May 30 – Why I Love Confirmation

ConfirmationWhether you live in the Scottish highlands, the Dutch lowlands, the Alps of Switzerland long ago, or in the modern suburbs of Philadelphia, part of growing up is figuring out where you came from, who you are, and where you’re headed.

What can I tell you about Confirmation as we come again to Confirmation Sunday? I love it.

The practice is old and as old as the Reformed Tradition and older. Confirmation not just fit, but helped define the rhythms and the seasons of life in the villages of Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century Scotland and the towns of Holland and of Calvin’s Geneva. Infants were baptized as children of the covenant, parents and churches leaning hard on God’s grace as they raised their children as Christians who, in God’s time, would have faith quickened in their hearts by the work of the Holy Spirit in them. At an appropriate age, twelve to fifteen, the children of any given village, town or canton would be catechized, that is trained in the content of Christian faith and then given an opportunity to claim that faith as their own.

Confirmation was a rite of passage, a serious event, as children who were now well on their journey to adulthood took first steps into that great cloud of faithful witnesses. The things learned in Confirmation – that our chief end is to glorify and enjoy God forever; that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, not to ourselves but to our faithful Savior; that the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for God’s own glory, our salvation, faith, and life, is found in the pages of Scripture – those things lasted a lifetime.

Not every young Scottish or Dutch or Swiss boy or girl always paid attention as their pastor taught the catechism. They were boys and girls like all boys and girls. Not every young person confirmed by the church would go on to live a life that confirmed his or her election. But no one thought of not preparing the children of the village, town, or canton for Confirmation.

In our PCUSA Directory for Worship we are told that “the church nurtures those baptized as children and calls them to make public their personal profession of faith and their acceptance of responsibility in the life of the church. When these persons are ready, they shall be examined by the session. After the session has received them as active members they shall be presented to the congregation during a service of public worship. In that service the church shall confirm them in their baptismal identity.”

But does this old practice that was a part of the rhythms and seasons of life in Scotland and Holland and Switzerland four hundred years ago make sense in Twenty-first Century America?  Is there enough similarity in the lives of fourteen or fifteen year olds at a suburban high school and the far-removed lives of boys learning a trade and girls learning to manage a household to warrant our practice of Confirmation? Or is it all some sort of ecclesiastical nostalgia?

Whether you live in the Scottish highlands, the Dutch lowlands, the Alps of Switzerland long ago, or in the modern suburbs of Philadelphia, part of growing up is figuring out where you came from, who you are, and where you’re headed. The things learned in Confirmation – that our chief end is to glorify and enjoy God forever; that we belong, body and soul, in life and in death, not to ourselves but to our faithful Savior; that the whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for God’s own glory, our salvation, faith, and life, is found in the pages of Scripture – those things still will last a lifetime.

I love Confirmation because it works.  Or should I say because God works in and through it? Yes, God still uses Confirmation. Powerfully, he works in Confirmation.

Please, join us on Sunday. You will see how God has been at work. You will see the waters of baptism splashed over those not yet baptized. You will hear confessions of faith – “I believe” – seriously made, promises of commitment joyfully given. And you will be asked, once more, to nurture and encourage faith and support discipleship in ten young people, no longer children but sons and daughters of the covenant beginning an adult journey of faith.

Yes, I love Confirmation, and I stand in awe at what God is doing not just in the lives of these ten young disciples but among us as his people. Thanks be to God!

Please, see you Sunday!