Tuesday, May 06, 2014

confirmation


on sunday, our church celebrated a truly awesome moment when 8 of our young people confirmed their faith in Jesus in front of God, their families, and our whole church community.

it has become unpopular in our culture for youth to go through confirmation programs anymore, and many churches have so watered down confirmation programs by shortening and sweetening them in an effort to make them more palatable, that it hardly retains any meaning or significance.

and that's a shame.  because confirmation is important.  think about your name.  your full name.

it was given to you.

your parents or grandparents or rich uncle (who whoever named you) didn't consult you first.  they didn't put a bunch of names on a list and ask you to pick.  they didn't leave you nameless until you were old enough to decide for yourself.  they simply picked a name.  the same is true of your last name, in a different sort of way.  you certainly weren't consulted about what family you would be born into.

now, you may love your name, or you may not care for it.  maybe you've grown into it, or maybe you've shaped it and changed it to suit you over the years.  in any case, your name is a gift given to you by those who named you.  but at some point in your life, it ceased being something they gave you, and began to be something that was yours.  for better or for worse, your name is part of your identity; part of what defines you.  when you finally start to live into your name, to own it as your own, to embrace the way the shape of its sound on the lips of others is the way you are known and named, then you confirm it as your own name.

that's confirmation.

your parents, who whomever made the decision to have you baptized as a child, as a sign and symbol and sacrament of God's beautiful and mysterious work in your life that is not dependent on your response, but is already at work in you before you are even born, gave you this gift.  they didn't consult you.  they simply knew that it was just as important to provide for your spiritual health as it is to provide for your physical health.  just as they gave you a name, they gave you a faith.  call it your inheritance.  call it a gift.  call it what you want, but i can assure you that it is really only a hand-me-down offering until it is confirmed as yours.

so, over the last 6 months, these 8 young people have been meeting with their leaders every week, studying this faith, learning it as both a matter of the head and the heart.  they've been studying the book of james with their mentors.  they've done service projects.  they've memorized prayers.  they've taken notes during worship services.  they've prayed and practiced acts of devotion.  they've written a statement of their faith, and then, on sunday, they stood in front of God, family, and church and made vows, for better or for worse, that this faith that was given to them without their consent has come to define them, and that they willfully and joyfully are choosing to keep living into it.

the day before they were confirmed, i met with each of them and reminded them all of something i want to remind myself (and you) of today:  this is not the end.  confirmation is not a finish line.  it is a wonderful milestone, to be sure; a kind of altar built along the journey, so we can always look back and know what God has done for us. but we don't remain there.  we keep moving.  we keep discovering.  we keep learning.  we keep praying and growing and struggling and searching and reaching and resting in God's love.  our names, our callings, our our faith is not something we define, so much as they are something that define us, so long as we keep living into them, and discovering them for the gift that they are.

so to the eight of you who were confirmed at catawissa avenue umc on sunday i say this:  i am so proud of you.  but don't stop now!  keep growing!  and to the rest of you, i encourage you with the same words:  now is not the time to stop.  or if you have already stopped, and have just been stagnant for some time: you can move again!  the adventure of faith, of discovering, of being fixed in the broken places, of living a life of hope and love awaits!  live it!  keep growing!

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