"I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. The who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God." Luke 12:8-9
Confirmation Class of 2002:
This past year has been a milestone in your life. Not only have you come to the end of your elementary and middle school years and are about to enter into High School, but for all of us this has been a year unlike all others.
Last September you were starting your 8th grade year. Then the second week came that great disaster, the attack on our country at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon in Washington D.C., and to those on that doomed airliner that crashed in Pennsylvania. They said our lives would never be the same. They were right in many ways.
But good things came out of that terrible day. Before we seldom thought much about police and firefighters, except maybe for those shows about them on T.V. But now we call them heroes and protectors. How heroic it was when on the morning of September 11 when everyone else was running out and away from the towers, several hundred of them were running in. They knew what could happen to them, and, yet, they still went in to help others get to safety. They risked their lives and they lost. We will always remember them as heroes.
There are heroes of the Christian faith also. We tend to think of people like St. Peter, crucified upside down because he was too humble to die the way that Jesus did, or St. Paul who went through shipwreck, torture, and threat of death rather than keep quiet about the good news Jesus had sent him to tell. But, in a sense, all Christians are to be heroes of the faith, for they are to keep calling on the name of the Lord no matter what they face in life.
Today on your confirmation we want to remind you of all that God has done to save you, and encourage you to continue to be a hero of the faith. Jesus said in the 12th chapter of Luke, "If you boldly claim me before the world, I will claim to know you before my Father in heaven. But if, for whatever reason, you don't claim to know me before the world, I will have to claim I don't know you when you come looking to get into heaven."
You can claim to know God because he first claimed you. When Jesus died on the cross, he gave his life to work forgiveness for the sins of the world. Jesus also gave himself personally for you.
When you were baptized, God put his name on you and counted you part of his family. He put faith into your heart, and your parents and sponsors promised to raise you in a way that would teach you who your Savior is.
Ever since that day you've belonged to God. When you were crawling around the house, you belonged to God. When you went to school for the first day, Jesus was there with you. When you were out on the basketball court, sitting in school taking tests, or going on vacation with your family, Jesus was right there with you. He forgave your sins and washed you clean every time you asked for it.
Let's clear up some common misperceptions about confirmation: You are not joining the church today. You have been a member of this church since the day you were baptized. You are not completing your salvation today. You were saved when you were baptized. Today we might say you are remembering you were baptized, and giving the world a progress report on your Christian walk with Jesus.
We've come to this point today to celebrate God being with you and to ask you some very important questions. Number 1 is do you believe in Jesus only because your parents make you, or do you believe in him as your savior on your own? Number 2 question is are you going to continue to be a Christian and stay close to Jesus ever day you live in this world? The answers are up to you. God wants you to continue to be a hero of the faith, but he wants you to answer these questions today and every day for the rest of you life.
In a few minutes we will put those questions to you for you to answer. But before we do, let's take them one at a time and go over them so we all know what we are promising to do.
The first question you will be asked is this: Do you acknowledge the gifts God gave you in your baptism? Remember from the Catechism that the gifts of Baptism promised to you are forgiveness, life and salvation. This question is another way of saying if you were to die tonight, do you know that you would go to heaven. You are not answering that with a maybe, but a solid "YES!" You can answer yes because you know what Jesus has done for you and you have learned that Jesus brought you that faith through baptism and the teaching you have learned from your parents, pastors, and Christian teachers.
The next question asks: Do you renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways? I know that none of you thinks they belong to the devil. You recognize him as the great enemy of every Christian. It's important for us to remember that we don't belong to ourselves either. As created people, we belong to somebody. We don't belong to the devil; we belong to the Heavenly Father. From this day on in every situation of life, remember who you belong to.
After that we ask if you believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. You will speak together the Apostles' Creed. This creed was read when you were baptized. It is a symbol of the religion you were belong to. Together you studied the Apostles' Creed very carefully in your Catechism instruction. Today you speak that creed as a symbol of all you've learned about God and hold to be true.
The next question is the scary one. You all remember what happened 3 years ago at Columbine High School. There were some people who died that day because they confessed they believed that God would save them. We don't know if they would be alive today if they had forsaken Jesus, but we do know they would not be in heaven today if they had forsaken him. It was more important for them was to live just a few more seconds more in this world with Jesus than to live a long life here without him.
