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Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
For nearly 500 years, since the time of the Reformation, confirmation has been a part of the rite of passage for Lutheran families. Young men and women wrestle with the stories of the Bible, the creeds, the teachings of the church, and Luther’s Small Catechism, as they try to make their parents’ faith, their own. Today, this year’s confirmation class will share portions of their statements of faith on their spiritual journey.
For Lutherans, the journey of faith begins at baptism. It is where we are given God’s promise that we are his children always. Of course, we wonder how water can do such great things, and in the Catechism we are taught that is “Clearly not the water that does it, but it is the word of God, which is with and alongside the water and faith.” But that is not always what we see- especially when we are young.
Jack: My older brother’s confirmation and my younger brother’s baptism were key events that stick in my memory. For Nick’s baptism I was seven years old and was afraid to go up to the altar for the ceremony so I sat with my relatives who filled half the pews in the church. I don’t remember my own baptism but I expect that mine was like Nick’s and I had lots of family members in the congregation. It was really cool how everyone showed up to be part of this event. My mom, dad and other relatives helped me to understand faith, that Jesus died for our sins, and frees us to do good works and to take care of others.
The Lutheran Church has always considered the home to be the primary place for growing in faith, and parents are intended to be the most important spiritual teachers. Sunday School plays a vital role in the confimand’s spiritual journey, but faith begins in the home.
Allison: When I was a little girl I said prayers every night with my parents and sisters. We would ask for God’s help to “respect myself each other and the earth” and we were to say ay at least one thing we were thankful for. As my faith has grown and changed over the years I still believe in these two main ideas: being respectful and thankful. When I was a little girl – I would always say I was thankful for the cat. And I am. I am also thankful for my friends, my family, my pets. I am thankful for my education and my house. I am thankful to be a part of this church and its community.
As for the life in the congregation, it is where the faith is often caught and not taught.
Maddie: When I was younger, church was something that never really meant a whole lot to me. I loved going to church mostly because of coffee hour, and I would always doodle while listening to the sermon. The things that were said and talked about never made sense to me, and the service was always too early and too long. It wasn’t until I got older that church and faith really started to mean something to me, and I started to recognize how faith and prayer could help me come to terms with the events that were happening in my life.
The confirmands became reacquainted with the Ten Commandments and Martin Luther’s familiar teaching phrase. “What does this mean?” and “We are to fear, love and trust God.”
Kiera: For me, God symbolizes love and hope, and the Ten Commandments are not so much law and expectations as morals and guidelines on how to be human. Moses was given two stone tablets with the commands hand written by God, to carry down the mountain. During church every Sunday I would sit and reflect about the past week, what mistakes had I made. How should I fix it? Everyone has different morals and expectations on who they want to be but while you’re figuring that out, God is always there to guide you and forgive you.
Yes, God promises grace and every good thing to all those who keep these commandment. Therefore we also are to love and trust him and gladly act according to his commands.
The Confirmation students struggled with the Apostles’ Creed. As many generations before them, they wondered how God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Jake: When I think of God, I don’t think of a guy up in the clouds or someone who is staring down on us watching our every move. I think of something or someone out here that is always available to turn to when facing hardship or struggle, someone that could help you or guide you through something you need some help with or aren’t prepared for.
What is clearest for our confirmands is that God has a purpose for their life.
Jake: When I was younger and took religion class at my school, I thought of the Bible as just some stories that happened a long time ago. Many of the stories have a different meaning or moral than I first imagined. As I have learned more, I realize one key teaching in the Bible. Everyone is special and God give each one of us a purpose and destiny.
Alexander: Until recently I haven’t been involved much with church or the Christian faith and I am still unsure about many things. However, in this one year of confirmation and going to church I feel like I’ve learned quite a bit and I hope to continue learning about the Christian faith. In the future I see myself serving Christ by continuing to learn about God and Christianity. As well as trying to live the best life I can by living a life of unconditional love and trying my best to follow the Ten Commandments and even when I fail in doing this I know that I will be forgiven because of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Prayer and Holy Communion are important to our confirmands spiritual journey.
Nicolas: Many things are key to building up a solid faith, especially daily prayer and the holy sacraments. Daily prayer has been a ritual inside of me for as long as I can remember. It is just self-explanatory for me to say a prayer once or twice every day. I see prayer as a way of giving thanks as well as asking for help and forgiveness. I see prayer as a chat with God where you can tell him everything without saying a physical word and he understands you and gives you pointers. Sometimes just openly talking about something, like through prayer, helps achieve clarity and resolve things in your mind. Also Holy Communion is another important part of my faith. Communion is our way of receiving forgiveness. Communion is also something we all do in fellowship so it gives me a sense of being in a special community.
So too is the fellowship of the Christian Church.
Maddie: Through the years of teaching and learning from others I have really come to accept the sayings, “God has a plan for everyone,” and the fact that “everything happens for a reason.” Throughout my years I have grown physically, mentally, and spiritually, and I am hoping to continue doing so and planning on stay on God’s path. I realize though that our church has given me a path, and I am positive that I want to stay on this path, but that our church has also given me a continuous community that will always pray for me and my family when we need it, but also a community that I feel comfortable praying for when they need it.
In the face of confirmation, pastors often develop a tough, no non-sense image as a self-defense mechanism. And there’s a good reason for it. Pastors are always the brunt of humor of the confirmands. I am sure it was meant as a compliment, but at confirmation one year I was introduced affectionately and proudly by one of the confirmands to his family with the words. “Our pastor has never bored anyone with a long sermon. He always does it quickly.” I sheepishly walked away. Recently, I noticed another confirmand writing sermon notes furiously. I wasn’t sure I even had anything important or inspiring to say. Then I saw him turn over the page and write on the back side. I was duly impressed by the student and myself. Yes, I felt like I was on the top of the world, until I discovered his paper. It simply read, “Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t fall asleep.”
But every once in while a confirmation class comes along that reminds you why teaching and sharing the Christian is wonderful and fulfilling.
This is most certainly true. Amen
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.