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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.
It may be surprising for good Lutherans steeped in 500 years of confirmation tradition to discover that the early Christians never attended Wednesday evening classes with the Pastor. They didn’t spend time memorizing the Books of the Bible, after all the New Testament hadn’t even been written yet. Nor did they study Luther’s Small Catechism and its Explanation. They weren’t even required to take sermon notes, though apparently there was a young student in Troas named Eutychus who was taking notes during an exceptionally long, late night sermon by Paul. The poor Eutychus fell asleep, and then tumbled down from the windowsill of a three-story building to the pavement beneath. He was dead, but Paul miraculously raised him from the dead- to take notes on another sermon
In the early Church, confirmation, baptism and first communion were all celebrated in a single ceremony at the Easter Vigil at the end of a three year program for adult catechumens. During the worship service, the catechumens descended into a pool of water where they were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They then ascended, and were clothed with white robes, and the bishop laid hands on them and anointed them with oil. They then proceeded to a place of honor where they participated in the Lord’s Supper for the first time.
The separation of the washing with water at baptism from the anointing with oil at confirmation evolved over the centuries. It began in the 4th century, when Emperor Constantine’s proclaimed the Christianity to be the preferred state religion of the Roman Empire. Suddenly, thousands of people of all ages were being baptized by priests in every little church and chapel. Unfortunately, it was still the responsibility of the bishop to lay on hands and pray for the Holy Spirit, thus confirming the faith, and bishops could not always be present at the time of baptism. By the Middle Ages it had become the practice to confirm the baptized closer to adolescence instead of infancy, and so scholars began to teach that confirmation was a sign of maturity. Those who received it were regarded as old enough to leave home and ready enough to live active, responsible Christian lives. This was where Martin Luther’s Reformation began, and he believed that all a Christian needed to know in life was contained in the words of his Small Catechism, and in the words of Paul, “Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed , knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writing that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”
For Lutherans, the journey of faith always begins at baptism often with the commitment of parents to raise their children in the Christian faith. It is in the waters of baptism where we are given God’s promise that we are his children always.
Wesley: Baptism is not only important to me, but it is important to the church because it’s when and where you become a follower of God. Ever since I could remember, I have been going to church. It has been a very important part of my life because I believe that God is everywhere around me every day. He helps me get through things in my life. He has gotten me through a loved one’s passing away and has helped me connect with others through the church.
Yes, for the Lutheran youth, faith begins at baptism and is then nurtured in the home. It is the arms of the family that faith is taught and caught. The role of the church, you see, is to equip families to teach the faith.
Sam: As my journey through confirmation is coming to a close, I have begun to realize how great a role the church and God have played in my upbringing. The church has ushered me into becoming the individual that I am today through some of my favorite memories and my most revealing conversations. Sundays at church with my family created a sense of unity between us. As the weekend comes to an end, most kids tend to think about the school work that they have due the following day. However, I tend to think about the church service that each Sunday morning brings. From the pastor’s exhilarating sermon, to the choir’s angelic voices. Who could be waiting for anything else? Sharing these things with your family and friends is one of the best ways to create a community in and with God.
Of course, there is a structure to confirmation instruction based on Holy Scripture and Luther’s Small Catechism.
Joe: I believe that God is the creator of the universe. I believe He is all loving and merciful. I believe He forgives me, no matter the sin, if I will repent meaningfully. I believe in the Holy Spirit and the word of the Lord. Bible stories may be the one thing that I am able to remember. easily. And as many people who are close to me know, I have a pretty terrible memory. My favorite stories are the parables Jesus tells, and the stories of his life. The one that I remember most clearly is the story of Zacchaeus the tax collector. I do not know why this stood out to me, but it did. Perhaps it was because, like the tax collector, I was short; at least when I first read the story I was. But a big part of the lesson of this story was that by admitting that you have sinned, no matter how big, Jesus will forgive you. And this is something that I have come to understand throughout my life. I think that this may be the most important thing to know as a Christian.
The Confirmation students wrestle with the Apostles’ Creed which is at the heart of the Christian faith. It is the confession in which they were baptized, and the confession which they will affirm today as their own. And at the center of this confession is Jesus Christ, the teacher, the miracle worker, the friend and savior. .
Henrik: My Faith has many aspects that are represented through my values, activities and beliefs. Jesus taught good morals and a good way of life that we still use. Jesus died for something he trusted and believed in as well as for the forgiveness of sins of all people. The Bible to me is a book of historical stories that show us the right and wrong things to do and why following the Christian beliefs is good way of life. Christianity has a subtle effect on my life, that especially impacts me on holidays and Sundays when I go to church, and also at home when we sometimes talk about it in a way to relate to something that happened that day at school or work. Finally, I see myself serving Jesus by shaping my values in the way that he taught, as well as, with small actions like helping someone and doing the right thing. This is what I believe.
For another confirmand, Jesus is the steady companion.
Tori: In the 7th grade I participated in the science fair club at my school. We were talking about how school was going which is something we normally talk about. Everyone said it was going great, but they were tired, which again, was a normal response. When it was my turn, my friend asked me a question that I wasn’t expecting and, at the time didn’t know how to answer. She asked me, “Tori, how are you always so happy and energetic?” At the time I just assumed it was my personality, but through the years, as I thought about it more and more, I began to realize that the reason is because I am Christian. Because I have God. I have someone who is always looking out for me and no matter what happens. He shows me that no matter what happened the day before, good and bad, it is forgiven. Without him life would be sad. Not having any hope that things would get better. Not knowing that someone is looking out for you when times are rough. That sounds awful. I can’t imagine my life without him. Being Christian is very important to me and prayer is a huge part of that.
As many generations before them, they have wondered how God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. For many, God is most present in creation. It is sometimes, where they feel closest to God.
The Holy Spirit, however, often baffles confirmands. In theory they know that the Spirit is the living presence of Christ in the world, given at Pentecost, and they know that the Spirit moves in their lives and that they cannot “Believe in Jesus Christ, or come to him” without the work of the Holy Spirit, but they still wonder and question.
Jacob: Faith to me is believing something when there is no way to explain it. God is one of those to me, God is something that I can have faith in when I am stuck on an issue. I know that in those moments, I can close my eyes and think to myself “What is the right move in this situation?” I have faith that God will help me make the right decision where there is no conflict and where no one has to get hurt. Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins truly lets me know that I am loved no matter what mistakes I may make.
Yes, there is a growing and maturing faith in each of one of our confirmands, but God’s work is not yet done. He is still calling them to ventures and challenges that they do not know the ending. So embrace the word of St. Paul, “Continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” Amen.
May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and mind in Christ Jesus. Amen.