Would you be willing to die for the faith you confess today? That's the next question. Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it? That is a big question for a 13 or 14 year old to be making. On your own you can't do it. No one can. But with God helping you, you can and you will.
Remember that in the months and years ahead. Every year we ask the confirmands that question, and every year they all answer yes. But then the summer vacation hits. And high school sports schedule comes. Your social calendar begins to fill up. And by fall about half of you aren't coming to church regularly anymore. That is a shame. God is willing to stay with you all your life. He wants you to stay with him. The best place to stay close to him is where he says he'll meet with you, right here at his altar. You can always find God in the preaching of the Bible. You can find him in your Baptism and in the Lord's Supper. Stay in these things and you will stay close to God. Let something take their place, and some day you will be wondering where God went in your life. You remain a hero when you remain planted in Jesus as you are today.
Parents, it is expected that you will continue to see to it that these kids are here in church. Don't give them the option of staying home now that they are confirmed. They are still sinners, aren't they? When you ask them if they want to go to church, who do you think will be answering, the new person that God loves God's house, or the old sinner who would rather sleep in? To be the head of a household is to say to the family, "As long as you live in this house, you will attend the Lord's house with the rest of us." That is a part of being a Christian parent.
The next question asks if you believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and the doctrine you've learned from the Catechism is true to the Bible. If you believe the Bible is true, then you are going to keep studying it. Today is not your graduation from Christian education. Confirmation means you now have the tools to study the Bible for yourself. Keep reading the Bible, not for a grade in class or a progress report, but because it will keep you close to God. We live in a mixed up world full of evil. Heroes of faith have to stay rooted in scripture. Don't let your catechism book get covered with dust either. Read through it regularly and pray the catechism to God as a prayer. It will keep you close to Him.
We will ask if you wish to become a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and of this congregation of St. John. If you answer yes, then you are committing yourself to supporting the church with your presence at the worship services, your talents and special abilities, and your treasures. We are giving you a packet today, and in that packet is a pledge form. We are asking you to consider how much you will give each week as an offering to God. This is something you should take seriously and do. This is your church. As your church, you should sacrifice some of the money you earn and receive and give it back to God as a sign of your thanks. You do this because you realize how much God has done for you and you want to say thanks and support what God is doing here. You will also receive offering envelopes to help you do this.
Sometimes we think giving a tithe is what we should do after we go to college and start a career. But God put no age limit on thankfulness. It is easier to start a good habit now than to try to do it later when the bills start rolling in.
The final question is an important one. Do you intend faithfully to conform all your life to the divine Word, to be faithful in the use of God's Word and Sacraments, and in faith, word and action remain true to God, even to death?
When I was in high school I was in a singing group that went around to different churches and sang Christian songs. When I got in that group they told me I had to make sure I lived a Christian life, because people would be watching me and I represented the faith of the whole group. They were right. Once I went to a football game at another high school and some kids came up to me and knew my name. I didn't know who they were, but they sure knew me. I must have sung at their church once.
You are now going to be confirmed members of St. John Lutheran Church. How you live your life reflects not only on you, but also on your family and on this congregation. If you use bad language, people are going to think all of us here must use bad language. If you go drinking alcohol underage, they are going to think we Lutherans are all lawbreakers and drunks. If you have sex before marriage, they are going to think Jesus encouraged adultery. None of this is true, but the people who know you would think it was.
You are welcomed now to come to the Lord's Supper and eat and drink with us the body of the Lord. We have tried to teach you to come in the right way, prepared to meet Jesus by confessing all your sins and asking him to help you lead a godly life. You can't drink the cup of Jesus and the cup of the world at the same time. You've got to make a choice every day of your life how you want to live: as a Christian or not.
Does this sound like promises you can't keep? God isn't asking you to promise to do anything that he won't help you do. Jesus on the cross is the reminder that God the Father helped him keep his promise to save us. He loves you all very much and promises to be right there with you every step of the way. He gives you the power to follow him. And when you find that you've failed, you've sinned and gone astray, come back to Jesus and ask his forgiveness, and he will always welcome you back. But don't wait to long. We never know how long we have to live.
God loves you very much. Your parents and family love you also. Pastor Elliott and I love you. This whole church loves you. Remember we are your Christian family. Be on guard against your enemy, and stay with God and us all your life. This is your confirmation promise today. God will help you keep it. Amen.
Copyright © 1998-2011 James F. Wright. All rights reserved.
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