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6201 W Patterson Av
Chicago IL 60634
This month four of our eighth graders, Hannah Rosemarie Jauch, Eric Augustus Lattyak, Timothy Richard Ueltzen, and Alexandria Mackenzie Wenzel will be affirming their baptismal faith in the rite of confirmation.
And since too often young people in the church seem to disappear after the day of their confirmation, some may ask, "Why even have catechism classes and confirmation at all?"
In keeping with Luther's Small Catechism, I respond to those who might dismiss the value of the tradition of confirmation by asking the question, "What does this mean?"
Well, one way to answer this question is by beginning with some things that confirmation is not!
So, what then does confirmation mean?
Well, in a nutshell, confirmation is nothing more than an affirmation of your baptism.
For if you look at the vows that are said at your baptism, they are quite similar to the vows that are said on the day of your confirmation.
Together with additional vows affirming the inspiration of God's Word, the teachings of the Lutheran Church, your intention to be faithful in worship and to live a life according to the Word of God even if should mean suffering all, even death.
Therefore, these vows are applicable to every day of your lives, not just on the day of your confirmation! As in remembrance of your baptism, you drown the old Adam in you by daily contrition and repentance and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.
So, why have confirmation at all?
Well, in answer to those who consider confirmation to be nothing but a meaningless tradition, I believe that confirmation can indeed be a meaningful time in the life of our middle schoolers.
While everyone matures at different rates, both physically and spiritually – it's a wise tradition for our youth in their early teen-age years to go through an intensive study of the basics of the Christian faith that they do in catechism classes at this vital time in their lives.
During this stage in life, they are not only becoming more and more independent, they are also beginning to face more and more temptations that 2 Timothy 2:22 describes as "youthful passions", and making key life decisions. Consequently, catechism class helps prepare them to respond to everyone who asks them to give the reason for the hope that they have with gentleness and respect (cf. 1 Peter 3:15).
In addition, confirmation gives me as their pastor a special time for me to develop a closer relationship with our youth and for them to get to know me in a more personal way than if we only saw each other on Sunday mornings.
And I'm thankful for the privilege of getting to know not only this year's class, but getting to know the other youth of Messiah that I've had in my catechism classes during my time at Messiah.
In addition, there's a promise found in Isaiah 55:11 concerning all those lessons you learned in catechism class, which says, "So shall my word that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it".
And so even though there may have been some Wednesday afternoons when going to confirmation class was the last thing our youth wanted to do, whenever we gathered around God's Word, not only was Jesus present with us, but it was not a wasted time, especially if your heart was receptive to what was being taught. For as Jesus describes in his parable of the sower, when the Word of God is planted on receptive soil, it will produce a harvest of righteousness (see Matthew 13).
Finally, confirmation class offers the solid fundamentals for our youth to build and grow on in their Christian faith just as an athlete will build on the fundamentals to grow and improve in their sport and a student will build on the basics of their subjects as they advance in their studies.
The biblical teachings of the Christian faith in catechism class allows our youth to grow and advance in their faith and walk with the Lord by building their lives on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and His words of life.
As Proverbs 22:6 tells us, "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it".
Many years ago, in a church not so far away (Hope Lutheran Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan) I was confirmed on Pentecost Sunday, May 14th, 1978. And if I was to offer advice to the eighth grade version of myself, I would tell him the following:
The Confirmation vows are easier said than done. For living out your Christian faith isn't always easy. And living in post-Christian America in 2019, it isn't getting any easier!
But here's the little wisdom I would also pass on to my 8th grade self that I pass on to all the confirmands of Messiah, recent and not so recent.
And this ties in with another event we celebrate this month, Pentecost, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Joel 2 and the promise of Jesus, where He promises in Joel 2:28-29, where Jesus promises in John 14:26 that, "the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you".
For the same Holy Spirit who keeps reminding me of the lessons I was taught in catechism classes all these years later will likewise bring to remembrance the lessons you've been taught.
Therefore, I trust that even though your catechism class days are over that you'll grow to appreciate even more the wisdom of Luther, when he said that he never outgrew his need for the teachings of the Small Catechism.
Above all, I pray that you will grow even more in your understanding of just how much God loves you, His amazing grace in Jesus Christ, and the profound meaning of the explanation to the Third Article of the Creed, which says, "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith".
For the Holy Spirit will give you the power to fulfill your confirmation vows by always pointing you to your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
And whenever your sinful nature happens to get the best of you, He will convict you of your sins and call you to repentance in order that you might turn to your Savior, receive His forgiveness and amend your sinful life, no matter how badly you've messed up, as He leads you in paths of righteousness for His name's sake (cf Psalm 23:3)
The same Holy Spirit who worked saving faith in your heart when you were born again through the water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism will empower you to fulfill your confirmation vows, keeping you in the one true faith as you continue to remain faithful hearing of God's Word and in partaking of the Lord's Supper until you finish your life's course and arrive at your heavenly home.
Therefore, "I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:6)
The almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has given you the new birth of water and of the Spirit and has forgiven you all your sins, strengthen you with His grace to life everlasting!
This is most certainly true!
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