that are not already ours in Baptism. But it does powerfully recall those Baptismal blessings.
  • A hoop to jump through to qualify for Holy Communion. While it is important that communicants are instructed, Confirmation classes usually teach much more than the bare minimum necessary for one to receive the Lord’s Supper. But none of us can earn or deserve such a gift. Instruction about Holy Communion is really more about appropriate preparation to receive the gift. (Some Lutheran churches even separate “First Communion” and “Confirmation”. However, most of us do combine both events into one.)
  • The end of our learning in the church. Much of the academic world today encourages “lifelong learning”. And the church has always done the same. We have never studied enough, learned enough, or heard enough of what our Lord has to say to us.

Please pray for our young people who recall their baptism and confirm their baptismal vows this May 27th (Pentecost Sunday). Pray that God would continue strengthening them in their faith, through his word, and by his sacrament. Pray that they would remain strong and steadfast in Christ, and in his church, and grow to lead godly lives to his praise and glory.

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