Dear Fellow Confirmands,
Wow, it’s been a long time, hasn’t it? Don’t worry- that’s not our picture above, but it has been twenty-two years since we were confirmed. Remember how the nine of us sat in Confirmation class every Wednesday evening for two years? Remember those 5-question quizzes we had to take at the start of each class period? We studied the Six Chief Parts of the Catechism over those two years, and then we had our public questioning the week before we were confirmed. We were so nervous about that. We studied the questions and answers over and over again so we wouldn’t mess up in front of everyone. And then came Confirmation Sunday. We all dressed in our white robes with the red carnation corsage, stood in front of church and made our Confirmation vows with the entire church witnessing it. It was a marvelous day. But since then I haven’t seen much of some of you. In fact, there are a few of you I haven’t seen at all since we were confirmed. And that makes me wonder what definition you are using for the word confirmation. In the notorious words of Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means…”
You see, here’s the thing- confirmation is not the same thing as graduation. When we graduated high school, for example, we were done. Four years after I was confirmed I graduated from high school and was officially done with my classes there. If I never wanted to set foot in that building again for the rest of my life, so be it. I passed my classes and was ready to move on. Graduation meant that I had completed the requirements of my high school and was finished. But that isn’t what confirmation is at all. It’s not just some class to pass. It’s not proof that you completed the requirements and are finished with church now. You don’t know all you need to know. Far from it. See, confirmation is not an ending- it’s turning a page to the next chapter in your faith walk.
Think back with me to your high school graduation. If you’re anything like me, you promised your friends there that you would stay in touch and be friends forever. And chances are that your intentions were sincere. You truly wanted to remain friends. But it’s also likely that you gradually fell out of touch with a lot of those friends. You probably sent Christmas cards for a while and got together over summer break when everyone was home from college, but there came a point when you realized you just didn’t have much in common with those friends after all. Perhaps you keep up with them via the occasional Facebook post, but it’s not the same as it was back in high school. Is that the kind of promise you made at Confirmation? A promise that seemed genuine at the time, but once daily life got in the way, something to quietly let go? Something to do occasionally, like at Christmas or Easter? Because that’s what I fear most of you believe.
To the best of my knowledge, of the nine of us who were confirmed together, only myself and two others are attending a church on a regular basis. That’s a tragic statistic. That means that two-thirds of us have either fallen away or at the very least put church as a low priority in their lives. And from what I’ve seen talking to pastors and other friends, our class isn’t unique. Many times confirmation is seen more as a graduation ceremony. There. I know the Catechism. I’ve memorized what I need to know. Let’s finish this ceremony and move on with life. I’m done! Yippee! But that’s far from the truth.
The truth of the matter is that confirmation has much more in common with a marriage than with graduation. A marriage is the beginning of an entirely new way of life. Where once you were single, now you have a spouse to share your life with, and you vow to remain faithful to that spouse until death parts you. That’s right- until death. Sound familiar? Let me remind you what we all vowed together during Confirmation Sunday. First we confirmed (acknowledged with definite assurance) the faith into which we were baptized. We reaffirmed our belief in the Triune God- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We confessed the doctrine of our church body to be faithful and true teachings of the Bible as we learned from the Catechism. Now take a look at the next exchange. The questions were asked by the pastor, and we responded.
Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully? I do, by the grace of God.
Do you intend to live according to the Word of God, and in faith, word, and deed to remain true to God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even to death? I do, by the grace of God.
Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? I do, by the grace of God.
Friends, this is serious stuff. We vowed to remain faithful even unto death. Make no mistake about it, there are Christians in the world right now who are indeed dying for their faith. They would rather suffer death than deny their Savior. They take it that seriously. And I tend to believe that those of you who have fallen away from church aren’t being persecuted like that. It’s a choice you made freely. One less thing to fit into a busy schedule, one less commitment, etc. But please reconsider.
Look once more with me at the Confirmation service in our hymnal. At the beginning, the pastor addresses the congregation, and he quotes a Bible verse in this address. Jesus says in Matthew 10:32-33, “Whoever confesses Me before men, I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” This is serious, people. The most terrifying thing I can think of is standing before God’s throne when I die only to have Jesus deny me a place in heaven. Nothing on earth can compare with that horror. To fall away from Jesus and suffer the consequences of hell is the worst thing I can possibly think of. But that doesn’t have to happen to you. Jesus already took that punishment on your behalf. Remember the words of the explanation of the Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed?
[Jesus] has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
Fellow Confirmands, please come back. We want to see you again. We want to welcome you back into our midst. Please recall the faith into which you were confirmed so many years ago. It’s not too late. Jesus is waiting with open arms.