As a pastor, this past weekend was one of my favorite ones of the whole church year. I love, love, love watching young people affirm their baptismal vows in what is commonly referred to as “Confirmation.” It’s so cool.
First, let me explain what confirmation (Affirmation of Baptism) is not.
- Confirmation is not a sacrament. Though we certainly believe that God is present in the lives of young people.
- Confirmation is not becoming an “adult” in the church. Though it certainly means that young people are ready to take on more responsibility in the life and mission of their congregation.
- Confirmation is not a graduation. Though it can look like one…with the white robes and all. It can seem like we’re sending mixed messages.
- Confirmation does not mean that they are “done.” We believe that faith formation is a life-long process that engages people in their relationship with God at whatever age and stage they are.
So then what is confirmation?
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” – Hebrews 11:1
Confirmation is really two things:
- It is about discipleship and learning faith practices. Sometimes I think we assume that the faith is just something that people grow into naturally, as if we are pre-wired for it. It’s not. Faith is more like a second language that needs to be taught, modeled and practiced. Faith is something we try, we often fail at, and we try again. There are days our relationship with Christ feels strong and secure, and other days that it feels distant and weak. The three years (and really, all the years before that going back to baptism) are about learning to live in the ‘long view’ with God. It is recognizing the good and bad days of our relationship and it is learning how to navigate that.
There are seven faith practices that are critical in helping people of all ages learn to live their faith:
These are the things we try to be about as we prepare for confirmation.
- And, it is about the promises that are made on the day of confirmation. Here, we loop back to baptism. When a young person is baptized, their parents make promises on their behalf: To bring them to the services of God’s house, to place in their hands the Holy Scriptures, to teach them the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the 10 Commandments and the other important teachings of the faith. And young people are in confirmation because of these promises. But late in October each year, our 10th graders stand up and make these promises their own. “Yes, I will follow Jesus.” “Yes, I am a child of God, loved beyond measure.” “Yes, I believe.”But it’s important to remember that they do these things because first, in their baptism, God said “yes” to them. “Yes, you are my child.” “Yes, you are loved.” “Yes, you will live eternally and I will forgive you all your sins.” “Yes, you are a part of a family.”
Our young people say “yes” because God first said “yes.” It’s a beautiful relationship. And, it’s is a milestone moment in the faith life of all who affirm their baptismal promises.
And, it’s an amazing thing to be able to watch God at work in the lives of these young people. It’s one of my favorite things!
Thanks be to God!