Monday, October 31, 2011

Confirmation Sunday - October 30, 2011

Tyler, Ellie, Andrew and Lane.  Today I want to talk to you about what Confirmation isn’t.  And then I’ll say just a bit about what it is.   

First, Confirmation isn’t something that is a good deed or something that makes you holy.  Being confirmed today does not mean that you have pleased God any more than you did yesterday or four years ago.  Getting confirmed isn’t going to change anything about you.  It isn’t making you into a better Christian.  It isn’t adding points to your score or any of that kind of business. 

Second, Confirmation isn’t the end of something.  For many, confirmation is understood as the finish line, as the goal.  After Confirmation, many think, “Now I can take some time off.  I’ve fulfilled my duty.  I’ve done what I had to do.”  Hogwash.  When you prepare the field in the spring, and plant the seed, and spray during the summer, and then when you harvest in October, is farming over?  Of course it isn’t.  You keep working.  And soon enough, there will be manure trucks on the road in the springtime and seeds will be going in again.  Farming does not end just because there comes a moment to reflect on the season just past.  Confirmation isn’t the end. 

On the other hand, Confirmation isn’t the beginning either.  Sometimes we can think of Confirmation as a rite of passage.  And all of a sudden, so the story goes, you are starting something new.  I’m afraid I don’t really agree with this.  Your life of faith isn’t beginning with confirmation.  Faith was given to you long before this day.  Later, I will pronounce a blessing over you, asking that the Holy Spirit be stirred up in you.  Is this a new gift?  No.  The Holy Spirit was given to you long before this day.  Confirmation isn’t the beginning of something new.

So what is it?  If it isn’t something that is changing you, if it isn’t a good deed, if it isn’t the end of something, nor the beginning either.......  What is Confirmation and what is happening today?

The three years of confirmation exist for this reason.  They are to teach you the basics of the faith.  Confirmation exists so that you will learn the nuts and bolts of the church teaching.  You were required to come on Wednesday night for three years to learn these things.  You were required to take sermon notes in order to learn these things. 

Now in the past months, I have often been talking about Law and Gospel, and how important it is to distinguish between the two.  And today is a good day to do it again.  Your three years of Confirmation have been about the Law.  You were required to do certain things.  You were fulfilling a duty.  You were doing the action.  And this is good and right.  God certainly calls on us to study his Word.  He definitely calls on us to come to church to hear his Word spoken.  Without question he calls on us to serve others in and outside of the church.  These are all examples of what the Law has required of you.

These are also examples of what the Law will continue to require of you.  The Law does not cease making demands of you because you are confirmed.  In fact, it demands all the more.  You have learned, but you have not learned enough.  You have served, but you have not served enough.  In a scripture lesson next month, we will hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.  You have been faithful in little.  I will put you in charge of much.”  And so I tell you, you have been faithful in a little.  And so God will demand all the more from you.  This service will only end when you die.  It is the work of a lifetime,...... an entire lifetime. 

Now, I have been speaking of your duty and what is required of you.  I have said that Confirmation has been the Law makings demands of you.  This is true.  But it isn’t the whole story.  Aside from the Law, we must hear God’s gospel.  The gospel is different from the Law.  It doesn’t have anything to do with what you have done.  It has only to do with what God has done.  So let us hear the gospel. 

I said that Confirmation was not a beginning.  In fact, your beginning was your baptism.  For it was on that day that God gave you a promise.  These were the words that the Pastor spoke that day, “God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we give you thanks for freeing your sons and daughters from the power of sin and for raising them up to a new life through this holy sacrament.”  This is what we call the gospel, the forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life.  This is the good news that was delivered to you as you lay helpless in your mother’s and father’s arms.  It was on that day that you were changed.  It was on that day that God made you a new creation and gave you a new beginning.

So what is happening today?  Well, I suppose it’s a bit like harvest time.  You are taking a moment to look back on this season just past.  You are taking a moment to remember how God has blessed you so far.  And you are looking to the future, confident in his blessing and resolved to work hard through many seasons to come. “Yes,” you are saying, “I have heard the promises that God has declared to me.  I have heard that he has forgiven my sin.  I have heard that he has promised me eternal life.  Because he has done these things, therefore I renounce sin.  I renounce the devil.  I renounce all in the world that rebels against God.  He has chosen me and so I am his.”  This is what you are saying today.  Amen.  

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